Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Significant Mexican Supreme Court ruling finds personal right to grow marijuana

As reported in this New York Times article, headlined "Mexico’s Supreme Court Opens Door to Legalizing Marijuana Use," a major legal ruling in a notable country could provide yet another jolt to the legal and policy status of marijuana in the Americas.  Here are the basics:

The Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. The ruling is a first step — applying only to a single cannabis club that brought the suit — and does not strike down Mexico’s current drug laws. But it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately legalize marijuana.

The decision reflects a changing dynamic in Mexico, where for decades the American-­backed war on drugs has produced much upheaval but few lasting victories. Today, the flow of drugs to the United States continues, along with the political corruption it fuels in Mexico. The country, dispirited by the ceaseless fight with traffickers, remains engulfed in violence....

The ruling on Wednesday was the culmination of an effort to change the law by four members of a prominent Mexican anti­crime group, Mexico United Against Crime. Mr. Torres Landa and Mr. Santacruz formed a cannabis club with two other people, called the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Consumption — the Spanish acronym is Smart.

The group applied for a license from Mexico’s drug regulatory agency, but, as expected, was turned down. Their appeal of that decision eventually reached the Supreme Court. “We have been trying to struggle against illegality, and the results were almost negligible,” said Mr. Torres Landa, who says he has never tried marijuana and does not intend to. “Five or six years ago, we asked why? The answer, as the Americans say, was in the money.”

But the ruling on Wednesday applies only to their petition. For legal marijuana to become the law of the land, the justices in the court’s criminal chamber will have to rule the same way five times, or eight of the 11 members of the full court will have to vote in favor.

If the court decisions continue in that direction, they will be flying in the face of public opinion. Mexicans are so opposed to legalizing marijuana that a leading pollster told the Smart group not to bother with a survey, Mr. Santacruz recalled, or to limit it to young people. The Mexican government, legislators and security and health officials all came out against legalization, as did the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, the authorities have not permitted even the use of medical marijuana.

November 5, 2015 in Court Rulings, Criminal justice developments and reforms, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ohio 2015 results highlight how marijuana elections are different (and not-so-different) than other elections

Vote-ohioAmong the many reasons I was so interested in the controversial ballot initiative to legalize recreation marijuana in Ohio, Issue 3, was my expectation that the campaign and vote in the Buckeye State in an off-off-election year would reveal just whether and how marijuana elections are different than other elections.  With nearly all the votes counted, here are a couple of ways the Ohio 2015 experience shows that marijuana elections are different and not-so-different:

Big difference #1:  Local polls are not so reliable:  I generally surmise that lots of public polls, especially those done by major professional, are pretty reliable.  And Nate Silver has demostrated that combining together a number of polls can produce extraordinary reliable predictions of election day outcomes.  But all the local polling done around marijuana legalization in Ohio suggested a majority of Ohioans were supportive of reform and polls focused on Issue 3 suggested that it would at least be a close vote.  But none of the public polls even hinted that Issue 3 would be a blowout.

Big difference #2:  Big money does not ensure big votes:  I tend to think that concerns and complaints about money "buying" elections can often be overstated.  But, especially in elections for representatives, it is generally true that having lots of money to raise a candidate's profile (and to attack any opponents) can be critical to electorial success.  But in Ohio the backers of Issue 3 had a huge war chest and they spent tens of millions on advertising and other traditional campaign efforts.  But, despite out-spending opponents of Issue 3 more than 10-to-1, the backers of Issue 3 seemingly got very little return at the ballot box for all their spending.

Not-so-big difference #1:  Making enemies of natural allies is not a good political strategy:  At the outset of ResponsibleOhio campaign, I wondered how traditional supporters of marijuana reform would respond to the "corporate" reform plan that Issue 3 represented.  I had expected that the Issue 3 backers would work hard to get the traditional marijuana reform community (both locally and nationally) to support their efforts.  But it seems that the Issue 3 political team was much better at making enemies than making friends in both the local and national reform community.  Throughout the heart of the campaign, I kept discovering that leading marijuana reform activists were far more energizied by the prospect of defeating Issue 3 than by the possibility that passage of Issue 3 could put Ohio at the forefront of the marijuana reform movement.

Not-so-big difference #2:  It is really hard to get young people to vote on off years:  Generational demographics provide a big reason why I think (smart) marijuana legalization campaigns can  be successful  in the years ahead; polling consistently shows that voters under 40 support reform by a significant margin.  But having political support among younger folks does not practically mean  much if these folks do not make it to the polls on election day.  I had expected, and the Issue 3 backers hand banked on, having marijuana reform on the ballot in 2015 would motivate many more younger, reform-supportive voters to go to the polls.  But it appears turn out in Ohio in 2015 was low and that any get-out-the-vote effort by ResponsibleOhio on college campuses produced no tangible results.

November 4, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ohio legislators indicate new (serious?) interest in medical marijuana reform

I am pleased and intrigued to see from this local Ohio article reporting reactions to the overwhelming defeat of a controversial recreation marijuana reform ballot proposal that some important Ohio legislators are now talking about considering moving forward with medical marijuana reform in the state.  Here are the encouraging quotes for those interesting in medical marijuana reform in the Buckeye State:

Although Issue 3 was handily defeated, the debate and conversations about the issue have convinced House Speaker Cliff Rosenberg, R-Clarksville, and other state lawmakers who were staunchly opposed to legalization to now say it may be time to move ahead with medical marijuana.  “After going through this process, myself and many of my colleagues realize there’s tremendous support for medical marijuana and something we should have a bigger discussion about,” said Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, a leader in the House.

That could be in the form of a pilot program or some other narrowly written legislation, Smith said. He noted that Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, already has proposed a medical marijuana bill.  “In talking to people, it was surprising to me how many said they support medical marijuana,” Smith said.  “We obviously want to help the parents with children that are ill and the elderly that are suffering.  We just want to make sure the scientists tell us it will help and we write it in a responsible way.”

November 4, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Will big loss of Issue 3 in Ohio set back marijuana reform movement in midwest and nationally?

As noted in this post at my other blog and as reported in this local article, "Ohio voters strongly rejected legalizing marijuana today, despite a $25 million campaign by proponents.   The issue to legalize pot for recreational and medical use [Issue 3] is going down 65 percent to 35 percent, losing in all 88 counties with about 72 percent of the of the statewide vote counted."  

Based on the significant criticisms of the corporate reform model brought to Ohio voters, which generated significant criticisms from the traditional marijuana reform advocacy community, I am not to surprised that Issue 3 failed to garner a majority of off-off-year voters.  But I am somwhat surprised, especially in light of polling that suggested a closer outcome, that Issue 3 is losing by such a significant margin.  And I think the size of the loss in Ohio could slow down the momentum for full marijuana legalization in midwestern states.

Helpfully, John Hudak at Brookings already has this lengthy post providing lots of Ohio election take-aways.  The post's title highlights its main themes: "Ohio's failure to legalize marijuana tells us little about reform, and less about the future." Here is how it concludes:

I have written previously that the success of previous marijuana reform ballot initiatives was due in part to the professionalization of the reform community, hiring political strategists, lawyers, lobbyists, communications professionals, and others to join issue-driven activists in the fight for their cause.  The failure of Issue 3 was a failure by Responsible Ohio to implement an effective political strategy that is sensitive to the challenges facing referenda.

The “big” takeaway from tonight’s rejection of legalization is this: don’t run a controversial marijuana initiative in Ohio in an off-off year. Anyone who suggests Ohio’s decision tells us anything about the success or failure of initiatives in 2016 is just blowing smoke.

November 3, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, November 2, 2015

New California legalization effort starts with big mo (money and momentum)

Download (2)As reported in this local article, headlined "Sean Parker initiative ignites California marijuana legalization," there appears now to be a leading proposal for bringing a marijuana legalization initiative to California voters. Here are the details:

Billionaire technology and music industry disruptor Sean Parker upended another sector this afternoon, with the release of a new initiative to legalize marijuana in California in 2016.

Parker’s proposal — called the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act — calls for ending cannabis prohibition in California, and allowing folks to possess up to one ounce of bud and grow up to six plants. Cities would have wide latitude on cannabis commerce, but couldn’t ban small, secure personal indoor gardens.

The proposal upends the 2016 playing field for California reformers. Parker’s wealth is the first substantial amount of funds to be moved into play in the 2016 race. Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project are reportedly backing the Parker proposal. That leaves other camps far out of the running for lack of funds — including the post-Prop 19 coalition ReformCA, as well as group behind the MCLR.

The full measure also received enthusiastic support from respected social-justice and industry organizations. “This initiative provides a model for the country,” stated Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It breaks new ground not just with its pragmatic regulatory provisions but also in directing tax revenue to prevention and treatment for young people, environmental protections and job creation in underserved communities.”

“California voters are ready to end marijuana prohibition in 2016 and replace it with a more sensible system,” stated Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “That is exactly what this initiative will do, and that is why MPP is proud to support it. We look forward to working with the proponents and doing whatever we can to help pass this measure and make history in California next year.”

About a half-dozen groups have filed ballot language, which costs $200 and signifies little. Millions of dollars must be spent to gather several hundred thousand valid signatures by a state deadline, then run a potentially polarizing campaign against a united conservative right, and a fractured, bickering far left. About 53 percent of Californians support legalization in theory. The details could drag those numbers down....

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who chaired a Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, supported the measure, which was filed today by official proponents, Dr. Donald O. Lyman, MD, and Michael Sutton — a doctor and an environmentalist: “I am pleased that this thoughtful measure is aligned with the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations, and presents California its best opportunity to improve the status quo by making marijuana difficult for kids to access. It is backed by the broadest coalition of supporters to date and I believe that Californians will rally behind this consensus measure, which also serves to strengthen law enforcement, respect local preferences, protect public health and public safety, and restore the environment.”...

A number of groups have signed onto the initiative with letters of support, including: The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California, California Council of Land Trusts, California Native Plant Society, California State Parks Foundation, California Trout, California Urban Stream Partnership, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Pacific Forest Trust, Trout Unlimited and Trust for Public Land. 

November 2, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

All marijuana reform eyes on Ohio as state prepares to vote on controversial legalization initiative

As regular readers of this blog know well, and as lots of other folks are surprised to discover, one of the biggest elections concerning marijuana reform is taking place this week in the great state of Ohio.  Here are links to some of the most recent press stories, both local and national, talking about what is afoot in the Buckeye State:

November 2, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Omaha Tribe assessing interest in marijuana legalization in northeast Nebraska

Bright-futuresNebraska has a pending suit (along with Oklahoma) in the US Supreme Court against its neighbor Colorado complaining about that state's marijuana reform efforts (basics here and here).  But, as this local article highlights, the Cornhusker state may soon have to be concerned about a marijuana reform effort within its own borders.  The article is headlined "Omaha Tribe to consider legalizing marijuana," and here are excerpts:  

The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska is considering getting into the lucrative marijuana business, but at least one tribal expert fears doing so could put the tribe at risk of losing any investment it may make in marijuana industries.

The tribe plans to hold a referendum Tuesday in which members will vote on whether the tribe should allow recreational use of marijuana, medicinal use of marijuana, and growing industrial hemp on its northeast Nebraska reservation.

Ultimately, however, the Omaha tribal council will decide all three questions. The referendum vote simply will give the council guidance on whether to move forward, according to an information sheet distributed by the tribe.

Tribal law expert Lance Morgan, who also is president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe’s economic development arm, said it likely will be difficult for the Omaha Tribe to legalize the use or manufacture of marijuana on its reservation, despite a U.S. Department of Justice memo issued last year that some tribal advocates have argued grants tribes the right to legalize use of marijuana on their reservations.

Morgan said the federal memo doesn’t actually allow tribes to legalize marijuana. Rather, he said, it allows them to work with local U.S. attorneys to do so. And, he said, U.S. attorneys in many states have been unwilling to allow tribes to move forward. “I think the government should be more direct in whether it’s allowable or not,” he said.

Morgan said it will be especially difficult for tribes in Nebraska to legalize marijuana, considering the firm stance Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has taken against it. Spokeswoman Suzanne Gage declined to comment Friday on the referendum....

Morgan said the ambiguous Justice Department memo has encouraged tribes across the country to launch expensive marijuana and hemp operations, and now some of those tribes have discovered they don’t actually have the right to legalize marijuana. “This is just one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen come out of D.C.,” Morgan said. “Encouraging us to invest capital and then coming in and destroying that capital and raiding the tribe doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Morgan said the Winnebago Tribe has discussed legalized marijuana but has no plans to move forward with such a plan. He sees the Omaha Tribe's plan to gauge opinion through a referendum as a good idea. “The only way tribes are going to do it is if they hold a referendum,” he said. “Then they know what the people think and can act accordingly.”

November 1, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Donald Trump comes up with his latest (nuanced?) position on marijuana reform

This new Washington Post article, headlined "Trump softens position on marijuana legalization," provides the latest evidence that The Donald is inclined to follow which way the political wind is blowing when it comes to marijuana policies and reform efforts. here are the details:

Donald Trump softened his tone on marijuana legalization on Thursday, saying at a political rally that states should be allowed to legalize marijuana if they chose to do so. Trump reaffirmed that he supports making medical marijuana available to patients who are very sick.

"In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state," Trump said while taking a handful of questions during a political rally at a casino outside Reno on Thursday afternoon.

His comments came hours after the third Republican debate was held in Colorado, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012. That same day, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he wants to remove marijuana from the federal government's list of most dangerous outlawed drugs, which would make it easier for states to legalize it.

Trump -- who says he doesn't drink or smoke tobacco, let alone experiment with drugs -- has taken a variety of stances on drug control. In April 1990, Trump said at a luncheon in Florida that the United States should legalize drugs and use the money collected to educate the public on the dangers of drug use. "We're losing badly the war on drugs," Trump said at the time, according to an article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."

More recently, Trump has supported allowing medical marijuana but firmly opposed legalization. During the CPAC conference in June, Trump was asked about Colorado's legalization and responded: "I say it's bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about it."

Sean Hannity, who was moderating the forum, then asked Trump if legalization is a states' rights issue or not. "If they vote for it, they vote for it," Trump said. "But, you know, they have got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado. Some big problems."

When the question of legalization came up during a rally in Nevada on Thursday, Trump was less dismissive of the idea. Nevada recently legalized medical marijuana. "Marijuana is such a big thing," Trump said. "I think medical should happen -- right? Don't we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states."

Trump waited for the applause to die down in the crowd, which skewed older, and then addressed the state he had just visited. "And of course you have Colorado," Trump said. "And I love Colorado and the people are great, but there's a question as to how it's all working out there, you know? That's not going exactly trouble-free. So I really think that we should study Colorado, see what's happening."

October 30, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Highlighting how Ohio initiative has deeply split traditional marijuana reform groups

Jacob Sullum has this notable new Forbes article about the notable rift created by the unique marijuana reform proposal going to voters in Ohio next week.  The article is headlined "Why Antiprohibitionists Are Ambivalent About Ohio's Marijuana Legalization Initiative," and here is how the piece starts and ends:

Next Tuesday voters in Ohio will decide whether to legalize marijuana. If Issue 3 passes and if another constitutional amendment aimed at overriding it does not, Ohio will be the first state to leap from complete pot prohibition to legalization for both medical and recreational use.  It will also be the most populous state and the first state east of the Great Plains to legalize marijuana.  A legalization victory in Ohio, a bellwether in presidential elections, could have a big impact on politicians’ willingness to deviate from prohibitionist orthodoxy and on voters’ willingness to support next year’s crop of marijuana initiatives in other states.

Despite its potential significance, Issue 3 does not merit a mention in a message about marijuana legalization that I received yesterday from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). In the fundraising letter, DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann recalls last year’s successful initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., and he looks forward to next year’s contests, when “more people than ever before will have the opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization.”  But he says nothing about next week’s election. There is no discussion of Issue 3 on DPA’s website either, although a few posts mention Ohio as one of the states where marijuana might be legalized.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), another leading reform group, has a paragraph about Issue 3 on its website but is not calling attention to the initiative as the vote nears. Nor is its description an endorsement.  “We encourage residents to carefully consider the measure and be sure to vote this November!” it says.

DPA and MPP, which had prominent roles in legalization campaigns last year and will again next year, are not involved in the Ohio initiative, so maybe it’s not surprising that they are not promoting it.  But that lack of involvement reflects strategic and philosophical differences within the drug policy reform movement that have made many opponents of pot prohibition ambivalent about Issue 3.  It’s an ambivalence I share. Although I’d like to see Issue 3 pass, I’m not exactly rooting for it.

Some of the objections to Issue 3 have to do with timing. MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia thinks it’s risky to put a marijuana initiative on the ballot in a year when people are not electing a president, since turnout is lower then, especially among the younger voters who are most likely to favor legalization.  He worries that a defeat in Ohio could be portrayed as a reversal of the legalization movement’s momentum. “That failure will be the only failure in the country,” he says, “and then the media will feed on that: ‘Oh, my God, legalization is backsliding.’…If they lose, which is not guaranteed, it might change the national narrative for one year.”

Although Kampia has a point, my main problem with Issue 3 is the cannabis cultivation cartel it would create: Commercial production would be limited to 10 pre-selected sites owned by the initiative’s financial backers, who are investing in the gains to be made from the economic privileges they are trying to award themselves.  This approach has the advantage of quickly raising a lot of money — money that can be used to pay marijuana mascots and produce ads featuring sympathetic beneficiaries of legalization (such as the mother who moved from Ohio to Colorado so she could treat her daughter’s epilepsy with cannabis oil).  The downside is that the crony capitalism embodied in Issue 3 disgusts a lot of people who otherwise support legalization.

That reaction is not limited to libertarians like me. “Damn,” DPA’s Nadelmann said while discussing the initiative in San Francisco last February.  “This thing sticks in my craw. Ten business interests are going to dominate this thing?”  Despite objections from the Yes on 3 campaign, a.k.a. Responsible Ohio, the ballot description highlights that aspect of the initiative, which unites progressives and libertarians in revulsion almost as much as prohibition itself....

Russ Belville, a longtime marijuana reform activist and talk radio host, faults leading antiprohibitionists for doing little or nothing to help push Issue 3 over the top.  “Why isn’t every drug law reform group making their get-out-the-vote push and shouting it from the rooftops?” he asked in an October 12 Marijuana Politics post.  Belville noted that Issue 3 is in some respects superior to I-502, the 2012 Washington initiative, which got much more enthusiastic support from groups such as DPA, MPP, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).  Unlike I-502, for instance, Issue 3 allows home cultivation (although only with a state-issued license), and it does not create an arbitrary definition of drugged driving based on THC blood levels.

NORML, unlike DPA and MPP, has endorsed Issue 3, albeit under the headline “Investor-Driven Legalization: A Bitter Pill to Swallow.”  In that September 14 post, NORML founder Keith Stroup, now the group’s general counsel, noted that the board vote in favor of the initiative was “less than unanimous.”  He explained that “a couple of board members abstained, and one flatly opposed the endorsement, to register their displeasure with the self-enrichment aspects of the Ohio proposal.”  Stroup added that “this specific version of legalization ― in which the investors alone would control and profit from the 10 commercial cultivation and extraction centers (where marijuana-infused products would be produced) permitted under the proposal — is a perversion of the voter initiative process available in 24 states.”

This week Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) joined NORML in supporting Issue 3, without mentioning the perversion that troubles Stroup.  Instead LEAP emphasized the benefits of eliminating arrests for marijuana possession and moving the industry out of the black market.  The statement quoted Howard Rahtz, a retired Cincinnati police captain: “Legalization will take money away from the cartels, provide funding for public safety and health services, and reduce the violence associated with the illegal drug market.”

Belville urges antiprohibitionists to focus on the main issue: the government’s power “to abrogate my rights because the drug I choose to use is contraband.”  The Issue 3 campaign is a battle in a war, he says, and “the way the war is won is by taking from the authorities, state by state, the ability to fuck with adults who use marijuana.”  After that is accomplished, “we fight for cultivation rights,” and “we fight to make the business model more equitable,” but “we’ve got to get it legal first.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Ohioans will indisputably have more freedom if Issue 3 passes than if it doesn’t, and that victory can only accelerate the continuing collapse of marijuana prohibition across the country.  If we must choose between cartels, the one Issue 3 creates is clearly preferable to the ones Capt. Rahtz wants to push out of the marijuana business.

October 29, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Has candidate Bernie Sanders already produced "big political moment" for marijuana reform?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Washington Post commentary by Amber Phillips headlined "Why Bernie Sanders’s marijuana announcement is a big political moment for pot." Here are excepts from the piece:

One day in the perhaps-not-too-distant future, when we — not the royal we, of course — light up a joint and reflect on how marijuana became as accepted and as legal as alcohol and cigarettes in this country, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) probably won't be top of mind.

But future marijuana-legalization scholars won't soon forget the first presidential candidate to publicly support removing marijuana from the government's list of dangerous drugs.  It currently resides on that list; Sanders wants it off entirely, which is a political turning point in our relationship with pot.

In a Virginia town hall broadcast (naturally) to about 300 college campuses Wednesday, Sanders told an audience of more than 1,700 applauding students: "Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use," he said, according to The Washington Post's John Wagner and Christopher Ingraham. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

What Sanders is calling for is not legalization. But the policy implications of removing pot entirely from the government's schedule of controlled substances would be big: States would be allowed to legalize it without interference from Washington, it would help economies involving pot (like banking) grow without fear of prosecution from the federal government, and fewer people would go to jail for possessing marijuana.

We're still quite a ways from that becoming a reality, despite the most recent Gallup polling showing a substantial majority of Americans support legalizing recreational marijuana and a few states moving to do just that in recent years.  But Sanders, in being the first national candidate to call for this change, took us a clear step closer.

There are a few reasons his announcement was a big moment for pot politically.  First, the medical community at large would agree with Sanders that pot is not as dangerous as, say, crack cocaine and heroin and the other highly addictive drugs it is currently classified with.  Respected organizations like the American Medical Association have also said keeping marijuana on a legally unreachable shelf stymies research for its healing potentials.  In that way, Sanders is bringing already-existent medical views of pot to the forefront of a political debate that hasn't yet embraced them.

Second, Sanders is not a fringe candidate — although you could argue some of the democratic socialist's policies aren't exactly mainstream.  He regularly draws crowds in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and is giving Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton a run for her money.  And if there's anything this campaign has taught us, it's that Sanders has the ability to draw Clinton to the left politically.  That doesn't mean Clinton will take the same stance, but it does mean there could be pressure to move in that direction.

Third, this just feels like something of a turning point in our nation's approach to marijuana.  Like it or not, the signs would indicate we're on a national trajectory toward decriminalization, perhaps even legalization. And it's happening remarkably fast, relative to other social issues....

Most other presidential contenders have been more cautious about recreational marijuana.  Clinton has very much taken a wait-and-see approach when it comes to states that have legalized it. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has raised money from the marijuana industry for his presidential campaign, has said the federal government shouldn't interfere with states who want to legalize it.  He and and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (D) have said they'd support bumping down a notch the government's classification of pot as a drug.  Only Sanders has supported taking it off completely.  And of course, neither Paul nor O'Malley are drawing the kind of support that Sanders is.

It seems only a matter of time before more politicians join Sanders in taking more definitive policy positions that move along the drug's slow but apparently inevitable march toward acceptance in America.  Maybe it's this election, maybe it's the next.  But Sanders will likely be remembered as the guy who took us one step closer to our inevitable new relationship with pot.

Speaking as a current "marijuana-legalization scholar," I fear that this commentary reflects a somewhat enhanced view of the significance of what Senator Sanders has said on this topic. Still, this is a big deal, and Fall 2015 will surely be seen as a watershed period in the marijuana reform movement if Ohio voters next week pass a controversial legalization plan in a bellwether state.

October 29, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Unsurprisingly, MPP and SAM have very different marijuana grades for Prez candidates

As this prior post suggests, I am not surprised that the marijuana positions of various Presidential candidates are getting more attention from marijuana public policy groups as the GOP candidates gear up for a debate in Boulder, Colorado.   Perhaps even less surprising is that the two most significant groups advocating for and against marijuana reform,  Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), have two distinct perspectives on how each of the candidates ought to be "graded."  These two starting sentences from the two groups' recent press releases provides the basics:

  • The nation’s largest marijuana policy organization has upgraded Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders in its report card-style voter guide to the 2016 major party presidential candidates.  The voter guide can be viewed online at http://

  • With the 2016 presidential primary campaigns in full swing, today Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) released a groundbreaking analysis and rating of every candidate’s position on a range of issues related to marijuana policy-not just legalization, but also whether candidates support a focus on prevention and treatment, and a scientific approach to medical cannabinoids and other marijuana-derived medications.

October 28, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Spotlighting how, in bellwether Ohio, "Corporations, Activists Clash Over Legal Pot"

1035x376-R1247_REPORT_Pot_CRolling Stone has this terrific new article that details not only the dynamics surrounding the 2015 marijuana initiative reform efforts, but also the broader battle this represents concerning who will be leading the marijuana reform movement in the months and years ahead.  The lengthy piece is headlined "Ohio's Weed War: Corporations, Activists Clash Over Legal Pot; Why are corporate raiders and old-school activists locked in a battle for the soul of the marijuana movement?". I recommend the piece in full, and here is how it gets started:

On November 3rd, voters in Ohio will decide the fate of legal weed — making the Buckeye State an unlikely ground zero in the national divide of the legalization movement. The fight pits the movement's ponytailed old guard against its rising carpetbaggers, a cadre of Rolex-wearing, politically connected businessmen intent on controlling the growth, sale and subsequent $100 million profits of legal weed. Unlike Ohio's longtime activists, the new weed elite has a $23.5 million war chest to campaign for dispensaries on every block. But while victory in heartland America would instantly notch the single greatest electoral achievement in marijuana reform, many see the movement's corporate takeover as the death knell of what has long been a grassroots reform campaign — destroying the last vestiges of the drug's counterculture relevance.

"New people come into the picture primarily motivated by money, not by a sense of injustice," says Troy Dayton, a decades-long activist and CEO of the Oakland-based ArcView Group, the country's largest marijuana-investor group. "And thus you have the problem. I've seen the movement fight over a wide range of things. But I've never seen something quite like what's happening in Ohio."

Without a doubt, the face of the corporate takeover of the marijuana movement is ResponsibleOhio, the statewide campaign that launched last November, the same month Oregon became the fourth state to legalize pot. ResponsibleOhio's ballot initiative, known as Issue 3, would legalize recreational marijuana by constitutional amendment. The initiative language creates a marijuana oversight board, allows for 1,100 retailers — more pot shops than the state has Starbucks — and permits each adult citizen four homegrown plants. Issue 3 creates just 10 marijuana farms and hands the keys to wealthy campaign donors, transforming a slew of real-estate executives, financiers and a curious bevy of celebrity investors — NBA legend Oscar Robertson, fashion mogul Nanette Lepore, former boy-band star Nick Lachey — into a monopoly of newfangled marijuana farmers, virtually overnight.

Traditionally in Ohio, legalization has been championed by the movement's activist class, a loose statewide network of protest politics with names like Ohio Rights Group (ORG) and Legalize Ohio 2016, with most outfits operating in the orbit of the country's three oldest drug-reform organizations: Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the National Organization for Reform of Mari-juana Laws (NORML). Many of Ohio's old-school legalization activists describe watching in horror as their cause succumbs to a big-business stampede. "We're for full legalization," says Bob Fitrakis, an Ohio Green Party leader and also an ORG board member. "But this isn't about that. This is about 10 people with a lot of money....essentially saying, 'Hi! We're going to use our money to create a new cartel.'"

For the past four decades, the non-profit status and equal-justice missions of MPP, DPA and NORML have colored the legalization movement's identity, but so, too, has political reality: It takes a few million dollars to win a pot campaign. Colorado's successful initiative cost around $3 million, and Oregon's around $9 million. In the past, such national money veered away from Ohio, an expensive and uncertain battleground state. When your movement dangles on a nonprofit budget, experts explain, you have to pick your states wisely.

ResponsibleOhio has emerged at the precise moment that legalization is grappling with this conundrum: How in the world to finance a movement that's rocketing at a speed that senior leaders privately confess is faster than they ever expected? Against this dilemma, ResponsibleOhio posed a radical answer: Forget the national leadership and fund yourself. The marijuana market, already an estimated $2.7 billion industry, long ago went private. But in Ohio, legalization experts say, the marijuana movement itself has gone private.

"In the Ohio case, this is very much a new phenomenon," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the DPA. "It's basically investors who are in it for the money. The political reality is that the role of groups that fight for this from a place of principle is just going to diminish very rapidly. And that's unfortunate."

UPDATE: Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of other national media outlets are now taking a closer looks at what is going on with marijuana reform in Ohio. Here are a few other notable lengthy recent pieces:

  • From the AP here, "Ohio marijuana debate heats up"

  • From the Pacific Standard here, "The Most Unusual Marijuana Battle in America: Behind the push to legalize pot in Ohio"

October 24, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Should next week's GOP debate start with a question about marijuana reform and economic development?

103066411-YMYV.530x298The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new CBNC article headlined "GOP candidates divided on marijuana." The actual article does not really cover any new ground, but its source is especially notable because CNBC is the host of the next big GOP debate on Wednesday night. Accourding to the article, the CNBC debate on Wednesday, Oct. 28 is being titled "Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate" and it will "feature two sets of candidates discussing critical issues facing America today, including job growth, taxes and the health of our economy." Moreover, as noted in this prior post, the debate is taking place in Colorado, a state which has experienced notable changes in job growth and taxes as a result of state-level marijuana reform.

In addition to being well-suited for the main topics and setting for next week's GOP debate, marijuana reform issues and related politics are especially timely. Just earlier this week, the Liberal Party in Canada won a huge national election while running on a platform advocating full marijuana legalization.  And just six days after the debate, the swing state of Ohio will have voters deciding whether to become the first state east of the Mississippi to vote on a full marijuana legalization initiative.

At the very least, I would love to see candidate John Kasich, the current Governor of Ohio, asked next week about whether he would acknowledge the potential for marijuana reform in Ohio to enhance job growth and tax revenues while reducing government expenditures on failed big-government, freedom-restricting policies.  In addition, I would love for New Jersey Gov Chris Christie, who has pledged to "enforce the federal law" aggressively even in states that have legalized marijuana, exactly how he would try to prevent Ohio officials from moving ahead with state reforms if voters enact such reforms in the Ohio constitution next month. 

October 23, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Marijuana, Ohio, and Esau"

Te title of this post is the headline of this lovely and astute new Huffington Post commentary authored by Pat Oglesby. Here are excerpts from its start and end:

"Politics is always the lesser of two evils," Federal Fifth Circuit Judge John Minor Wisdom told me when I was one of his law clerks. I didn't quite understand that then, in the late 1970s, but I get it now.

Marijuana legalization is gaining steam, and the question is becoming not "whether to legalize" but "how."  And it's about the money.  A recent RAND report put it this way: "A state that legalizes marijuana by allowing limited private sales creates a privilege to sell it. T hat privilege is worth money, maybe lots of money."

So the money is up for grabs.  And a small group plans to grab all the money in Ohio. The "Responsible Ohio" ballot initiative, to be voted on in November, lets medical and adult-use marijuana be grown and processed only in "ten designated sites," all owned by wealthy funders of the initiative.   Sites like a "40.44 acre area in Butler County, Ohio, identified by the Butler County Auditor, as of February 2, 2015, as tax parcel numbers Q6542084000008 and Q6542084000041."  And the initiative caps taxes permanently.   All by Constitutional amendment.

The Responsible Ohio initiative sets up, for some of my friends in the cannabis community, a choice between two evils: prohibition and what NORML's Keith Stroup calls "a bitter pill to swallow" and "a perversion of the voter initiative process."  But he points out that, for now, the Responsible Ohio initiative "is the only option available to stop the senseless and destructive practice of arresting marijuana smokers in Ohio. Each year nearly 20,000 Ohio residents are arrested on marijuana charges.  That's an enormous price to pay when we have the ability to end prohibition now, albeit with some undesirable provisions."...

And look -- Responsible Ohio doesn't have a monopoly on grabbing marijuana money. But it is the first marijuana consortium to limit its taxes permanently in a State Constitution.  That's outrageous.  There are at least six better ways to divide the new wealth and income from marijuana commerce than to give it all to the first self-nominated grabbers.  But that brings me back to Judge Wisdom's point about the lesser of two evils.  Different people have different views about which evil is lesser. Where you stand depends on where you sit.  That's why we vote.

Polls seem to be saying Responsible Ohio may win.  If it does, much of the blame will be on elected officials who should have seen this coming and figured out a way to handle it.  Combined with possible legalization of marijuana in Canada, a win for Responsible Ohio would shake the windows and rattle the walls in Legislatures across the country.  Sure, figuring out how to share the newly-created wealth from marijuana legalization fairly is not easy.  But it's not impossible.

October 22, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are a lot more Americans smoking pot or are just a lot more now comfortable admitting they are?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this CNN report on new marijuana use research released yesterday.   Here are the basics: 

A heck of a lot more Americans were toking up in 2012-13 than 10 years before -- and not for medical reasons, either -- according to a new study.  The percentage of American adults who had used marijuana within the last year was 9.5%, the study found.  That compared to 4.1% in 2001-02.

The study -- published this week in Jama Psychiatry, a monthly journal published by the American Medical Association -- was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  It was based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 Americans over the age of 18.

With the increase in use has come an increase in the total number of what the study called "marijuana use disorders."  But the authors of the study put that down to the increase in use:  The percentage of pot smokers with such disorders actually dropped, with about one in three showing signs of dependence or abuse.  As the authors of the study put it, "The prevalence of marijuana use disorder among marijuana users decreased significantly from 2001-2013," from 35.6 percent of users to 30.6.

The attitudes toward the use of marijuana are shifting in the United States, as are the laws governing its use.  Twenty-three states now allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, the study notes, and four of those states also allow recreational use of the drug. "Given changing laws and attitudes toward marijuana, a balanced presentation of the likelihood of adverse consequences of marijuana use to policy makers, professionals and the public is needed," the study said.

I have been struggling this morning to access the full study/article reference in this press report, but I continue to wonder how much identified changes in self-reported marijuana use in recent years reflects changes in self-reporting rates as much as changes in marijuana use rates.  I hope this new study (and any other similar studies about changes in self-reported marijuana use over long periods of time) take this possibility into account. 

I sense that all activities that carry some measure of social stigma (even legal activities like watching pornography or drinking heavily or gambling) are done (a lot?) more than most people will readily admit, and I think the tendency to under-report stigmatized behavior is especially true when an activity involves serious federal and state criminal activity in addition to being shunned by "respectable" people.  Back in 2001-02, the negative stigma (and criminal concerns) surrounding marijuana use was, I think, quite high and claims about valid medical use of marijuana were rarely embraced (especially as compared social views by 2012-13).  For that reason, I wonder if the number of self-reported marijuana users a decade ago was much lower than in more recent years for reasons that are not only about changing rates of actual marijuana use.

October 22, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Latest Gallup poll shows 58% support for marijuana legalization (and 2/3 support for those under 50)

Bplgz4vavkyps762r8vilqThis new release from Gallup, headlined "In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use," reinforces my ever-growing belief that it is no long a question of "if" but rather "when" and "how" blanket marijuana prohibition comes to an end. Here are the reasons why (with my emphasis added):

A majority of Americans continue to say marijuana use should be legal in the United States, with 58% holding that view, tying the high point in Gallup's 46-year trend.

Americans' support for legal marijuana has steadily grown over time. When Gallup first asked the question, in 1969, 12% of Americans thought marijuana use should be legal, with little change in two early 1970s polls. By the late 1970s, support had increased to about 25%, and held there through the mid-1990s. The percentage of Americans who favored making use of the drug legal exceeded 30% by 2000 and was higher than 40% by 2009.

Over the past six years, support has vacillated a bit, but averaged 48% from 2010 through 2012 and has averaged above the majority level, 56%, since 2013.

The higher level of support comes as many states and localities are changing, or considering changing, their laws on marijuana.  So far, four states and the District of Columbia have made recreational use of marijuana legal, and Ohio voters are set to decide a ballot initiative that would do the same this coming Election Day.  The topic has been an issue on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, and several candidates have expressed a willingness to let states set their own marijuana laws even though federal law prohibits marijuana use.

Gallup has previously reported that two of the biggest differentiators of Americans' opinions on legal marijuana are age and party identification.  Younger Americans, Democrats and independents are the most likely of major demographic and political groups to favor legalizing use of the drug, while Republicans and older Americans are least likely to do so.

Younger Americans have always shown the most support of any age group for making marijuana legal, but this has grown from 20% of 18- to 34-year-olds in 1969 to 71% of those in the same age group today.  But even older age groups today are more likely to favor legal marijuana than the comparable age groups in the past. For example, 35% of senior citizens today (aged 65 and older) are in favor of legalization, compared with 4% of senior citizens in 1969. Among all age groups, the increase in support has been proportionately greater over the last 15 years than it was between any of the earlier time periods.

These patterns by age indicate that one reason Americans are more likely to support legal marijuana today than they were in the past is because newer generations of adults, who are much more inclined to favor use of the drug, are replacing older generations in the population who were much less inclined to want it to be legalized. But the increase in support nationwide is also a function of attitude change within generations of Americans over the course of their adult lifespans....

Americans' support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58%. Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future.  Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago.  Now, more than seven in 10 of today's young adults support legalization.

But Americans today -- particularly those between 35 and 64 -- are more supportive of legal marijuana than members of their same birth cohort were in the past. Now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization. These trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal.

The notable dip in support for full legalization that the Gallup polling numbers showed in 2014 had me thinking that the early experience with full legalization in Colorado might have been starting to lead a few more average Americans to question whether they liked full marijuana legalization in practice quite as much as they liked it in theory. But now that support has ticked up to 58% again, I surmise that more folks are now coming to see that full legalization has lots of tangible economic benefits and that much of all the doom-and-gloom predicted by drug warriors have just not (yet?) come to reality.

Of particular importance in my view is the data suggesting that now roughly two-third of all Americans in their prime "parent years" (i.e., between ages 30 and 50) are now expressing support for full legalization. Especially as someone in that cohort, I have long thought that parents of young kids (and of current or future teenagers) cannot help but have lingering concerns and fears about the possible impact of full legalization on their children. But it seems that, at least for now, this generation by a two-to-one margin sees more problems from current marijuana prohibition than what could happen with major reform.

For these (and other) reasons, I think still more major legal reforms at both the state and federal level are getting ever closer to a near certainty unless and until prohibitionists do a much better job demonstrating that the potentiual harms of reform are much greater than what so many have come to see as the current harms of blanket prohibition.

October 21, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Brookings report calls for "Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research"

BrookingsLogoRegular readers know I have often praised the cutting-edge research being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform.  The latest big Brookings publication in this arena,  authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, is titled "Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research."  This publication provides an effective and detailed review of the multiple problems for scientific research created by federal laws, and here are a couple notable paragraphs from start and end of the lengthy report:

The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety.  As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others selfmedicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance.  However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area.

It is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use.  People are using cannabis nationwide to treat a variety of ailments.  Doctors in dozens of states are recommending the use of this product as a pseudo-pharmaceutical intervention.  The elderly, veterans, children, and people from every demographic group in the nation claim that the use of cannabis assists in the treatment of their medical conditions.  Despite this, there is limited scientific research on the efficacy of this product overall or by condition or dosage, on interactions, on composition, on side effects, or much of anything else....

As the next president comes to office, he or she will inherit a marijuana policy regime that is inconsistent and often contradictory.  It is incumbent on President Obama’s successor to introduce some uniformity, discipline, and sensibility to this policy area. Focusing on medical marijuana research would be a good place to begin — and the issue’s politics for the next president should be encouraging.  In fact, the next president need not wait until January 20, 2017, to pursue and capitalize on this political opportunity; candidates for the presidency should make marijuana work for them....

Candidates are hesitant to take a bold position on (medical) marijuana policy. And frankly, this reluctance is very difficult to understand.  Public support for medical marijuana reform is quite high across the country and at the state-level.  Multiple polls put the national support for physician-prescribed marijuana between 70 and 80 percent approval.  Polling suggests that in most states — even the most conservative states — support for legalized medical marijuana is at least two to one, and polling at rates of 80 percent or higher in swing states like Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and Virginia. Medical marijuana also polls favorably in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Yet, candidates are meek on the issue.  Oddly, they are comfortable or even eager to take bold positions on much more controversial topics including the Affordable Care Act, entitlement reform, foreign intervention, climate change, and immigration policy, to name a few.  But the medical marijuana reform embraced by the public seems to scare candidates.  Medical marijuana reform should be an easy one for a candidate seeking to connect with prospective voters and the expansion of medical research in the area should be an even easier consideration

October 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

When (if ever) will GOP candidates be drawn to pot's economic development potential?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Denver Post commentary headlined "As GOP candidates debate economy, Colorado pot offers opportunity: Newly legal industry promises riches, jobs." Here are excerpts:

As Republican presidential candidates prepare to debate economic issues in Boulder, the sweet smell of success for the state's legally sold marijuana industry seems impossible to overlook.

Nationally the legal industry brought in about $3 billion in 2014 but is projected to grow to more than $8 billion by 2018, if current politics stay the course, according to the Marijuana Industry Factbook.

Colorado racked up $700 million in sales of recreational and medical pot last year — nearly $76 million in tax revenue, including $13 million in licenses and fees. The industry is expected to top $1 billion this year. Combined sales in Colorado topped $100 million in August, compared with about $47 million in August 2014.

That economic impact could explode as 11 states consider joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in legalizing recreational marijuana. The question remains whether the economic argument comes in louder than Republicans' concerns about the moral and public health implications, as well as a view that the 10th Amendment gives states the right to decide.

"There is no argument that marijuana is having a huge economic impact," said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Denver-based Marijuana Industry Group. "When we started out, the top concern was safety, but I think almost everyone recognizes that this hasn't had an impact on traffic safety, crime rates or teen use, and it's safer than alcohol on a lot of fronts.

"Economically, Business Insider has said Colorado has the fastest growing economy. We had record tourism last year and home sales are through the roof. I don't know how much you can attribute that to marijuana, but you can't say it's hurting our economy."...

None of the candidates — Republican or Democrat — have gotten specific on banking, regulations or taxation — issues Colorado lawmakers have had to figure out on their own.

Politically, pot probably won't make or break any candidate, said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont who sponsors most of the marijuana bills in the legislature. Constituents in his district haven't rewarded or punished him politically, but they expect marijuana to be regulated responsibly, he said.

"Any candidate who chooses to overturn what voters in Colorado, Washington and other states have done, I think, do so at their own political peril," he said. "I think the war on drugs is over, and I don't think there's a broad interest out there to re- litigate the past."

Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said a continued pro-business approach is crucial on the issue. "We simply cannot allow bureaucrats and special interests to dictate the winners and losers in the industry," he said. "Rather, we should be standing up for all Americans, no matter their race or socioeconomic status, to have the opportunity to partake in Colorado's fastest growing industry and soon the nation's newest economic driver.

"Colorado voters took over the job of the GOP and stuck it to the feds. The result? 18,000-plus jobs and millions in revenue; take note candidates, take note."

October 20, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Liberal party in Canada, after promising marijuana legalization, projected to be big election winner

LiberalslegalizeAs reported in this updating piece from the CBC News, headlined "Justin Trudeau to be prime minister as Liberals surge to majority," the Liberal Party in Canada today appears to have secured a huge victory in the county's national election. Here are the basics:

Justin Trudeau will be Canada's next prime minister after leading the Liberal Party to a majority government win, dashing the hopes of Stephen Harper, who had been seeking his fourth consecutive mandate, CBC News has projected.

This will be the second time Canada will be led by a Trudeau, as the Liberal leader follows in the footsteps of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Tories will form the Official Opposition, moving Tom Mulcair's NDP to third-party status.

It's a stunning turnaround for the Liberals, who held only 36 seats at the time of Parliament's dissolution. The Conservatives held 159 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons and the NDP had 95, with another 18 seats either vacant, held by Independents or shared between the Green Party (two seats) and the Bloc Québécois and a splinter group.

This is big news for marijuana reform fans because the Liberal Party, as detailed here, campaigned with an express promise to "legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana."  Because I know so very little about Canadian politics and legal reform, I do not know whether and how quickly the Liberal Party and Canada's  notable new Prime Minister can make this campaign promise a legal reality.  But I do know that these election results up north provide still more evidence that marijuana reform can be a winning campaign issue in some jurisdictions.  

Political-flyer-from-conservative-mp-wai-youngIn addition, if (when?) Canada develops a reasonably functional marijuana legalization model, it will become that much harder for prohibition to persist in the United States, especially in those states that border Canada.  Of course, two states with lengthy Canadian borders have already legalized recreation marijuana (Alaska and Washington), and I have to think the prospects for full legalization have now gotten even brighter in other border states like  Michigan, Maine and Vermont.

That said, I suspect the Liberal Party in Canada will not find it all that easy to implement its marijuana reform campaign promises, and so I would not suggest would-be consumers start booking northern travel plans just yet.  Still, if the new leader in Canada even just begin to have a serious and sustained policy conversation about national marijuana legalization, I think there could well be significant reverberations for the country to the south.

October 19, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Many States Still Grapple With Regulating Medical Marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this effective piece from Stateline, the news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.  Here is an excerpt:

Montana is among several vanguard states whose voters eagerly legalized medical cannabis by passing broad ballot initiatives as many as 19 years ago, but left lawmakers struggling to regulate an industry that grew quickly with few rules.

Today, states like California, Montana and Michigan are still attempting to clean up their laws with bills that would develop licensing systems for growers, create a fee structure for providers and product, or legalize all marijuana use.

It’s a legislative and regulatory pitfall that lawmakers warn other states they could face as public demand for legal medical and recreational marijuana grows, and more states allow it.

Maryland opened the door to medical use last year, and Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming passed laws legalizing access to less-potent medical cannabis products for certain patients this year.  At least 20 initiatives to legalize medical or recreational marijuana could be on the ballot in 16 states next year.  And in November, voters in Ohio will decide whether recreational marijuana should be legal in that state.

Proponents of using marijuana as medicine say ingesting the drug can ease chronic pain, stimulate appetites for the very ill, soothe nausea caused by cancer treatments and prevent seizures in children with epilepsy.  Detractors say the research surrounding medical marijuana isn’t conclusive, the drug poses significant public health risks and those who advocate for it use medical marijuana to trick voters into sanctioning an illegal drug for recreational use....

And unless state lawmakers get ahead of their constituents on legalization, they face a potential regulatory nightmare, said Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers.  Rivers, a Republican, should know.  Medical marijuana was legalized in Washington by voter initiative in 1998, leaving gaping regulatory holes and hazards that lawmakers like her have spent years trying to fix.

October 19, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)