Wednesday, May 4, 2016
California reformers have collected signatures necessary to bring full legalization up for another state initiatitve vote in 2016
California voters in 2010 missed their chance to make their state the first to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes when the voted down Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, by a vote of 53.5% to 46.5%. Now, six years later, it appears that voters in California will have another chance this November to make marijuana reform history by becoming the last Pacific coast state (save Hawaii) to legalize recreational marijuana. This Los Angeles Times article, headlined "California voters getting chance to fully legalize marijuana," provides the details:
A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.
A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Tuesday said it has collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to qualify the initiative. Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other supporters of the measure plan to kick off a campaign for voter approval of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on Wednesday in San Francisco.
The measure would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.
"This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state,” Newsom said in a statement.
The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.
The use of marijuana in public and while driving would remain illegal. Parker, a billionaire who also co-founded the file-sharing service Napster, donated more than $1 million to the campaign to collect signatures and qualify the initiative. If elections officials verify that the signatures turned in Wednesday are sufficient and voters approve the initiative, California would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as states that allow recreational use of marijuana.
Opposition is already organizing behind groups such as Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, which formed to defeat a 2010 legalization initiative that was rejected by 53% of voters. "Marijuana is a very dangerous drug," said Scott Chipman, a San Diego businessman who is the Southern California chairman of the group. "The state has not proven it has the capacity or the will to properly regulate marijuana and so they won't."
The measure is also opposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn., in part, because of problems that have arisen in Colorado. Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, president of the association, said extremely potent marijuana is being sold in Colorado that he fears will lead to high addiction rates and high incidents of psychosis. “This is bad for our communities. This is bad for our youth and it’s a broad commercialization [of drugs], a for-profit, money-making model,” Corney said.
More than 55% of California voters allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 when they approved Proposition 215. Despite the defeat of a 2010 legalization initiative, a poll last year by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55% of likely voters in California favor full legalization.
“I’m excited to be a part of one of the largest coalitions of cannabis and non-cannabis organizations to come together to push this initiative forward,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. Bradley, who backed the failed 2010 initiative, said voters have since "seen how well [legalizing recreational use] has worked in other states."
Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, formed a blue ribbon commission on marijuana policy that made recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the initiative. The measure is supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Assn., California Medical Assn. California NAACP, and the national Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The medical association said in a statement that it supports the measure because "the most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."
May 4, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Advice to would-be Keystone cannabis counselors: "It's really here, it's really lucrative and it's really tricky."
The Legal Intelligencer, a Pennsylvania law-oriented publication, has this lengthy new article headlined "Marijuana Law: Protecting Your Client and License," and its great first sentence is the quoted portion of my post title. Here is how the effective article gets started:
Joining 23 states and the District of Columbia, legalized medical cannabis has come to Pennsylvania in the form of the Medical Marijuana Act, signed into law on April 17 and set to take effect May 16.
At that point, 80 percent of America's population will have some form of legalized marijuana access, the 2016 sales of which Fortune Magazine estimates to exceed $6.7 billion (a 25 percent increase of 2015's $5.4 billion).
Because of the law's breadth and the state's demographics, Pennsylvania is poised to be legalized marijuana's next hot spot. Specifically, the Medical Marijuana Act enumerates 17 "serious medical conditions" eligible for marijuana prescriptions encompassing autism and sickle cell anemia alongside the more traditionally covered ailments such as cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.
By cutting such a wide swath, the act invites high program participation, particularly in light of Pennsylvania's huge potential patient base.
Further, unlike New Jersey and other states severely limiting the number of issued licenses, the Medical Marijuana Act authorizes 25 grow/processing licenses and 50 dispensary licenses, each of which empowers the licensee to open three locations for up to 150 dispensaries.
This column explores legal issues confronting the cannabis industry, starting with the big enchilada. Regardless of the law of 24 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is still 100 percent illegal under federal law.
Regular readers know I have been urging everyone to keep an eye on the Buckeye State as multiple different efforts are afoot to bring medical marijuana reform into reality in the state. This new Columbus Dispatch article, headlined "Toking nixed, vaping OK in Ohio House medical-marijuana bill," reports on the latest state of work by leaders in the Ohio General Assembly seeking to get reform done and on the books ASAP before a possible ballot initiative is taken to the voters. Here are the details:
Ohioans could not legally smoke medical marijuana under a revamped proposal being rolled out today by state legislators. Those with a prescription for medical marijuana would be allowed to use vaporization or other inhalant devices.
But the new restriction in the legislation, targeted for a House vote Tuesday, probably sets up a public battle with supporters of proposed November ballot issues that would allow smoking.
Rep. Kirk Schuring of Canton, who was set to brief his fellow GOP House members Tuesday night on the revised measure, said he hopes the special committee he chairs approves the new plan Thursday after seeing it for the first time today. After House passage, Schuring said, he is optimistic the Senate and Kasich administration will quickly approve Ohio becoming the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. The previous version of House Bill 523 did not directly address smoking.
Both versions would bar homegrown marijuana, which would be allowed by the ballot measures. The substitute bill also would ban marijuana edibles “in a form that is considered to be attractive to children.”
Unlike the original bill, the amended legislation specifies 20 ailments for which medical marijuana could be prescribed. The list includes cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, sickle-cell anemia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as “pain that is chronic, severe and intractable.”
Other provisions added to the proposal:
• The state will set up a program to help qualifying medical-marijuana patients who are veterans or poor obtain the drug.
• Radio and TV ads for medical marijuana would be prohibited.
• Reciprocity agreements could be set up with other states that have regulations “substantively similar” to Ohio’s.
• Caregivers would be exempt from arrest and prosecution for obtaining or providing medical marijuana for those in their care.
• Lawyers, CPAs and medical professionals would be exempt from administrative disciplinary action relating to services they provide related to the substance. As with the original bill, employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana.
I suspect some of these revisions will please some hard-core marijuana reformers, while others might disappoint them. And I doubt that, at least until something actually becomes law in Ohio, that the folks working toward putting these issues directly to the voters will "pump the brakes" on these efforts at all. Interesting times.
Prior related posts:
Restrictive medical marijuana reforms proposed by Ohio legislature in shadow of broader initiative effort
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Vermont House kills legislative proposal to legalize marijuana in favor of a special study commission
As reported in this local NPR article, headlined "House Snuffs Marijuana Legalization, Issue Dead For 2016 Session," the only state legislature that seemed to be seriously consider legalizing recreational marijuana via traditional legislation is not going that route. Here are the basic details:
Marijuana legalization is dead for the 2016 session. The Vermont House Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have decriminalized the growing of two plants by a vote of 77 to 70. Lawmakers earlier defeated a Senate plan for commercial marijuana sales.
But the House did approve language calling for a special commission to examine issues surrounding the full legalization of marijuana. The commission is to report its findings in December.
The first issue facing the House was to vote on the Senate's plan to legalize marijuana beginning in January of 2018. The plan also would have created a state regulatory structure to grow, sell and tax marijuana. House Judiciary chairperson Maxine Grad expressed strong concerns about the Senate's approach and said: "It is not the Vermont way." "My vote is a vote against creating a large-scale commercial market that does not allow for small scale growing for personal use," she said, "or does not further the role of small growers and community supported agriculture."
The House rejected the Senate plan by a vote of 121 to 28.
House Minority Leader Don Turner then proposed holding a statewide nonbinding referendum on Primary Election Day in August to allow voters to express their opinion on the question of legalizing marijuana. "You guys want to know if Vermont wants to legalize?" Turner asked the chamber. "Put your money where your mouth is. Vote for my amendment."
Many Democrats argued that August was a terrible time to hold a referendum vote because few Vermonters vote in the primary election. Woodstock Rep. Alison Clarkson said the plan was an abdication of legislative responsibility. "We are elected to represent our constituents we are elected to make tough decisions. That's our responsibility," she said.
The House defeated the nonbinding referendum plan by a vote of 97 to 51.
That vote set the stage for debate over a compromise plan drafted by House Democratic leaders over the past few days. It called for the decriminalization of growing up to two plants, it included additional prevention and education programs for young people, and it called for the creation of a special commission to research many of the issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana.
In the end, the only piece that survived was the creation of a special commission to study legalization. Newbury Rep. Chip Conquest said the panel was needed to closely study the experience of Colorado and Washington, two states that have developed a retail market for marijuana.
"The data is not really reliable," Conquest said. "I don't think — at least from my part — I didn't feel like I could count on it to really give me a good indication of what was happening."
Conquest noted that Vermont has already decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. He says it's time to take the same approach with the cultivation of two plants so that people can get their marijuana from a legal source....
Because of procedural issues at the end of the legislative session, if the House passes any part of its proposal, Senate leaders will not be able to amend the House plan and instead will have to accept or reject it as-is.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, who publicly pressured lawmakers to legalize marijuana this year, condemned the House's decision. "The War on Drugs policy of marijuana prohibition has failed," he said. "I want to thank those House members who recognize that and worked to move this issue forward. It is incredibly disappointing, however, that a majority of the House has shown a remarkable disregard for the sentiment of most Vermonters who understand that we must pursue a smarter policy when it comes to marijuana in this state."
Monday, May 2, 2016
Last week, the Washington Post's In Theory section focused on federal drug scheduling laws, with a particular focus on marijuana. The terrific collection of commentaries from a diverse array of experts was set up via this into piece headlined "Is it time to revise our federal drug laws?", which started this way:
In a letter this month to inquiring lawmakers, the Drug Enforcement Administration quietly announced that it will decide whether to change the federal status of marijuana “in the first half of 2016.” The move excited legalization advocates and reminded everyone else of how convoluted our drug regulatory process can be.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970 while facing backlash against the recreational drug use of the 1960s, the federal government categorizes drugs based on their medical value and potential for abuse. If substances have no potential for abuse, they aren’t controlled at all. If they do, they’re classified in one of five schedules of decreasing severity.
Drugs in Schedule I are deemed as having “no current accepted medical use” and a high potential for abuse — the category where marijuana resides, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others. These drugs are regulated with extreme stringency in terms of access, research and supply. Schedule II drugs — such as morphine, fentanyl and methadone — are seen as having a high potential for abuse but some medical value. Schedules III-V contain drugs of medical value and decreasing potential for abuse. Each schedule is regulated with correspondingly less strictness.
Critics of the system (or at least of certain drugs’ positions on the schedule) point out that this creates a circular problem. Drugs are placed in Schedule I under the presumption that they have no accepted medical use. Yet the strict regulations of that schedule make it difficult to conduct the scientific and medical research that could uncover such drugs’ medical potential, making it all but impossible to move them to a different schedule. Cannabis, for instance, has shown potential therapeutic value for ailments including chronic pain and epilepsy, but only one place in the United States (a University of Mississippi farm) is allowed to grow marijuana under federal regulations. A number of Schedule I psychedelic compounds have similarly shown promise in treating mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s difficult to set up the sort of large-scale studies needed to meet the government’s standards for use.
In addition, many schedule placements seem arbitrary at best and deliberately skewed at worst. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t in any schedule at all, despite their proven susceptibility for abuse. Schedule I serves as a catchall for drugs of barely comparable levels of danger and potential benefit, many of which have been stigmatized through racist or classist propaganda. Meanwhile, other mostly recreational drugs like cocaine are in placed in more lax schedules on the basis of quite limited medical use.
Here are the commentaries that followed in the series, all of which are valuable reads:
Keith Humphreys, professor and health policy expert at the Stanford School of Medicine, "The paradox at the heart of our marijuana laws — and how to fix it"
Erwin Chemerinsky, law professor at University of California, Irvine, ""Why legalizing marijuana will be much harder than you think"
John Hudak, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, "How racism and bias criminalized marijuana"
Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, "There’s something missing from our drug laws: Science"
David Courtwright, author and professor at University of North Florida, "Scientists want to study marijuana. Big Pot just wants to sell it."
Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, "5 reasons marijuana is not medicine"
Thursday, April 28, 2016
"Prosecutorial Discretion in the Context of Immigration and Marijuana Law Reform: The Search for a Limiting Principle"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Sam Kamin now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article compares the appropriateness of prosecutorial non-enforcement policy in the contexts of federal immigration and marijuana laws. I begin by discussing the ways in which the Obama administration has set policy in both areas through the use of memoranda directing prosecutors in the exercise of their discretion. I show that in both of these contexts the administration has turned to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion rather than legislative change to achieve its policy outcomes.
I turn next to the Take Care Clause, the constitutional requirement that the president faithfully execute the laws of the United States. I demonstrate that, although the Supreme Court has painted only the broadest outlines of the clause’s meaning, there are certain core ideas that seem to implicate the core of the doctrine. Finally, I apply the Take Care Clause in the two contexts, finding that in both that the Obama administration has acted within the bounds of its constitutional authority. In neither context has the Obama administration re-written legislation or engaged in the kind of categorical refusal to prosecute that might be constitutionally suspect.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Maine now officially back on the list of states likely to vote on marijuana legalization this November
As reported in this new AP piece, the "referendum proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Maine has met the threshold to appear on the November ballot, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said Wednesday." Here is more about what happens now and why this was not a certainty just a few months ago:
The announcement means the citizen initiative will be forwarded Friday to state lawmakers, who can either enact it now or put it before voters in the fall.
David Boyer from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said he looks forward to educating Maine voters as to why ending marijuana prohibition makes sense. "We think that regulation and controlling marijuana and putting it behind the counter is a far better approach than giving drug dealers a monopoly," Boyer said.
Scott Gagnon, who opposes marijuana legalization, said the effort would make Maine "the weed basket of the East" and bring along with it a variety of societal ills. "We are confident that when Mainers see the full story of marijuana and what it would mean to have pot dispensaries in their community, they will rise up to reject the marijuana industry agenda, to protect the health of their communities and the futures of their children," he said.
The measure would legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 and older, allowing them to possess up to an ounce. It also would regulate and tax marijuana. Maine already legalized marijuana for medical use in 1999....
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol originally submitted 99,229 signatures on Feb. 1, but only 51,543 of the signatures were deemed to be valid. A review was ordered after a judge set aside Dunlap's decision to reject thousands of signatures because the notary's signature didn't match the signature on file in Augusta.... Dunlap said Wednesday that seven circulators whose petitions containing 11,305 signatures were originally invalidated have sworn under oath that they signed their petitions in front of notary Stavros Mendros.
Maine will be one of several states considering marijuana legalization proposals. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., already have made recreational use of marijuana legal for adults.
The Room for Debate section of the New York Times yesterday had an interesting quartet of pieces discussing marijuana reform focused on the "gateway drug" notion. Here is the section's introductory set up:
The drive to marijuana legalization has grown more powerful as the crisis of heroin and opioid addiction has become more troubling. Now some officials say efforts to legalize marijuana should stop because, they say, greater availability would increase use and marijuana can be a gateway to the use of other drugs.
But is marijuana a gateway drug and, for that reason, should it remain illegal?
Here are the contribututions, with links via the commentary titles and the brief summaries provided by the Times:
Robert L. DuPont, "Marijuana Has Proven to Be a Gateway Drug": Establishing it as a third legal drug, along with tobacco and alcohol, will increase drug abuse, including the expanding opioid epidemic.
Colleen L. Barry, "Overdoses Fell with Medical Marijuana Legalization": Medical marijuana might be safer for chronic pain management than opioids but more research is needed.
Ethan Nadelmann, "Fears of a Gateway Effect Vastly Exceed the Evidence": The vast majority of people who use marijuana never progress to using other illicit drugs, or even to becoming regular marijuana consumers.
Deborah Peterson Small, "Look at the Real Gateways to Addiction": Many promote myths about marijuana to justify the use of law enforcement and the testing of people for public benefits, jobs and exclusion from housing.
Monday, April 25, 2016
This morning's Columbus Dispatch has this helpful article headlined "Efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio differ in who can grow, who can use," which provides a useful primer on the state of marijuana reform efforts in my home state. Here are excerpts:
Ohio appears likely to become the 25th state to approve medical marijuana, either through a new state law or a voted constitutional amendment. State lawmakers and two citizen advocacy groups are working simultaneously on proposals to bring marijuana as medicine to Ohioans with qualifying medical conditions.
But how the legislature and advocates approach the subject is very different, and the two pro-marijuana groups are proposing separate variations as well. Here are some key differences among the proposed legislation (House Bill 523), the Marijuana Policy Project amendment, and the Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp amendment.
Impact: The legislation would change only Ohio law. Both ballot proposals would amend the Ohio Constitution.
Marijuana in smokeable form: The legislation does not specifically allow it but doesn’t rule it out. Both ballot issues would allow it.
Home-grown pot: The legislation would not allow growing marijuana at home; both ballot issues would allow it in limited quantities.
Growers: The Marijuana Policy Project amendment would allow 15 large growers and unlimited small growers. Neither the legislation nor the cannabis and hemp amendment specify grower numbers.
Qualifying conditions: No specific qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana are listed in the legislation. Both amendments cite a list of ailments, conditions and diseases that would qualify.
Doctor requirements: The legislation spells out numerous requirements for physicians, including registration and reporting marijuana prescriptions every 90 days. The amendments contain no specific requirements....
Timing: Both ballot issues aim to make marijuana as medicine available next year, while the legislature would likely take two years to implement....
Groups and individuals are weighing in on the legislation and ballot issues. The Ohio Rights Group, which at one time was planning its own marijuana ballot issue, said last week that it will support the Marijuana Policy Project initiative because it will “bring much needed therapeutic relief to the seriously ill in Ohio.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is taking a wait-and-see approach about all three proposals, said Adam Sharp, vice president of public policy. The group has not yet looked closely at the marijuana and hemp proposal, which would allow growing of hemp plants, a cousin of marijuana without its euphoric qualities, Sharp said. Hemp is used for a variety of products, including cloth, rope, oils and some edibles.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the local group working with the Marijuana Policy Project, responded with a detailed 12-point memo outlining its “serious concerns” with the proposed legislation. Among them are leaving decision-making in the hands of nine “unaccountable, unelected political appointees” on a Marijuana Control Commission; imposing “considerable hardships on patients” by requiring office visits every 90 days; providing no legal protection for patients or caregivers; and denying the ability to grow marijuana at home.
While details, cost and accessibility are being discussed, timing is urgent to some, including Andrea Gunnoe, a school psychologist, business owner, wife and mother of four from Dublin who testified to the legislative panel last week. As she spoke, Gunnoe held her son, Reid, 6, who was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 3. She wants the state to approve medical marijuana to use to control Reid’s frequent seizures. “My son’s medical bills since his onset have totaled over $4 million,” Gunnoe said. Because of the time it will take to implement the law, she said caregivers should be given a “safe haven” to get marijuana concentrates from other sources and “be protected from prosecution and allegations of child endangering.”
Sunday, April 24, 2016
This lengthy local article, headlined "Not just medicine: Marijuana may have big economic impact," takes a look into some of the key economic stories now that the Keystone state has legalize medical marijuana. Here are excerpts:
Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society Executive Director Patrick Nightingale called the medical marijuana law a piece of “momentous legislation.” He said it resulted from a true grassroots coalition of both recreational advocates and the parents of children suffering from ailments that can be treated with marijuana.
“They said, We are not going to settle for a bill that benefits our children only,” Nightingale said. According to Nightingale, the worst part of the legislation is the regulatory fee structure, which includes a $200,000 licensing payment for growers. Nightingale characterized this as a “one-time revenue grab for the commonwealth.”
“(The fees) are very high,” he said. “It is an expensive process.” He added that he is somewhat worried that the price of legal marijuana will greatly exceed the price of black market marijuana. This would potentially drive users underground, and destroy legitimate businesses.
Nightingale cited the price of legal marijuana in New Jersey, which is approximately $500 an ounce. He said marijuana of even higher quality, sold illegally in Pittsburgh, costs only $350 an ounce. “I don’t know where (Gov.) Chris Christie and his cronies came up with $500 an ounce,” Nightingale said....
Illinois passed a bill similar to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana legislation in 2013. Dan Linn — executive director for the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML — said the movement has stimulated local economies and created approximately 1,000 jobs.
There have also been snares along the way. Linn acknowledged that high regulatory fees created “sticker shock” that prevented many would-be entrepreneurs from entering the business. And he said that local officials have made life difficult in some areas. “There were some folks who had very difficult zoning appeals in their communities,” Linn said.
But some are far more optimistic about Pennsylvania’s program. Chris Walsh, editorial director of the Marijuana Business Daily in Denver, Colorado, said the Keystone State should be far more successful than Illinois in implementing its medical marijuana legislation. “There’s more business opportunity in Pennsylvania, for sure,” he said. “The inclusion of severe chronic pain (as a qualifying condition) is huge.”
According to Walsh, allowing those currently on opiates to switch to marijuana makes the difference between a small legal market and a massive legal market. It also means that, because there’s more demand, prices should be reasonable. “Pennsylvania is really shaping up to be one of the biggest marijuana markets, easily on the East Coast, and possibly fifth or sixth in the entire nation,” he said, predicting that the commonwealth and Maryland will dominate the industry in the Atlantic region. “There’s a lot of optimism about this market.”
Walsh, however, echoed Nightingale’s concerns about local counties and municipalities trying to push medical marijuana grows and dispensaries out of areas. He said this is true even in Colorado because some people expect seediness and an increase in crime. “That never happens,” Walsh said.
“If it’s a well-regulated industry, once it’s been up and running, people kind of forget about them. There’s not this scary, stereotypical image that people have in their head.” His prediction for Pennsylvania: $100 million in annual sales. “(But) it will take a while to get there,” he said.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
NBC News has this new extended article, the first of a two-part series, taking a close look at the considerable difficulties that flow from medical marijuana reform efforts that only legalize CBD oils. This piece is headlined "'No-Buzz' Medical Pot Laws Prove Problematic for Patients, Lawmakers," and here is how it gets started:
The idea was intoxicating to lawmakers in more than a dozen states where medical marijuana was a political nonstarter: Give patients with certain severe medical problems access to a type of pot that might provide relief without producing the "high" usually associated with the plant.
But two years after 17 Midwestern and Southern states began passing a series of what are known as "CBD-only" medical marijuana laws, many people they were intended to help are rising up in protest. The laws, they say, help few patients, exclude others who could benefit and force residents to commit criminal acts in order to get relief for themselves or their loved ones.
"There is no amount of tweaking to a CBD decriminalization law that will make it work," said Maria La France of Des Moines, Iowa, who gives her 14-year-old son, Quincy Hostager, an oil derived from marijuana to treat his Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy. "I don't want to break the law, but I have to."
The CBD-only laws allow residents with specified medical conditions to legally use marijuana-derived products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) but are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces marijuana's "high." (Both CBD and THC are among the scores of active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are present in the marijuana plant.)
For medical purposes, that usually means orally ingesting an oil derived from marijuana or hemp, though there also are numerous other products like body oils containing CBD for topical uses.
Supporters involved in passing the laws portrayed them as compassionate measures that would let patients avail themselves of the potentially therapeutic or pain-relieving properties of pot without risking the possibility of creating a new generation of drug addicts.
But political opposition — often led by some of the families the laws were intended to help — has emerged in many of the states that passed the legislation. "We're not lawbreakers and this shouldn't even be an issue," said Jennifer Conforti of Fayetteville, Georgia, who gives her 5-year-old autistic daughter, Abby, marijuana-derived oil with higher-than-allowed levels of THC to control dangerous biting episodes. "It should be a medicine that doctors go to when they need it."
Conforti and others who want to expand the state's CBD-only law to cover additional medical conditions, allow for higher levels of THC and provide for in-state cultivation and distribution of CBD products have mounted a "civil disobedience" campaign to raise public awareness about the issue.
In Utah, proponents of expanded access to whole-plant medical marijuana say they will conduct a campaign to unseat legislators who opposed a bill to expand the state's current CBD-only law.
Even some involved in crafting CBD-only laws acknowledge that lawmakers have ventured onto thin ice by intervening in matters that may best be left to patients and their doctors. "Is this what we're going to do? Are we going to vote on the next blood pressure medication or chemo treatment because of anecdotal evidence?" said Pat Bird, an executive for a Utah substance abuse prevention program who was involved in the failed effort this year to update the state's CBD-only law.
The laws also have been harshly criticized by both medical marijuana advocates and prominent members of the medical establishment, albeit for very different reasons.
UPDATE: Here is the second part of this series from NBC News under the headline "Battle Over Georgia's 'No-Buzz' Medical Marijuana Law Gets Personal." Here is how it begins:
A Georgia mom is helping to lead the charge to expand the state's limited medical marijuana law, which she says unfairly excludes many patients with severe medical conditions — including her 5-year-old autistic daughter — who could benefit from the plant's medicinal properties.
"There are some pretty tenacious parents who are fighting," said Jennifer Conforti, whose daughter, Abby, isn't covered by the current law. "... Why wouldn't you do that as a legislator? What is in it for you to make you not want to help families in the state?"
Friday, April 22, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this recent lengthy American Lawyer article which in part explains why I think my novel marijuana law and policy law-school class may not be all that novel in the coming years. Here is how the piece gets started:
On April 20, which each year marks the unofficial “420” holiday for marijuana enthusiasts worldwide, lawyers at big firms across the country spoke with The Am Law Daily about their work in the burgeoning field of semi-legal weed.
Though still not allowed under federal law, rapidly changing state regulations have created a relatively new industry worth roughly $5.7 billion. Clients looking to get involved in funding, growing or selling cannabis are calling upon lawyers to handle venture capital, finance, intellectual property, real estate, employment and regulatory work.
Am Law 200 firms have approached this industry with varying degrees of discretion. T hompson Coburn has a blog, Tracking Cannabis, Seyfarth Shaw has one too in The Blunt Truth and Dykema Gossett will also have one soon. Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark Silow praised the cannabis work of the four-partner group his firm hired in Chicago from Nixon Peabody when the team was brought on last year.
“I don’t think the firm’s ever been shy to put it out there that we’re entrepreneurial,” said Fox Rothschild partner Joshua Horn. The co-chair of his firm’s securities industry practice, Philadelphia-based Horn is also a member of the National Cannabis Bar Association, which was formed last year. On Sunday, Pennsylvania became the 24th U.S. state to legalize medicinal marijuana, so, as opposed to his partners in Illinois, Horn said he hasn’t put in much cannabis work near home. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has yet to officially authorize an ethics rule change that would protect lawyers working in this industry, as noted this week by sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer. But Horn said he is increasingly helping clients in other states raise capital to finance their cannabis ventures.
Baker & Hostetler corporate partner Randolf Katz is also doing marijuana finance work in California, where voters could approve the recreational use of marijuana in November. Katz said his clients are increasingly drawn to pot startups. “One fund was pretty heavily in it,” he said, referring to a client. “Another fund, in the past year, has sent over probably six to eight different potential investments for us to take a look at that are marijuana-related companies.”
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Huffington Post has this piece explaining why today's date is considered special in the minds of many marijuana fans. For me, what is special today is how many interesting marijuana policy and reform stories can be found in major (and not so major) media outlets. Here is just a sample:
From ABC News here, "Man's Jail Death Adds New Face to Debate on Marijuana Laws"
From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation here, "Federal marijuana legislation to be introduced in spring 2017, Philpott says: Health minister in New York for UN talks to review global drug treaties"
From CBS News here, "Marijuana use and support for legal marijuana continue to climb"
From the Daily Caller here, "Support For Marijuana Legalization Soars To 56 Percent Nationally"
From a FOX affiliate in Denver here, "Marijuana money might have saved small Colorado town from 'abyss of nothingness'"
From the International Business Times here, "After Years Of Petitions And Protests, Marijuana Group DCMJ Says It's Meeting With Obama Staffers At The White House"
From the New York Times here, "Marijuana Legalization in New England Is Stalled by Opiate Crisis"
From Quartz here, "America's weed industry is going to be massive. Is Big Marijuana a good thing?"
From Rolling Stone here, "What Will Rescheduling Marijuana Mean for the Pot Industry?"
From the Sacramento Bee here, "On 4/20, marijuana legalization headed for California ballot"
From the Wall Street Journal here, "Mexican President Backs Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use"
From Wired here, "A New Crop of Marijuana Geneticists Sets Out to Build Better Weed"
Exploring how to impact the hearts and minds of bellwether Buckeye voters concerning marijuana reform
Perhaps fittingly, the final student presentation planned for my Ohio State College of Law marijuana reform seminar is focused on "efforts to change the hearts and minds of Ohio voters when it comes to marijuana reform." Here is how the students have described their project and the materials they have assembled to this end:
Our project is focused on connecting with the average Ohioan who does not and has not used marijuana, in order to dispel any myths or prejudices that he or she might hold. The goal is to inform the populace about the virtues of marijuana reform before they vote on another bill/initiative so that they are primed to vote yes on the merits. The articles include what the polls say about Ohio's desire for legal marijuana, a Vice video about moms returning to marijuana consumption after years rebuking it, and some materials concerning compelling organizational tactics for reformers including strategies used for legalization initiatives:
Summer 2014 Prospectus by The Strategy Network describing ResponsibleOhio's plans for "2015 Ohio Marijuana Legalization and Regulation"
April 20, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I am sad to report that this week marks the final week of my OSU marijuana reform seminar and thus the final set of student presentations. One of these presentations will be focused on labor and employment law issues, and here are student-assembled materials on this topic:
Monday, April 18, 2016
This new Denver Post piece, headlined "Fewer Coloradans seek treatment for pot use, but heavier use seen," reports on this notable new official state government report from Colorado (which I believe was just released today, but bears a cover date of March 2016). Here is a basic summary via the Denver Post piece:
Colorado's treatment centers have seen a trend toward heavier marijuana use among patients in the years after the state legalized the drug, according to a new report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The 143-page report released Monday is the state's first comprehensive attempt at measuring and tracking the consequences of legalization.
In 2014, more than a third of patients in treatment reported near-daily use of marijuana, according to the report. In 2007, less than a quarter of patients reported such frequency of use. Overall, though, the number of people seeking treatment for marijuana has dropped since Colorado voters made it legal to use and possess small amounts of marijuana. The decrease is likely due to fewer people being court ordered to undergo treatment as part of a conviction for a marijuana-related crime.
The finding is among a growing body of evidence that marijuana legalization has led to a shift in use patterns for at least some marijuana consumers. And that is just one insight from the new report, which looks at everything from tax revenue to impacts on public health to effects on youth. Among its findings is a steady increase in marijuana use in Colorado since 2006, well before the late-2000s boom in medical marijuana dispensaries. The report documents a sharp rise in emergency room visits related to marijuana. It notes a dramatic decline in arrests or citations for marijuana-related crimes, though there remains a racial disparity in arrest rates.
But the report, which was written by statistical analyst Jack Reed, also isn't meant as a final statement on legalization's impact. Because Colorado's data-tracking efforts have been so haphazard in the past, the report is more of a starting point. "[I]t is too early to draw any conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization or commercialization on public safety, public health, or youth outcomes," Reed writes, "and this may always be difficult due to the lack of historical data."
It's not just the lack of data from past years that complicates the report. Reed also notes that legalization may have changed people's willingness to admit to marijuana use — leading to what appear to be jumps in use or hospital visits that are really just increases in truth-telling. State and local agencies are also still struggling to standardize their marijuana data-collection systems. For instance, Reed's original report noted an explosive increase in marijuana arrests and citations in Denver, up 404 percent from 2012 to 2014. That increase, however, was due to inconsistent data reporting by Denver in the official numbers given to the state.
Intriguingly, though this lengthy report comes from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, not very much of the report discusses general crimes rates at much length. But what is reported in this report is generally encouraging:
Colorado’s property crime rate decreased 3%, from 2,580 (per 100,000 population) in 2009 to 2,503 in 2014.
Colorado’s violent crime rate decreased 6%, from 327 (per 100,000 population) in 2009 to 306 in 2014.
April 18, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
As noted in this prior post, we here have the pleasure and honor of having Sam Kamin, the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, provide reports and thoughts on-site from the The Cannabis Science and Policy Summit now going on in NYC. Here is his dispatch after the end of the summit's first day:
Some recurring themes today:
* It's easier to heavily regulate marijuana at the outset and then loosen the rules over time than to do the reverse. Loose regulations become entitlements and entrenched interests will fight like hell to keep them form disappearing. Andrew Freedman made the great point that once you have marijuana businesses complying with regulation, they'll be your allies when others want them weakened (because they benefit under the extant rules).
* Taxation should start relatively low (to kill the black market) and then ratchet up (or titrate, one of the words of the day) as legal marijuana is able to compete on price with the black market.
* Big marijuana is on everyone's mind and is the official boogeyman of the festivities. The 80/20 rule and its variants was invoked over and over. How to fix it? Government monopoly (at least on distribution), non-profit models, advertising bans, etc.
* A marijuana regulatory system should provide the amount of marijuana for which there is current demand; it shouldn't create new demand.
* We don't know much about interactions — with alcohol, with opiates, with tobacco — as we legalize marijuana. But those effects will be important if, as most people expect, legalization will lead to more marijuana usage. If it leads to less usage of other drugs, the harms are lessened; if other usage goes up or stays flat, increased marijuana usage is much more problematic.
* There is lots of concern about increased potency and I'm not sure it's warranted. High potency is not bad in itself; it means less smoking and that's a boon for health rather than a threat. Also, if we're talking about marijuana concentrates, the production process is incredibly dangerous if done at home, and if there's demand for concentrates, it probably makes sense to service that demand through a regulated market.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Cannabis Science and Policy Summit: on-site reporting from the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy
I invited Sam Kamin, the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, to provide some reports or thoughts about his experiences today and tomorrow as he is participating in NYC at the The Cannabis Science and Policy Summit. Here is the first of what I hope might be a few on-site report from a very informed participant in this event:
The morning started with a cautionary tone. Jonathan Caulkins gave a plenary talk on the dangers of a profit-driven marijuana market. His thesis was that 25 years from now, policy makers will look back on this period and wonder what on earth we were thinking.
* He showed that half of marijuana is consumed by those who use daily and that, as with any industry, there will be a push from industry to grow that group.
* He argued that Americans spend 40 billion hours per year stoned and that we could easily expect that to double post-legalization.
* He called marijuana a performance-degrading drug. There's a reason we don't test chess players for pot to be sure they're not cheating.
In the questions and discussions in the hallway afterward, talk focused on possible alternatives to a market-driven legal market. The most concrete was David Courtwright's invocation of Sweden's Gothenburg public house regulatory system (limited number of licenses, a limit on maximum profits, etc.) as a model for marijuana regulation that minimizes social harm.
A fascinating (to me) issue is whether there is room for legalization's opponents (groups like SAM and policy wonks like Caulkins) and the cannabis true believers who started all this (DPA, MPP, NORML, etc.) to join forces against Big Marijuana. Talking to Dan Riffle, I compared this to the Never Trump movement. No one (except the eventual winners, whoever they will be) wants corporate marijuana, which looks like the front-runner at the moment. The question will be whether various opponents, coming at that place from different directions, can find sufficient common ground to organize against the juggernaut and whether they can do so before things become inevitable.
For the record and to be a bit of an iconoclast, I consider myself something of a supporter of "corporate marijuana" at least in the short term for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, in the arena of medical marijuana, I think we will only get lots and lots of needed dynamic and aggressive research on the potential of the cannabis plant if there is a significant profit motive driving the research. Second and not to be overlooked, I think there can and should be more external benefits (like job growth and tax revenue) flowing from a commercial marijuana marketplace if (and this is a big if) government if focused mostly on aggressively regulating the marijuana industry rather than excessively seeking to control/hamper its innovative tendencies.
Friday, April 15, 2016
New group, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, with prominent physicians pushing to end pot prohibition
This notable new article from the Washington Post, headlined "More and more doctors want to make marijuana legal," reports on a notable new group starting to advocate for the ending of federal marijuana prohibition. Here are the details and context:
A group of more than 50 physicians, including a former surgeon general and faculty members at some of the nation's leading medical schools, has formed the first national organization of doctors to call on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in the interest of public health.
The group — which is announcing its formation Monday, under the name Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) — is endorsing the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, a break from the position of the American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors in the country. DFCR argues that the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana use does more harm to the public than good. Citing hundreds of thousands of annual marijuana arrests, racial and economic disparities in marijuana enforcement, and the role of prohibition in keeping marijuana prices high and lucrative to violent drug dealers, the physicians say that creating a legal and regulated marijuana market is the best way to ensure public safety, combat the illicit drug trade and roll back the negative consequences of strict enforcement policies on disadvantaged communities.
The emergence of the group comes at a crucial moment in the national debate over marijuana legalization. More than 60 percent of the public now says that it supports marijuana legalization. Support for allowing medical use of marijuana with doctors' supervision is closer to 90 percent. Over 35 million Americans use marijuana recreationally each year, according to the latest federal statistics. Research organizations, medical groups and even many national lawmakers have called on federal authorities to revisit policies toward marijuana that have remained essentially unchanged for nearly 50 years.
"You don't have to be pro-marijuana to be opposed to its prohibition," DFCR founder and board president David L. Nathan said in an interview. Nathan is an associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He's quick to point out that his group does not advocate for the use of marijuana: While researchers generally agree that marijuana use is less harmful to individuals and society than the use of other common drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, about 9 percent of people who begin using as adults become dependent on the drug, and heavy use can be especially harmful to the developing brains of adolescents.
Rather, Nathan says, the best way to manage those risks is to bring use of the drug, as well as the associated commerce in it, out into the open via regulation. "Doctors should affirmatively support this," he said. "If you’re going to make something against the law, the health consequences of that use have to be so bad to make it worth creating criminal consequences. That was never true of marijuana. It was banned in 1937 over the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA)."
Indeed, in 1937, the AMA objected to the overly strict regulation of marijuana, as it was then used as a treatment for a number of medical conditions. The Association was worried that prohibition of marijuana would "deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value."
After the passage of the "Marihuana Tax Act," marijuana "just wasn't that well-known among doctors," Nathan said. Many doctors were unaware that the drug essentially outlawed by the Marihuana Tax Act was the same substance they knew as "cannabis," which they used to treat a variety of ailments from corns to poor appetite. In subsequent years, physicians were just as susceptible to lurid media reports about the supposed dangers of marijuana use and the "Reefer Madness" era as anyone else.
Like most mainstream medical groups, the AMA is now opposed to the outright legalization of marijuana, calling it a "dangerous drug" and "a public health concern." But the group's stance has evolved in recent years. It recently added language to its position statements calling for "the modification of state and federal laws to emphasize public health based strategies," rather than punitive, incarceration-based measures. The group now encourages research into the drug, and has called on federal authorities to make it easier to do so....
Not all medical professionals are happy about relaxing attitudes toward what they see as a dangerous, addictive drug. The notion of doctors advocating for marijuana legalization is "totally idiotic," said Robert DuPont, who served as the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and as the second White House drug czar, in an interview. "The idea that we cannot manage the health problems related to marijuana because it's illegal, that doctors are somehow inhibited from dealing with marijuana use and marijuana problems, is completely wrong."
"The idea that legalizing is going to stop the illegal market is equally stupid," he added. DuPont thinks that the current legal status of marijuana is sufficient to address the risks associated with marijuana use, and that punitive measures for drug sellers and users can be a powerful tool for helping at-risk people get treatment. "The criminal justice system is a wonderful vehicle for getting people into treatment and recovery," he said....
Much of the discussion around marijuana legalization, among doctors and the general public alike, hinges on different assessments of the same data showing the risks and benefits of changing marijuana laws. Groups like the AMA are concerned that legalization would lead to more widespread use of the drug, which would invariably mean greater prevalence of the negative health consequences associated with its use, like dependency and some mental illnesses that may be exacerbated by the drug's use.
But groups who favor legalization, like DFCR, point out that negative outcomes arise from the current system of prohibition, too. They say that the presence of a large black market, the stigmatization of individual users, and the potentially life-ruining effects of a marijuana conviction, are steep prices to pay for the nominal reduction in overall use that comes with prohibition.
In 2011, the California Medical Association, which represents 40,000 doctors in the state, became the first doctors' group to call for the full legalization of marijuana. They recently went a step further, explicitly endorsing a measure to appear on the ballot this November that would legalize marijuana and create a commercial market for it in the state. "Medical marijuana should be strictly regulated like medicine to ensure safe and appropriate use by patients with legitimate health conditions and adult-use marijuana should be regulated like alcohol," the group's president said in a February statement.
DFCR hopes to make a similar case among doctors at the national level, and to win over skeptics like DuPont and Friedmann. "We want to build a group of physicians who are going to be out in the public making the case for marijuana legalization to physicians, medical associations and the public at large," Nathan said.
The website for the DFCR is already in operation and has some interesting content. I especially liked this interesting page discussing the personal history and work of William Creighton Woodward, which includes this introduction:
In the 1937 hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act, Dr. Woodward defended the AMA’s position that cannabis should be regulated but not prohibited. In his lengthy testimony, he refuted the hyperbolic claims put forward by the proponents of marijuana prohibition, offering a prescient view of how our society should handle drug addiction in general, and marijuana in particular. There is much we can learn from this early, learned proponent of an evidence-based national cannabis policy, and extracts of his testimony are included below.
As noted in this prior post, Ohio legislators have now gone from generally talking about marijuana reform to having a specific bill that it plans to move to consider quickly. This new local article, headlined "Ohio medical marijuana hearings begin Tuesday," provides an overview of the bill and the big debate it is sure to engender in the state in the coming weeks:
State lawmakers will begin hearings on a new medical marijuana bill on Tuesday. The House Select Committee on Medical Marijuana plans to meet three times a week to vet and revise House Bill 523. The bill would establish a program allowing patients to buy and use marijuana to treat medical conditions with the recommendation of a licensed Ohio physician.
Rep. Kirk Schuring, a Canton Republican who led the House medicinal marijuana task force, will also chair the committee. Lawmakers hope to have the bill to Gov. John Kasich by June....
People will not be allowed to grow marijuana at home. Dispensaries and growing, testing, and processing facilities could not be located within 500 feet of a school, church, public library, public playground or public park.
Marijuana would be tracked from seed to sale, with patient and physician information entered into a database similar to other controlled substances.
Only Ohio-licensed doctors who have registered with the state to recommend marijuana could do so, and only after examining the patient and his or her medical history. Doctor recommendations would specify an amount and type of marijuana to patients. The doctor's recommendation would expire after 90 days, and patients would have to visit their doctors to renew the recommendations.
Businesses could still enforce drug-free workplace policies, and financial institutions that serve marijuana businesses would not face state penalties. Lawmakers would later determine an appropriate tax on medical marijuana. Marijuana businesses would have to pay all other business taxes. The program must be operational no later than two years after the bill becomes law.
The bill leaves many of the regulations up to a nine-member commission appointed by the governor, House, and Senate....
Meanwhile, two groups are collecting signatures to legalize medical marijuana at the ballot box. Don Wirtshafter, of Grassroots Ohioans, called the bill a "timid first step." Grassroots Ohioans' amendment would allow people to use marijuana to treat medical conditions, but would not require a physician's recommendation or prescription. The amendment would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. "Our initiative is necessary because it will force the legislature to look at this more realistically in view of the modern science on this subject," Wirtshafter said Thursday.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, backed by national group Marijuana Policy Project, is proposing a regulated system in its constitutional amendment. Mason Tvert, spokesman for Marijuana Policy Project, said the House bill's reporting requirements would have a chilling effect on physicians and help few patients. "That's not something we require of physicians for many other medications and medical marijuana is objectively far less harmful and has far less potential for abuse than prescription drugs," Tvert said.
The full text of HB523 is available at this link, and at the very, very end of the document is a paragraph that is of special importance to me given my robust research interests in this topic:
The General Assembly hereby declares that it intends to establish a program to provide incentives or otherwise encourage institutions of higher education and medical facilities within this state to conduct academic and medical research regarding medical marijuana.
But as the title of this post is meant to signal, I am not sure if this provision shoud be my least or most favorite part of the bill. When I testified before the Ohio House Medical Marijuana Task Force last month, I noted that the Buckeye State is ideally positioned to emerge as a national and international leader in cannabis research, and I urged the General Assembly to create a dedicated Center for Ohio Cannabis Research (which I called "OhioCan Research"). I like this final paragraph of HB523 because it declares the General Assembly's intent establish a program to support medical marijuana research. But I dislike this paragraph because it does not do more than declare a legislative intent.
Specifically, I noticed that HB523 not only creates a "medical marijuana control commission" (MMCC), but also tasks the MMCC with figuring out each year how much of the tax/fee revenues raised by the medical marijuana program should be allocated each year to "marijuana drug abuse prevention programs." I think that provision of the bill should be expanding to also task the MMCC with figuring out how much of the revenue raised should also be allocated each years to "academic and medical research regarding medical marijuana."