Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Good people don't smoke marijuana..."

Images...said Trump's selection for attorney general of the United States, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).  

And Sessions really dislikes pot smokers. According to WaPo:

In 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions, then a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana."  

His selection is not an encouraging sign for those hoping for (among other things) a continuation of the Obama administration's more temperate stance on marijuana policy.

NORML has graded Sessions an "F" on its congressional scorecard. 

November 18, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?

In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).

I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)

I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.

This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.

 

 

November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"U.S. Resident Population in States that Permit Medical or Recreational Marijuana Use"

Via email, I received news of this new accounting (with some typos) of reform states and their populations recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC.  In addition, the same folks previously produced a three-page Policy Brief headlined "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion"  which I promoted in this prior post titled "Highlighting the 'knowledge gap' as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace"

Though I will not crunch the numbers here, the accounting of states and populations reveals that before last week, there were roughly 20 million Americans living in states which had passed full marijuana legalization by initiative.  Now, thanks to big states like California and Massachusetts and with a little help from Nevada and Maine, the number of Americans living in states that have passed full marijuana legalization has tripled to over 65 million.

November 15, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Legal Marijuana Poses a Problem for Gun Buyers"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Wall Street Journal article.  Here are excerpts:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s husband and sons ordered her a new Benelli 12-gauge shotgun as a gift, but when the Alaska Republican — and enthusiastic duck hunter — went to pick it up, she was puzzled by a question on the federal background form she had to fill out. The form asked if she used marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, both of which are legal in Alaska. If she answered yes, she would be unable to get the gun, because federal law prohibits anyone who uses illegal drugs from buying a firearm.

The senator doesn’t use pot, but she was taken aback by the notion that an activity that is legal in her state could block gun ownership. “I don’t like marijuana — I voted against legalization — but we passed it,” Ms. Murkowski said in an interview. “Now, you’ve got this conflict.”

The scope of that conflict just grew, as voters in eight states last week approved marijuana-related ballot initiatives. Now, 28 states and Washington D.C., allow marijuana use in some form, including eight that allow recreational use. Yet federal law still holds that anyone who uses marijuana, even medicinally, is doing so illegally and can’t buy a gun.

That is upsetting advocates for both gun owners and pot smokers, groups that don’t always find themselves on the same side of the cultural divide. “This idea that you somehow waive your Second Amendment rights if you smoke marijuana” is wrong, said Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, which advocates marijuana legalization. “In particular, if you are using marijuana as a medicine, the idea that you have to choose between your health and the Second Amendment is offensive.

November 14, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Some California communities have sought to limit local participation in legal marijuana market

Californians may have approved recreational marijuana use last Tuesday, but that doesn't mean they can expect weed shops to be as ubiquitous as 7/11s any time soon. Even before it passed, many municipalities had taken advantage of Prop. 64's  provision leaving to local communities the authority to restrict the commercial cultivation, distribution and retail sale of the drug (these communities, however, can't restrict possession or private consumption). Indeed, in some large suburban communities east of Los Angeles and Orange Counties that make up the Inland Empire, legalized weed may be no more accessible than it was before Prop. 64 passed. This local article explains: 

With its great commercial capacity and relatively cheap land prices, the vast and logistics-savvy Inland Empire might seem like a good place to set up various seed-to-store marijuana-related businesses now that California voters have approved the legalization of recreational marijuana.

 

While local cities may be bursting with industrial property and easy access to highway and even an airport, a number of them also may be sporting an equal amount of distaste for marijuana. Already, many have already enacted laws banning the commercial cultivation, distribution and retail sale of recreational pot, even though Proposition 64 doesn’t allow for the issuance of business licenses until 2018...

 

Inland Empire city leaders who have banned marijuana cultivation, distribution and sale — for either medicinal or recreational purposes — cite concern over family values and public safety.

 

“With prospective sales, it brings about an unwanted criminal element,” [Fontana Mayor Acquanetta] Warren said. “It’s a really touchy situation because I’ve had a chance to really study how medical marijuana (helps some), but we just have a responsibility to keeping our citizens and commercial businesses safe.”...

  

[Community development director for Chino Hills, Joann ]Lombardo said Chino Hills is a family community and when leaders looked at the appropriate use of medical marijuana establishments in the city, they determined “it is not in keeping with that family atmosphere that is typical of Chino Hills.”

 

Meanwhile in the city of San Bernardino, voters on Election Day passed Measure O, which replaces a citywide ban with a regulatory plan.

 

The new marijuana law in San Bernardino could bring $19-24 million in new revenue to the city, according to the research firm Whitney Economics.

 

Experts say the emerging industry may take foothold first in the Inland Empire farther east, in the less populated desert communities, such as in Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs, where city leaders have already approved medical marijuana cultivation.

November 14, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who voted to legalize marijuana in California?

Largely, the people who most needed a silver lining in last week's federal election results. The L.A. Times:

The initiative that legalized recreational use of marijuana in California found its strongest support among those who voted for Hillary Clinton for president, African Americans and voters ages 18 to 29, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times post-election poll.

 

Proposition 64 passed with 56% of the overall vote, but was supported by 68% of Clinton supporters and Democratic voters while it was opposed by 59% of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to the poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

 

A breakdown of the vote by race found the ballot measure drew support from 64% of African American voters, 58% of whites and 56% of Latino voters.

 

Though marijuana legalization was supported by 66% of voters ages 18 to 29, backing from those ages 50 to 64 was weaker at 49%.

November 14, 2016 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Will Prez-Elect Donald Trump make it legal and easier for veterans to have access to medical marijuana?

Veterans-day-20131The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new AP article headlined "For Colorado Veterans, Marijuana A Controversial Treatment." Here are excerpts:

Tom couldn’t sleep. After six years in the U.S. Navy, he found himself in the civilian world unable to readjust from his time on a ship, when a commanding officer would often wake up the sailors every few hours.  He tried prescription sleep aids, but nothing really worked until he smoked some weed ... “I tried it very sparingly and slept the whole night for the first time in like months,” Tom said.

For members of the U.S. military, admitting to using marijuana could result in an investigation and in most cases, punishment or separation from the military. Because of this, many of the veterans who use marijuana chose not to reveal their last names...

Attorney Will M. Helixon, an expert in military law, said the military still considers marijuana a controlled substance. Someone in active duty caught using the drug could be punished and in most cases, processed for separation from the military. For someone who is not on active duty, it could still result in a discharge, which could close the door for future benefits and career options.

Helixon said it makes no difference to the military if marijuana is legal in some states, such as Colorado. “There are many instances where otherwise lawful conduct is prohibited by the military, marijuana being one of them,” Helixon said. “To not be efficient in your job or to be derelict in your duties is not a crime in the civilian world, but it is in the military.”...

Tom said he much prefers marijuana over drinking, even though branches of the military are no strangers to alcohol consumption. “The Navy has, I don’t want to say a tradition, but we’re known for being heavy drinkers. There’s that saying ‘drunk as a sailor,'” Tom said. “It’s like a big frat because at every port there’s ‘Let’s go out and get as drunk as possible.’ I thought it was so odd that the Navy was so gung ho about drinking and so against marijuana. I consider them on the same level.”

Juan, who is 50 and was in the U.S. Marine Corps, expressed the same sentiment. Juan broke his collarbone from injuries not related to the military, he said. “I just drank all the time to numb the pain but marijuana works much better and for sleep as well,” Juan said. Marijuana “doesn’t really get rid of the pain. It changes it to something more manageable if that makes sense … it like feels good to get it moving, like a massage.”

Juan said he has a couple friends recently who died from heavy drinking. He said the drinking culture in the Marines is similar to what Tom described in the Navy. “Oh yeah, it’s just like college — put enough young people together and they’re going to want to party and drink. In the Marine Corps everyone drank and pretty excessively too,” Juan said.

Juan said he is distrustful of prescription opiates as well. “I think the amount of opiates being prescribed to people is a little reckless. I don’t take aspirin because I don’t like the idea of drugs,” Juan said. “An opiate can actually kill you if you overdose. With marijuana, that can’t happen. You’re not going to smoke yourself to death.”... Juan conceded that it is possible to get hooked on marijuana, like anything else. “To be honest, I’m kind of addicted to not hurting all the time. You can be psychologically dependent on it,” Juan said. “If it gets to a point where you’re smoking before work or something then you’ve got a problem. I have friends who smoke it pretty heavily and they are well-paid with families to take care of. They’re not the stereotypical stoner on the couch.” ‘A Band-Aid’ Sam House, a spokesman for the U. S. Department Veterans Affairs for northern Colorado and Cheyenne, said that while marijuana may seem beneficial, it’s masking the real problem.... House said the VA follows the Federal Drug Administration, which has not found a medical use for cannabis. The Drug Enforcement Administration still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Because of the federal policy, House said a veteran who uses marijuana won’t be able to get certain prescriptions at the VA medical office. For instance, veterans are routinely blood-tested every time they go in for a VA appointment, House said. So if a veteran tweaks his or her back in a way for which a doctor would prescribe prescription painkillers, when the bloodwork comes back positive for marijuana, the VA doctor can no longer prescribe the painkillers.

House is a veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD. He said it’s important for veterans to treat the root cause of the side effects with therapy, instead of self-medicating with marijuana. “The goal of every veteran should be to be normal and to seek out that new normal,” House said. “If someone is on an antidepressant, they may need that for the rest of their lives. Why complicate that with self-medication, which could or could not contribute to that depression?”...

Curt Bean, 31 of Lakewood, was diagnosed with PTSD after tours in Iraq with the U.S Army. Bean said he knows a fellow veteran who went from taking 14 medications for PTSD to three medications after starting marijuana. “The three biggest things for me — anxiety is really tough and then there’s depression and sleeplessness,” Bean said. “I’m able to have something to mitigate that in a healthy and positive way with zero negative side effects.”

Bean said he is heavily involved in the Colorado veterans community and he has seen other veterans switch from opiates to marijuana with positive effects. “They were just being zombies. And the marijuana allowed them to be a successful part of their families and their communities,” Bean said. “It allowed them to be part of their communities rather than isolating them in their room.”...

Bean said he knows many veterans are afraid to come out and say they use marijuana, but he is trying to raise more awareness about the issue. Bean has smoked marijuana on a few local news stations. “I understand the ramifications of doing that, but it takes people to stand up and say, ‘It’s silly,’ for this to become less of an issue,” Bean said.

Bean said he wished the VA would come around and see his perspective on marijuana use for PTSD. “It’s a matter of time. The longer they wait and drag their feet, the lower the quality of life for veterans and there is some loss of life,” Bean said. “That’s the most upsetting thing — that I’m on this expedition to be able to say that this is a valuable option for the guys and they should be able to use it because it does save lives.” 

Notably, this two-page document entitled "Donald Trump's Contract with the American Voter," describes a part of a planned initiative to include "provid[ing] veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice." If that becomes a reality, it could make it much easier to veterans to have access to medical marijuana through the private health care system (although this would not alone solve problems for active military members).  

November 13, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fascinating exit poll data on Arizona and California marijuana legalization support/opposition

Thanks to Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority founder and Twitter fiend, I now have seen that CNN has great exit poll data detailing and breaking down by a variety of demographics who voted for and against the marijuana reform initiative in Arizona (which failed) and California (which passed).

For those who follow marijuana reform polling, many of these demographic data points are not surprising: younger voters supported legalization in both states much more than older voters.  Democrats supported legalization in both states much more than Republicans.  But there are also some really interesting distinctive data points to be found, such as:

  • In Arizona, the majority of voters making less than $100K were supportive of legalization, with those making less than $50K being the most supportive (at 53%).  Among voters making more than $100K, a full 56% were against AZ legalization. 

  • In Arizona, a strong majority of Latino voters supported legalization (60%), but a strong majority of white voters opposed legalization (55%)

  • In California, the majority of voters at all income levels supported legalization, but those making less than $100K did so by a much larger percentage.

  • In California, the majority of unmarried voters strongly supported legalization (64%), but a majority of married voters opposed legalization (52%), but it is really just married women (against 55%) and not married men (for 52%) who move the married voters into a majority no position.

  • In California, the majority of voters saying no religion were huge supporters of legalization (76%), but protestants also were majority supporters (54%), but catholics were strongly opposed (61%).

November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Will Team Trump bust the marijuana business?"

The title of this post comes from this CBSNews.com article addressing the question looming over the otherwise positive Imagesresults for marijuana legalization advocates on Tuesday: will a Trump White House aggressively enforce federal marijuana prohibition? The article begins:

Supporters of the marijuana industry should be celebrating this week’s passage of eight state ballot measures to permit its use by adults. That promises to triple the industry’s size in coming years. 

 

But harshing their buzz are several key allies of President-elect Donald Trump, such as his running mate Mike Pence, who are skeptical about the benefits of marijuana legalization.

 

Not surprisingly, many in the cannabis industry had expected Democrat Hillary Clinton to cruise to victory and were stunned when it didn’t happen. Now, they’re awaiting signals of how Trump will approach cannabis, even as the industry is set to expand significantly.

 

“If Hillary Clinton had won, this would have been the grand slam that everyone in the industry had been hoping and praying for for years,” said Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily. “With Trump coming in, no one knows what’s going to happen. There are a lot of fears that he might crack down on the industry.”

 

During the campaign, Trump argued that marijuana legalization should be decided on a state-by-state basis, without being more specific. But in addition to the vice president-elect, some of Trump’s closest advisers, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, are no “friends of marijuana reform,” according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

Lawmakers in Indiana failed to reach an agreement on a medical marijuana bill during their 2016 session, and according to the Marijuana Policy Project, the state has among the most draconian cannabis laws in the country.

 

In New Jersey, Christie signed a law allowing medical use of pot last year, but activists have criticized it for being overly restrictive. The governor is adamantly opposed to allowing recreational pot use. Giuliani reportedly has argued that marijuana is a gateway drug that could lead to abuse of more harmful substances like heroin, a view that many experts dispute.

 

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, didn’t respond to a request seeking comment...

 

It would be difficult for the Trump administration to get rid of legal marijuana given the windfall the states have earned in tax revenue, according to [Nick] Kovacevich[, the CEO of Kush Bottles].

November 11, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform

Cw1RUvqWgAATypwAs various folks continue to try to figure out just what happened on Election Day 2016, I am seeing a lot of people noting that Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote than did Donald Trump.  But Trump is now Prez-Elect because he squeaked out state-by-state victories in a majority of the swing states.  As the title of this post trumpets, I think simple math suggests the most of the swing states would have swung the other way if HRC had been a vocal and consistent advocate for major marijuana reform.  Here is the basis for my thinking:

1. Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both advocated for full marijuana legalization, and I think it fair to imagine that some (significant?) percentage of their voters would have voted for HRC instead if she championed major marijuana reform.

If only half of voters who picked Johnson/Stein would have instead voted for HRC had she championed marijuana reform, HRC would have won, instead of lost, the states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states add up to 75 electoral votes and would have given HRC the presidency with more than 300 electoral votes. Given that younger persons disproportionately support full marijuana legalization (nearly 80%) and that younger voters disproportionately voted for Johnson/Stein, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to secure many of these third-party voters in 2016.

2.  In addition to securing more of those who showed up to vote for a third party, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to motivate many more traditional democrats to turn out to vote. This UPROXX article, headlined "It Appears As Though Hillary Clinton Was Ultimately Done In By Low Democratic Voter Turnout," details why lower turn out among democratic voters was fundamental to her surprising loss.  (Given that HRC mostly made arguments about who to vote against (Trump) rather than arguments about why to come out to vote for her (what did she promise to do exactly?), it is not hard to understand why she struggled to encourage her traditional base to show up and vote.

If HRC advocacy for major marijuana reforms motivate just another 10% of traditional democratic voters to show up to vote for her, she now wins Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin big AND now also wins Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and maybe even makes Ohio and Texas(!) remarkably close.  With just the first additional three of these states added to her column, and HRC has now more than 350 electoral votes; throw in Ohio and Texas and she is way over 400.

Now I realize, of course, that one probably needs to be smoking something to really believe that potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms would have turned the US deep blue and led to a landslide outcome not seen since the Reagan era. But throughout the election season and now in this period of post-mortems, I keep returning the my own feeling that HRC really provided no tangible reason for me to vote for her rather than just against the other guy. Potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms, I suspect, would have given a lot of people other than me a real reason to vote for HRC.

November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How many of the many law schools in California, Florida and Massachusetts have courses in marijuana law?

The question in the title of this post popped in my head this morning when I realize that three of the states that house nearly nearly 1/4 of all law schools throughout the United States had voters enacting major changes to the marijuana laws this election cycle.  Specifically, I believe California alone is home to around 20 law schools, and I believe Florida and Massachusetts together also have around that number.  

Of course, not all students who attend law schools in these states do so with plans to practice law within that state, though I strongly suspect that a majority of graduates at the majority of these many schools in these states end up practicing law within the state where they went to law school.  For at least some number of law students who plan to work in-state after graduating from law schools in California, Florida and Massachusetts (not to mention in smaller states like Arkansas, Maine, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota), marijuana law is now plainly something they could benefit from studying.

I know of a few great law profs who have developed some form of a marijuana course (or a marijuana-infused drug policy course), but I suspect and fear that far too few schools in these states have even started effectively thinking about how to effectively prepare future lawyers from this complicated and growing legal practice area.

Some prior related posts:

Highlighting that marijuana (law) is coming to more law school classrooms

Is there now (or should there be) a "cannabis canon" as more law schools teach marijuana reform?

Could marijuana reform in part explain application and enrollment boost at University of Colorado Law School?

Does marijuana legalization at least partially account for the remarkable recent popularity of Colorado Law? 

November 10, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Responding to election results, NFL Players Association moving forward on studying marijuana for pain relief

Images (2)As many like to say, elections have consequences.  And this new Washington Post article highlights one really interesting and surprisingly quick consequence of all the marijuana election results.   The lengthy article is headlined "As more states legalize marijuana, NFLPA to study potential as a pain-management tool," and here are excerpts:

In the aftermath of a new set of states legalizing marijuana use in the national elections, the NFL Players Association said Wednesday it is forming a committee to actively study the possibility of allowing players to use marijuana as a pain-management tool.

The union is forming an NFL players pain management committee that will study players’ use of marijuana as a pain-management mechanism, among other things, though the union has not yet determined if an adjustment to the sport’s ban on marijuana use is warranted.

“Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a phone interview Wednesday.  “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains.  We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”

A growing push from players within the sport, plus an ongoing national medical conversation over the benefits of marijuana and the dangers of opiate-based painkillers, have increased scrutiny on the league’s rules that ban the drug.  This also comes as voters in California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use Tuesday, joining four other states and Washington, D.C., in enacting similar laws. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voters legalized medical marijuana use, bringing the total of states with such measures to more than two dozen.

But marijuana use remains prohibited under the drug policy collectively bargained between the NFL and the NFLPA, and both parties would need to agree to any changes to that policy.  Players are tested for marijuana and can be fined or suspended without pay for positive or missed tests.  The union’s contemplation of approving marijuana as a pain-management mechanism for players had begun before Tuesday’s voting.

Some players, including former Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, argue that marijuana is safer than the painkillers commonly used by players and its use should be permitted by the sport for pain-management purposes....

Some contend that the increasing number of states to legalize marijuana use should impact the NFL’s view. “There is no health and safety reason for marijuana being on the banned list and now the legal rationale has crumbled,” a person on the players’ side of the sport said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Some medical experts are also advocating for cannabis-based treatment over some current painkillers, noting the addiction and overdose potential of opioids. In 2014, 19,000 deaths were attributed to overdoses from prescription pain medication, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Prescription painkillers have also been cited as a gateway to heroin use.

“In my mind, there’s no comparison if we just started from scratch in the year 2016 and looked newly at which class of drugs worked better to treat pain and side-effect profile up to and including death, in the case of opioids,” Daniel Clauw, a University of Michigan professor who has performed studies comparing opioids and cannabis, told the Post in June. “You put the two next to each other, and there really is no debate which is more effective to treat pain. You would go the cannabinoid route instead of the opiate route.”

Cannabidiol, or CBD, an anti-inflammatory extracted from cannabis, could potentially help players as a preventative measure against one of the most pressing issues facing the NFL: concussions. Lester Grinspoon, a professor emeritus at Harvard and one of the first medical marijuana researchers, said in an interview with the Post earlier this year that “evidence shows CBD is neuroprotective. I would have each individual take a capsule an hour or two before they play or practice. It’s better than nothing.”...

The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and union runs through 2020. But the two sides review the sport’s drug policies annually and sometimes make adjustments. In September 2014, the league and union agreed to raise the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 35 nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram....

The league has come under fire recently for the length of suspensions given for marijuana use compared to other violations, such as the initial suspensions for domestic violence incidents assessed to then-New York Giants kicker Josh Brown (one game) earlier this season and then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (two games) in 2014....

Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University, said the NFL and NFLPA face a practical and perhaps political decision about marijuana, but not one of compliance with shifting state laws. “There are substances on the banned substances list that are not illegal,” Feldman said in a phone interview. “The league and the Players Association can make the determination under the CBA that substances that are legal can be on the banned substances list. . . . [Conversely the league] doesn’t have to test for it just because it’s illegal.

“The league is certainly not bound by the laws of individual states in terms of whether they test or don’t test. There are some who might say that alcohol should be a banned substance even though it’s legal. Ultimately it’s up to the league and the players to decide.”

The momentum of the marijuana-legalization movement potentially could influence the NFL’s thinking, Feldman said. “It may,” Feldman said. “I would think that both the league and the players are continuing to study the issue and continuing to study whether it makes sense. Certainly as the laws change, that might inform their decision and we may see action. [But] the league also has a uniformity issue. Even if the federal prohibition is lifted and it’s legal in some states and illegal in other states, the NFL might have an interest in maintaining uniformity in its policy.”

November 9, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Boost Scotts Miracle-Gro Stock To All-Time High"

Scotts-miracle-gro-logo2-610x333The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article which highlights why at least one notable business is already reaping some significant benefits from all the success of marijuana reform initiatives this election cycle.  Here are excerpts:

Traditionally a wholesome company known for helping suburban households keep their lawns green, Scotts Miracle-Gro has recently tapped into the pot market by selling equipment for hydroponics, a method of growing that allows people to produce cannabis, or any other plant, indoors. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden,” Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn told FORBES in a July feature story.

Scotts Miracle-Gro shares have jumped 34% in the last six months. “The bulk of that is basically marijuana driven,” said Joe Altobello, an analyst who covers the stock at Raymond James. “If you’re looking to play that angle, this is probably your best bet.”

No one has made more money off of the wager so far than Hagedorn and his family, who own 27% of Scotts Miracle-Gro. Since July, they have added an estimated $370 million to their family fortune, bringing their current net worth to roughly $1.8 billion. A company spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Investors are impressed. “What he’s doing is he’s diversifying the portfolio,” said Jason Gere, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “They’re capitalizing on trends, and it’s very entrepreneurial.”

Scotts announced its first major move into the industry in March 2015, when it purchased two sister companies named General Hydroponics and Vermicrop for $135 million. By July 2016, those businesses had already grown by more than 20%, roughly four times the rate of the rest of the company. “The sizzle in the stock, the growth potential that people are looking at is from the cannabis industry,” said Ivan Feinseth, an analyst at Tigress Financial Partners. “It’s going to be a major growth engine.”

November 9, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

California and Nevada on path to legalize recreational marijuana, but Arizona not that into it

Enough results are in, and I am eager to call it a night on this blog, so I am going to rely on the votes as of now in Arizona, California and Nevada to conclude that marijuana will be legal for recreational use in California and Nevada, but not in Arizona.  Thus, as I call it a night, it looks like marijuana reform has won in at least seven and perhaps in eight of the nine states in which it was on the ballot, and seemed to win fairly big in the the big states of California, Florida and Massachusetts.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Massachusetts votes to legalize recreational marijuana and Maine might have too

I have been watching the marijuana legalization results on Politico from Maine and Massachusetts, and the results are clear enough in Massachusetts, currently 53.5% for reform and 46.5% against, for everyone to be declaring victory for marijuana legalization in the state.  In Maine, where the vote is currently 50.5% for reform and to 49.5% against, the race is too close to call. But it looks like there may be two New England states on the fast path to full marijuana legalization, and I suspect a number of other states nearby are going to be seriously considering following their lead before too long.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Early Arkansas and Montana results suggesting more winning medical marijuana reforms

Though I have "called" victories for medical marijuana initiatives in Florida and in North Dakota, the smaller number of votes in and the closeness of the votes in Arkansas and Montana preclude me from conclusively concluding that tonight will be a clean sweep for all the state medical marijuana initiatives.  But, as Tuesday turns to Wednesday here in the Eastern Time Zone, the election numbers from Arkansas here and from Montana here suggest that Election 2016 was a big one for medical marijuana reform in a lot of red and deep red states. 

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

North Dakota appears poised to pass medical marijuana initiative

As of 11:30pm ET, this North Dakota election results page shows the state's medical marijuana reform leading by a 65% to 35% margin with 80% of precincts reporting. Though it seems there are a lot of other close votes nationwide, it appears that North Dakota voters are not closely divided on medical marijuana reform.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida voters seem poised to legalize medical marijuana via state constitutional amendment

As of 8:30pm ET, this Florida election results page shows medical marijuana reform leading by over a 70% to 30% margin with about 8.5 million votes counted.  This reality is sure to be overshadowed by other election results today, including other marijuana ballot votes in other states, but I think this could be the biggest news of the night for moving the needle on federal marijuana reform. 

UPDATE:  As of 10:30pm, with more than 9 million votes in, the medical marijuana reform amendment is winning 71.25% to 28.75%.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Previewing and tracking the 2016 marijuana initiative election results throughout the evening

American-pot-flagThis new Huffington Post article, headlined "9 States Are Voting On Marijuana On Election Day. Here’s Where They Stand Right Now," provides a relatively efficient and effective overview of all states to be watching for those concerning about state-by-state marijuana reform initiative developments. Arguments can be made that all five states voting on full recreation legalization are most important as a metric for the future of national reform, though I strongly believe the votes in all four medical marijuana states today should not be overlooked. Here is how the HuffPo piece sets up its state-by-state review:

Millions of voters across the United States are considering measures to roll back longstanding restrictions on marijuana this Election Day. By the end of Tuesday night, five more states could fully legalize weed, which would put nearly one-quarter of the nation’s population in areas that have rejected prohibition and decided to tax and regulate the plant. An additional four states are voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use. If approved, pot would become legal in some form in 29 states and Washington D.C.

Marijuana policy reformers say this could be a watershed moment for their movement. “Nov. 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017.  But on the other hand, huge losses could interrupt the momentum we’ve been building for the last several years.”

I would be surprised if there is a consistent voting outcome throughout all the states, though I think is a near certainty that by the end the day a much larger number of Americans will be voting in favor of significant marijuana reforms today than at any other time in US history.   That reality alone, even if reform proposals end up losing in a number of states, ought to help propel the national marijuana reform movement forward.

Drilling down into state-by-state outcomes and their impact on the national reform conversation, I have lately come to think the pace of national/federal marijuana reform might ultimately be influenced even more by the vote today in (swing state) Florida concerning medical marijuana than by any of the five recreational state votes.  Then again, the recreational initiatives in California (as the biggest US state) and in Massachusetts (the biggest New England state) also are obviously very big deals for the likely future direction and structure of federal reforms.  And none of the votes in any of the other states are without national significance and consequence, especially when each vote can help increasing significantly the number of US Senators who are from states in which voters or local representatives have called for some form of marijuana legalization.

 Going through the states here by closing times (ET) provides one way to organize and track what reformers can follow most closely throughout the night:

Florida polls close at 7pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Amendment 2

Florida Results webpage

 

Maine polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 1

Maine Results webpage

 

Massachusetts polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 4

Massachusetts Results webpage

 

North Dakota polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Measure 5

North Dakota Results webpage

 

Arkansas polls close at 8:30pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Issue 6

Arkansas Results webpage

 

Arizona polls close at 9pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known a Proposition 205

Arizona Results webpage

 

Montana polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Initiative 182

Montana Results webpage 

 

Nevada polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 2

Nevada Results webpage

 

California polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Proposition 64

California Results webpage

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

How might marijuana legalization in California affect the nation?

The question in the title of this post comes from this Forbes article examining how passage of Proposition 64 -- California's marijuana legalization initiative -- on Tuesday could change marijuana policy nationwide. The article begins:

California’s Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana is going to have a big influence on the rest of the United States.

 

It is highly likely the measure will pass Tuesday. On Oct, 16, a SurveyUSA poll showed 51% in favor and 40% against. More recently, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 58% for and 34% against the ballot measure.

 

Jessica Rabe, research associate Convergex, a global brokerage company based in New York, said that the great size of the California economy — sixth largest in the world if it were a standalone country, with GDP of $2.5 trillion in 2015 — will “put pressure on the government to reclassify or deschedule the drug to help ‘cannabusinesses’ better conduct their operations with more access to banking services.”

 

According to cannabis investment company MedMen, passage of Proposition 64 could add $8.38 billion in annual sales to an already robust medical market worth an estimated $2.83 billion. CEO Adam Bierman said that the California vote is one of the major milestones in the institutionalization of the marijuana industry. “I have a meeting on Tuesday in San Francisco with half a dozen of what some people would refer to as the illuminati of Silicon Valley,” said Bierman. “That meeting doesn’t happen six months ago. That meeting doesn’t happen two months ago. It’s happening now.”

 

Sarah Trumble of Third Way, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., sounds a cautionary note. “I’ve heard that saying, if California goes then this inevitable that all states will go, but that’s not necessarily true,” she said.  “California didn’t do a very good job with its medical marijuana industry and its lack of regulation. If they screw up recreational, it will hurt the overall effort.”

 

Trumble believes that if the analysts are right in their sales estimates and the industry becomes a multi-billion dollar one, then the big banks will reluctantly begin working with these customers. She noted that the amounts of money are so large that it wouldn’t be feasible to work only in cash and the smaller banks and credit unions could be overwhelmed. It could be the tipping point for major financial institutions.

 

“The exponential increase in mainstream venture capital interest will attract talent from the established industries that the state has long supported from tech to aerospace and agriculture, which will be a boon for innovation and job creation across the diverse spectrum of cannabis companies,” said Mike Bologna, Chief Executive Officer of Green Lion Partners. “The potential economic impact of Prop 64 cannot be understated, and we hope that a victory in California will inspire other state governments to reconsider their archaic and destructive stance on cannabis.”...

 

In addition to the financial and cultural aspects, there is also the feeling it will benefit the medical community. Rob Hunt, President of Teewinot Life Sciences said, “California is the epicenter of biotechnology and there are many scientists that are desperate to study the efficacious nature of cannabinoids,” He went on to say, “Legalizing cannabis provides a great deal of insulation to these people and provides them comfort in conducting trials that will ultimately lead to breakthroughs in medicine. It is ironic that the passage of adult use may drive cannabinoid based science far more than a medicinal law ever did.”...

November 7, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)