Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, April 11, 2016

Examining how the NCAA is dealing and should be dealing with marijuana reform

A student in my semester-long OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana reform is presenting this week on how the NCAA approaches marijuana issues involving student athlete. The student has authored this preview blurb to go along with links to assembled background reading:

One of the “hotter” topics in college sports today revolves around the personal activities of high profile student-athletes. When allegations surface that a student-athlete has used marijuana, the focus immediately goes to potential consequences. However, these consequences vary among the leagues, conferences, and schools that student-athletes attend. While the NCAA has (somewhat) consistent procedure for dealing with drug violations, the potential consequences aren’t always clear. Additionally, the potential consequences and treatment of marijuana violations are not always consistent across the board.

These material and articles provide background and highlight some main points for discussion:

NCAA: 2015-16 NCAA Banned Drugs

AP: “Schools Was Athlete Penalties for Marijuana” - Eric Olson, Dec. 2015

The Wall Street Journal: “The NCAA’s Drug Problem” - Sharon Terlep, March 2015

NCAA: "Marijuana and the interocollegiate student-athlete: Implications for Prevention” - Jason Kilmer, Ph.D., University of Washington; Karalyn Holten, University of Washington

 

April 11, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Examining social marijuana use and marijuana clubs/cafes/ lounges as part of reform and regulation

As students in my semester-long OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana laws and reform continue assembling readings on particular topics in preparation for an in-class presentation/discussion, this week we have a student taking a deep dive into marijuana propaganda past and present.  Here is his summary of the issue and links to background reading:

The presentation will examine the ways the States' clean air acts and anti-public use laws are barriers to these type of establishments and the social use of marijuana, as well as what people are doing to get around the laws and legally use marijuana socially.  We will consider what laws have been enacted in response to people trying to circumvent the pre-existing laws and how other states considering legalizing recreational marijuana are approaching the issue of public use and marijuana lounges.

"Private Cannabis Clubs Are Now Illegal In Washington"

"Anchorage, Alaska Votes To License Hash Cafes"

"Oregon clean air rules may spell trouble for marijuana clubs and cafes"

"Private marijuana clubs in Colorado Springs largely unregulated"

April 10, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is investing in the marijuana industry a prudent choice?

The question in the title of this post is posed by a trio of my students in my OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana laws and reform as a preview to their coming in-class presentation/discussion. These students have authored this preview blurb to go along with the following links to assembled background reading:

As more states become increasingly friendly to marijuana, investors of every size are looking into the industry. But, given the current market and the legal uncertainties, is investing in the marijuana industry a prudent choice?

"The historical consequences of Irrational Exuberence: Market Crashes: The Tulip and Bulb Craze"

"The Legal Marijuana Industry: The rise of cannabis capitalism: Silicon Valley Meets Bob Marley"

"The business of marijuana R&D: U.S. firms target investment in Israeli cannabis R&D"

"Should you invest in marijuana stocks?"  

April 10, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Public Policy Institute of California releases new report: "Regulating Marijuana in California"

Logo (1)The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), which describes itself as a "nonpartisan think tank ... dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research," has released this notable new report titled "Regulating Marijuana in California." Here is the heart of the report's summary:

This report does not consider the wisdom of marijuana legalization. Instead, it takes the view that, if recreational marijuana use becomes legally sanctioned, then the debate must turn to how to design regulations that reconcile important, but differing policy goals. These include, among others, limiting the impact of the illegal marijuana market, reducing harm to public health and safety, and raising revenue for the state.

The report explores the approach Washington and Colorado have taken to regulating recreational marijuana markets. These two states have histories of legal recreational marijuana that, though brief, are the longest in the nation.

What lessons can be gleaned from these experiments? Both states have designed mechanisms to track legal cultivation and production, thereby reducing the diversion of marijuana to the illegal market. They also tax marijuana transactions, collecting tens of millions of dollars in revenue. And it appears that neither overall use nor use by young people has risen dramatically. However, as in California, levels of use were already higher in those states than in the rest of the country.

To limit the impact on public safety, both Washington and Colorado established legal definitions of drugged driving. Since then, in both states, greater numbers of people have been charged with driving under the influence. Nonetheless, it is impossible to determine whether those increases mean drugged driving has become more prevalent or that law enforcement is more vigorous. In addition, the change in marijuana’s legal status challenges drug abuse prevention specialists to develop effective messages.

The short experience with legal recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and the lack of data on California’s marijuana market make it difficult to derive policy recommendations. However, from a governance perspective, it is possible to draw some general lessons for California. Three in particular stand out: (1) Both Colorado and Washington significantly adjusted marijuana regulation shortly after legalization. We suggest that California approach legalization with an eye toward flexibility. The regulatory process should be designed to facilitate needed changes. (2) Such an adaptable regulatory model will require a mechanism for collecting data on the marijuana market and evaluating the consequences of use. A strong and transparent reporting system will help ensure that future changes are based on solid research and analysis. (3) Finally, this is a venture into uncharted territory, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law. These considerations suggest that California should err on the side of caution and adopt a relatively restrictive regulatory model for both the recreational and medical markets. A tight, single market will make marijuana laws easier to enforce and to reduce diversion to other states and underage users. To be sure, a highly regulated legal market will undoubtedly be accompanied by a robust illegal market. From a political perspective though, it will be easier to loosen a tight market than to tighten a loose one.

April 8, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"3 Reasons to Doubt the DEA Will Agree to Reclassify Marijuana This Year"

The title of this post is the headline of this valuable new piece by Jacob Sullum at Reason which provides some needed context (and justified pessimism) in light of some press headlines suggesting DEA may be on the verge of reclassifying marijuana.   Here is how the piece starts and ends and its main insights in between (with links from the original):

In a memo it sent to members of Congress on Monday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says it hopes to announce by the end of June whether it has decided that marijuana no longer belongs in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the law's most restrictive category. The memo, first noted yesterday by Washington Post drug policy blogger Christopher Ingraham, has generated headlines such as "The DEA Will Soon Decide Whether it Will Reschedule Marijuana" and "DEA May Downgrade Marijuana From Schedule 1 Drug." Here are three reasons I think those headlines are misleading:

1. The DEA has a history of foot dragging in response to rescheduling petitions. This is the fourth time the DEA has responded to a petition asking it to reclassify marijuana.  It rejected the first three petitions from six to 16 years after they were filed.  The fourth petition, filed in 2009 by New Mexico medical marijuana activist Bryan Krumm, and the fifth petition, filed in 2011 by Christine Gregoire, then the governor of Washington, and Lincoln Chafee, then the governor of Rhode Island, are still pending....

2. Agreeing to reschedule marijuana would require a major change in how the DEA interprets the CSA. Schedule I is supposedly reserved for drugs with a high abuse potential that have "no currently accepted medical use" and cannot be used safely, even under a doctor's supervision. It is doubtful that marijuana meets any of those criteria, let alone all three. But the DEA has always insisted that marijuana cannot be moved until its medical usefulness has been confirmed by the kind of expensive, large-scale clinical studies that the Food and Drug Administration demands before approving a new medicine. While such studies have been conducted with marijuana's main active ingredient (which is how Marinol, a capsule containing synthetic THC, was approved by the FDA in 1985), they have not been conducted with the whole plant....

3. The Obama administration says marijuana will be reclassified only if Congress decides to do so. "What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," President Obama told CNN's Jake Tapper in 2014. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing." Last January, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that Obama had no interest in administratively rescheduling marijuana:  "There are some in the Democratic Party who have urged the president to take this kind of action.  The president's response was, 'If you feel so strongly about it, and you believe there is so much public support for what it is that you're advocating, then why don't you pass legislation about it, and we'll see what happens.'"

Eric Holder, Obama's attorney general until last year — and therefore the official directly charged with deciding how controlled substances should be classified, a task that he, like his predecessors, delegated to the DEA — took the same line. Even when Holder said, 10 months after leaving the Justice Department, that marijuana "ought to be rescheduled," he added that "Congress needs to do that."

Although Gary Johnson is optimistic that the administration will change course this year, I see no reason to think the DEA's answer to the two most recent rescheduling petitions will be any different from its answer to the first three.

April 7, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How does the legalization of marijuana in the US impact Mexican cartels?

The question in the title of this post is the query to be explored by an LL.M. student in my seminar this week. Here are the suggested background readings and materials she provided to set up this important topic:

Is the legalization of marijuana a better solution than a war on drugs?

My presentation focuses on the impact that the legalization of marijuana in the US is having in Mexico which is the biggest supplier of marijuana. Also, if the legalization of marijuana is a better solution that the drug war and how the US is supporting Mexico on this drug war. These are the articles I recommend my classmates to read:

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Marijuana legalization is already making Mexican drug cartels poorer

Mexican marijuana farmers see profits tumble as U.S. loosens laws

April 6, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

How will marijuana legalization affect the Fourth Amendment and the agents who utilize it?

The question in the title of this post is posed by a student in my semester-long OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana laws and reform as a preview to his in-class presentation/discussion on Fouth Amendment doctrines.   The student has authored this preview blurb to go along with links to assembled background reading:

Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.  Over the last several decades, many of these exceptions to the protections of the Fourth Amendment have either revolved around or are tied to the presence of marijuana.   The “Plain Smell” or marijuana from an officer is firmly supported among circuit courts as sufficient for granting probable cause for a search.  The Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug detection dogs during traffic stops to generate probable cause to search a vehicle.  When there is marijuana in a location where marijuana is illegal, police officers have a justification for a warrantless search.

With the current legalization of marijuana in many jurisdictions, these established exceptions and practices are being turned on their heads.  However, the movements away from these established practices are inconsistent and uncoordinated.  When dealing with drug detection dogs, some agencies are retiring established dogs and training new ones while some agencies are attempting to retrain their established dogs.  But the proper course of action is legally and procedurally uncertain.  To retire and retrain is expensive while it is unknown whether a drug detection dogs will remain effective upon retraining or if they can even be retrained.  Is it impossible to teach an old dog new tricks?

Two articles on what is happening to drug dogs in jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized:

"What Good Is A Pot-Sniffing Dog When Pot Is Legal?"

"Vermont police dogs no longer trained to detect marijuana"

An article which further examines marijuana legalization on drug dogs and wades into the discussion of automobiles searchs on the basis of marijuana:

"Marijuana Legalization Regimes and the Evolving Fourth Amendment"

How medical marijuana legalization has affected the probable cause generating effect of marijuana odor in Arizona:

"Scent of Marijuana Alone Not Enough for Search Warrant, Appeals Court Rules"

April 6, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Looking closely at the history of marijuana propaganda

As students in my semester-long OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana laws and reform continue assembling readings on particular topics in preparation for an in-class presentation/discussion, this week we have a student taking a deep dive into marijuana propaganda past and present.  Here are links to assembled resources and his summaries:

"Reefer Madness: Mid-Century Anti-Marijuana Propaganda In Movies And Books"

This article provides a good timeline of early Marijuana propaganda and identifies some of the common themes underlying public marijuana education through the 1950s.  It also discusses the themes of racism underlying early marijuana advertising.

"From the Devil’s Lettuce to the Dropout Drug: The Evolution of Reefer Madness Propaganda"

Identifying the changing themes of government propaganda over the years.  Beginning with violent crime, shifting to laziness, health concerns, gateway drugs, and eventually focusing on youth access to marijuana in the modern day.  This article showcases the ways that government sponsored marijuana education has changed over the years as public perception of the drug also changes.

"In Debate Over Legalizing Marijuana, Disagreement Over Drug’s Dangers"

A Pew Research study showcasing attitudes towards marijuana based on age. A correlation can be drawn between reasons that a certain age group opposes legalization and the messages presented during their time.  The Silent Generation who was coming of age during Reefer Madness opposes legalization because of the perceived violent nature of marijuana, while members of Gen X oppose legalization because of the perceived health risks presented by marijuana.  A relation to their exposure to the “Your Brain on Drugs” campaign during the ‘80s.

"Ten Nights in a Bar Room vs. Reefer Madness"

Finally, a video I edited to try and capture the essential themes and messages presented in both Reefer Madness and Ten Nights in a Bar Room.  The two films have been edited down to try and present only the biggest anti-marijuana/alcohol themes in the movies.  If fellow classmates would like a brief introduction to what marijuana education looked like in the ‘30s I would hope this properly captures and showcases the political climate at the time.

April 5, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Big Marijuana": The Next "Big Tobacco" in 21st Century Modern Media?

The question in the title of this post is the query that defines the work of one of my seminar students who will be presenting on this topic to the rest of the class this week. Here is his suggested background readings and materials to set up this important topic:

General Overview Material

SAM: Big Tobacco 2.0 – Big Marijuana

"Kennedy: Are We Ready For Big Tobacco-Style Marketing For Marijuana?"

 

Background on "Big Tobacco" Regulation

FDA v Brown and Williamson, 529 U.S. 120 (2000).

 

First Amendment / Online Marijuana Advertising/ Commercial Speech Doctrine 

"Does The First Amendment Protect Marijuana Ads?"

"Marijuana Ads Banned On Google, Facebook And Twitter"

"Minnesota marijuana company battles Google over rejected ads"

Brown v Entertainment Merchants Assn., 564 U.S. ___ (2011).

 

Marijuana Perspective on Video Game Advertising targeted toward Marijuana Users

"The History of Marijuana and Video Games"

"How the F.B.I. Made 'Winners Don't Use Drugs' the Arcade Motto of the '90s"

April 5, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Senators Grassley and Feinstein convening hearing on whether DOJ is "Adequately Protecting the Public" from state marijuana reforms

This recent press release from US Senate's Caucus on International Narcotics Control details that this caucus has a hearing scheduled to explore how the federal government is keeping an eye on state-level marijuana reforms. (Exactly what this has to do with international control is unclear, but big-government drug warriors on both sides of the political aisle like Senators Grassley and Feinstein have never really been too keen to worry about limiting government growth in this arena.)  Here are the basic details on what is prompting this hearing:

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, will hold a hearing entitled, “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?”

In August 2013, the Obama Administration decided to effectively suspend enforcement of federal law on marijuana in states that legalized it for recreational use. But to disguise its policy as prosecutorial discretion, the Administration also announced federal priorities that it claimed would guide its enforcement going forward. These priorities include preventing marijuana from being distributed to minors, stopping the diversion of marijuana into states that haven’t legalized it, and preventing adverse public health effects from marijuana use. At the time, the Justice Department warned that if state efforts weren’t enough to protect the public, then the federal government might step up its enforcement or even challenge the state laws themselves. This put the responsibility on the Department of Justice to monitor developments in these states, develop metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of its policy, and change course if developments warranted.

But a report from the Government Accountability Office that Grassley and Feinstein requested found that the Administration doesn’t have a documented plan to monitor the effects of state legalization on any of these priorities. Moreover, according to the report, officials at the Department could not even say how they make use of any information they receive related to these priorities. Grassley and Feinstein are convening this hearing to explore this problem.

What I find most notable and disconcerting about this hearing is that it claims to be exploring whether the big federal government bureaucrats inside the Beltway at DOJ who are very far removed from direct public accountability are "protecting the public" from state reforms in Alaska and Colorado and Oregon and Washington which were enacted directly by the public through voter initiatives.

April 4, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How will legalization of marijuana effect sports leagues policies regarding marijuana use?

The question in the title of this post is posed by one of my seminar students who will be presenting on this topic to the rest of the class this afternoon.  Here is introduction for his colleagues and others interested in this engaging query:

Many players are pushing towards open marijuana policies because of the potential health benefits of marijuana use. Players argue that they can be taking marijuana instead of other synthetic pain killers to keep them on the field or court.  The players arguments generally fall on deaf ears, the league doesn't want to have any of it.  

Here’s why; The league is concerned about its image.  In the code of every sports league is the phrase, “integrity of the game.” In other words, the league has the responsibility to uphold the integrity of the game.  This applies to players conduct both on and off  the field.

For conduct on the field, the league is concerned that marijuana use will effect players ability to play the game.  The players abilities may become diminished by the use of marijuana which in turn would diminish the competitive integrity of the game.  What if marijuana use improved players ability to play the game – would the league ban it similar to steroids or would the league embrace it because it makes the game more exciting?  (Marijuana does not have the negative consequences typically associated with steroids, an argument for  allowing its use.)

For conduct off the field, the league is concerned about its image. Every league has “body image issues.”

  • NFL – Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Josh Gordon
  • NBA – Donald Sterling…
  • Olympics – Michael Phelps

The list goes on and on. The leagues want to keep a sterling image and the concern is that allowing marijuana use will taint their image. They are unlikely to move until marijuana use is more accepted. Its just good to keep things how they are for business purposes. They don't want to alienate fans.

On the other hand, leagues have  incredible ability to shape policy.  The leagues may even pave the way for legalization and normalization of marijuana use to treat pain if they would embrace the players requests. The more medical discovery regarding concussions and other ailments and its treatment of marijuana the more likely the leagues will become a factor in this arena.

Maybe even some leagues will fund a study?

Other interesting articles:

March 31, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Is Vermont about to "change the marijuana legalization game"?

The question in the title of this post is drawn from the headline of this new Washington Post piece headlined "How Vermont could change the marijuana legalization game," and which serves as a fitting as a fitting follow-up to my student's recent class presentation, Looking closely at how Vermont legislature is looking closely at marijuana legalization.  Here are excerpts from the Post piece:

Over the past four years, marijuana legalization has come to the United States at a relatively fast pace, thanks to overwhelming support for it among young adults.  But up until now, change has mostly come from the voters -- sometimes in spite of lawmakers' wishes.

That balance could be shifting toward legislators, at least in one state: Vermont.  In the next few weeks, Vermont could become the first state legislature to legalize marijuana. At Gov. Peter Shumlin's (D) urging, a bill to make Vermont the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana passed the state Senate in February and is currently being debated in the state House.

Its passage is not a given, but marijuana advocates are optimistic, both about the bill's chances and Vermont's ability to inject the marijuana legalization debate into even more state legislatures. For some marijuana advocates, the statehouse is yet one more path to legalization....

In 2004, Vermont was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana through its state legislature.  Since then, another one-fifth of the country has followed suit....

If Shumlin signs the bill this summer, Vermont residents won't be able to buy marijuana legally until January 2018.  For the first few years, the state will also limit the number of marijuana licenses for selling and growing marijuana.  In addition, public schools in Vermont would receive state-mandated drug education programs about marijuana a full semester before it's legal.

The slow, methodical approach to legalization is the main difference between Vermont and other states that legalized it via ballot initiatives, said Matt Simon, the New England head of the Marijuana Policy Project, which is lobbying for the bill's passage.  Lawmakers will give themselves and state agencies plenty of time to prepare, train staff and come up with new regulations.

There are a few other ways Vermont's bill stands out: After watching Colorado struggle with how to regulate edibles, Vermont won't be legalizing those at all. Lawmakers also resisted marijuana advocates' lobbying to allow people to grow marijuana plants in their own homes.  And if you want to invest in one of Vermont's marijuana stores, you'll have to move to the state and become a resident; no out-of-state funding is allowed.

Overall, Simon's group is happy with the bill and just as happy that Vermont is the first serious attempt to legalize marijuana via lawmakers and not voters.  (At least one other state, Rhode Island, is considering a bill to legalize marijuana, but it's too early to tell whether that bill has a shot.  New Hampshire's state House became the first chamber of any state legislature to vote on legalization when it narrowly passed a bill in 2014 but it died in the state Senate. Advocates tried again this February; it was defeated.)...

Ballot initiatives are the go-to method for marijuana legalization advocates for a reason.  For one thing, advocates can shape the policy they want instead of trying to lobby lawmakers.  And they've been pretty successful when it comes to marijuana.  Outside of the outlier of Ohio, advocates' only notable defeat by ballot was in Oregon in 2012 -- and voters there legalized marijuana two years later.

There is also the simple fact that lawmakers with jobs on the line are less apt to get ahead of social change.  Should the nascent recreational marijuana experiment go sideways, lawmakers would rather not have that vote on their records.  Take same-sex marriage, for example.  Most of the state legislatures that approved same-sex marriage didn't do so until around 2013, when polls showed more than half the country supported it....

Putting legalization to a vote is especially popular in a presidential year, when advocates can piggyback on the higher turnout and more intense media coverage.  This year, Arizona, California, Nevada, Ohio, Maine and Massachusetts are all expected to have some kind of legalization question on their ballot, whether medical or recreational. 

But ... researchers have argued that ballot initiatives risk glossing over boring-but-important details, which so happen to be the very same information lawmakers spend countless hours chewing over.   "Ballot initiatives are a terrible way to make policy changes when the technical details matter," wrote drug policy expert Mark Kleiman in 2014.  Kleiman ran Washington's regulation team after voters there legalized it in 2012.  Without lawmakers' input at both the state and federal level, Kleiman envisioned a not-too-distant future where the cannabis industry has an undue amount of power to shape legalization.  And that, he says, is reason for even reluctant lawmakers to get off the sidelines on legalization....

Opponents to legalization argue the cannabis industry already has too much influence, no matter who legalizes marijuana.  "My biggest concern is creating Big Marijuana -- sort of like Big Tobacco," Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy official with the Obama administration and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, told Vox in March . SAM argues the same players that are active in ballot initiatives are funneling resources to shape Vermont's debate, so there's no real substantial difference in what Vermont lawmakers are considering to what Colorado or Washington voters decided.  "It's a distinction without a difference," said Jeffrey Zinsmeister with SAM.

March 30, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Whoopi Goldberg Launches Medical-Marijuana Products Targeted at Menstrual Cramps"

The title of this post is the notable headline of this notable Vanity Fair article, which serves as a very fitting follow-up to my students' recent class presentation on Women & Weed: Blazing A Trail Toward Nationwide Legalization.   Here are the details:

 Whoopi Goldberg has had it with cramps and had it with stoner jokes, and now she’s doing something about both. Goldberg announced Wednesday that she’s launching a medical-marijuana company with Maya Elisabeth, one of the leading “canna-businesswomen” in the field, with a line of products designed to provide relief from menstrual cramps.
The company, Maya & Whoopi, will offer cannabis edibles, tinctures, topical rubs, and a THC-infused bath soak that it describes as “profoundly relaxing.” Frankly that last one, even though your humble reporter is a man, sounds incredible.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, The View co-host said she wanted to create a product for women that was discreet, provided relief, and wouldn’t leave you glued to your couch. “For me, I feel like if you don’t want to get high high, this is a product specifically just to get rid of discomfort,” she says. “Smoking a joint is fine, but most people can’t smoke a joint and go to work.”
“This, you can put it in your purse,” Goldberg continues. “You can put the rub on your lower stomach and lower back at work, and then when you get home you can get in the tub for a soak or make tea, and it allows you to continue to work throughout the day.”
Goldberg has been outspoken about her medical-marijuana use in the past. In 2014, she wrote in The Cannabist about her love of her kush-filled vape pen, which she says gives her relief from glaucoma-related headaches without resorting to eating handfuls of Advil every day . “I started using the vape pen because I stopped smoking cigarettes about four years ago and discovered I couldn’t smoke a joint anymore,” she says. “The relief that I got with the vape pen was kind of different from what I got with smoking. I could control it much better.”
If it worked so well for headaches, surely it could be applied to other aches, so Goldberg got in touch with a couple of industry experts to see if there was already anything on the medical-marijuana market for cramps. They told her no, because it was seen as a niche. At this point in the interview, Goldberg stops to give an exasperated chuckle. “Hey, this niche is half the population on the earth,” she says. “This seems to be people flippantly blowing you off, which is what you get whenever you start talking about cramps. They weren’t thinking how do you target this? I have grown granddaughters who have severe cramps, so I said this is what I want to work on.”
Goldberg then got in touch with Elisabeth, the owner of the female-run medical-marijuana cannabis company Om Edibles in northern California, and the two were off to the races....  Goldberg stands by her product for the same reason she favors it over painkillers for headaches. She says you’ll be able to look at the ingredients on any Whoopi & Maya package and know exactly what’s in it. (Queen Victoria, by the way, supposedly used a marijuana tincture to relieve menstrual cramps, so it basically has the seal of approval from the British royalty.)
For those who don’t have much experience in the field, Whoopi & Maya will also include products with only cannabidiol (CBD), which lacks the euphoric effects commonly associated with marijuana. The whole line is scheduled to be available in April.  For now, thanks to the patchwork of state medical-marijuana laws and the continuing federal ban on the substance, it will only be available in California.

March 30, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Examining the modern intersection of the drug war and deportations (with a special focus on marijuana)

This week's presentation in my marijuana reform seminar is focused on immigration law and the "war on drugs."  My student will be presenting, I believe, some original empirical research; as background reading he suggested this 2014 Huffington Post piece headlined "The Drug War = Mass Deportation: 250,000 Deported for Drug Offenses in Last 6 Years."  Here is how this piece gets started (with links from the original):

The drug war has increasingly become a war against migrant communities. It fuels racial profiling, border militarization, violence against immigrants, intrusive government surveillance and, especially, widespread detentions and deportations.

Media and politicians have tried to convince us that everyone who gets deported is a violent criminal, a terrorist or a drug kingpin.  But a newly released, first-of-its-kind report shatters that notion, showing instead that the majority (some two-thirds) of those deported last year were guilty of minor, nonviolent offenses — including thousands deported for nothing more than possessing small quantities of drugs, typically marijuana.

The report, an analysis of federal immigration data conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, details how roughly 40,000 people have been deported for drug law violations every year since 2008. That means that nearly 250,000 — one-quarter of a million — people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses in just the past six years.  A nonviolent drug offense was the cause of deportation for more than one in ten (11 percent of) people deported in 2013 for any reason — and nearly one in five (19 percent) of those who were deported because of a criminal conviction.

Much as the drug war drives mass incarceration, it also appears to be a major driver of mass deportation.  Indeed, the report reveals that simple marijuana possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any crime, and the most common cause of deportation for crimes involving drugs.  On average, more than 6,600 people were deported in each of the last two years just for personal marijuana possession, and overall, nearly 20,000 people were deported last year for simple possession of any drug or drug paraphernalia.

By contrast, relatively few of those deported were drug traffickers, let alone violent ones. “Convictions for drug trafficking accounted for only one percent of deportees recorded as convicted of a crime,” the report’s authors note, “while marijuana possession was more than three times that level.”

March 30, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Libertarian Prez candidate Gary Johnson predicting Prez Obama will deschedule marijuana

This new Washington Times article, headlined "Gary Johnson predicts Obama will reclassify marijuana on way out of office," reports on some interesting comments by one candidate aspiring to be in the Oval Office about what its current occupant will do before he leaves. Here are the details:nbsp;

Former New Mexico Gov. and 2016 Libertarian White House hopeful Gary Johnson says he thinks President Obama is going to remove marijuana from the government’s “Schedule I” list of narcotics considered particularly harmful and addictive on his way out of office.

“It’s going to be just like alcohol,” Mr. Johnson told The Washington Times Tuesday. “I’m going to predict that Obama, when he leaves office, is going to deschedule marijuana as a Class I narcotic. I wish he would have done that to this point, but I think he’s going to do that going out the door. That’s a positive.”...

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, among others, has suggested reclassifying the drug under Schedule or Class II. Those drugs include cocaine, but also certain painkillers like oxycodone that are available with a medical prescription.

Mr. Johnson’s campaign followed up by saying that the former governor would prefer that the president remove marijuana from the controlled substances list entirely, allowing states to legalize and regulate as they and their voters choose. But the campaign said most discussion and a more likely near-term step has centered around reclassifying it to Schedule II, which would remove a barrier to prescribed medical uses, though they said that either move would be a step in the right direction.

Mr. Obama has said that Congress can move on such a reclassification. “What is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress,” Mr. Obama said in a 2014 interview with CNN. “It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing … no, there are laws undergirding those determinations.”

Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, said the attorney general and the secretary of Health and Human Services can move to get rescheduling done without further legislation under the Controlled Substances Act. “It’s tough to predict what the president will do on this issue before he leaves office, but if he’s willing to uphold his pledge to set policy based on science, and he listens to the majority of Americans who support marijuana reform, he will exercise his administrative authority for rescheduling,” Mr. Angell said.

Mr. Johnson pointed out that there are still some “dry counties” in the country with respect to alcohol and predicted marijuana would eventually be in that same category. “I think every municipality has to realize that all the planes to Denver every single weekend are filled up, and that they’re missing out, and Colorado is absolutely vibrant,” he said. “Is it due to marijuana? I think it’s a contributing factor.”

March 30, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An effective accounting from Brookings of "The Medical Marijuana Mess"

Regular readers are accustomed to hearing me sing the praises of the work being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform.  The latest terrific Brookings publication in this arena is this long piece authored by John Hudak and titled "The Medical Marijuana Mess: A prescription for fixing a broken policy."  The lengthy piece merits the time to read in full, and here are just a few snippets:

Takoma Wellness may be less than three years old, and its business an exotic novelty in the District of Columbia, but Rabbi Kahn is part of a long line of healers — some of them religious leaders like himself — who have been treating the sick with cannabis for millennia.  During earlier eras, marijuana was much more commonly recommended for medical purposes than it is now.  Five thousand years ago the Chinese, for example, were using cannabis as an appetite stimulant, pain reliever, and anesthetic. British physicians used cannabis for a variety of illnesses and disorders, even administering it to Her Majesty Queen Victoria for pain.  As recently as the early 20th century, doctors in the United States, too, found medical applications for marijuana, using it as an anti‐convulsive drug, a pain reliever, and an anti‐inflammatory....

Under federal law, there are no conditions that allow a doctor to prescribe marijuana, a pharmacy to dispense it, or a patient to buy or use it. Marijuana is illegal. Period.

The reason for this is that according to federal law — the Controlled Substances Act — marijuana is classified as a “Schedule I” substance.  As explained on the DEA’s website, federal law reserves the Schedule I classification for the “most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence” and with “no currently accepted medical use.” In addition to marijuana this category also includes drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

The decision about what drugs should appear in each of the five “Schedules,” which range from the most dangerous and addictive to the least, with only Schedule I drugs ranked as having no medical value, was not made by anyone in the medical community, but by Congress.  In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act — a politically motivated law enacted at a time of national hysteria over drug abuse, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law.  With the exception of a few relatively minor changes in the years since, the drug schedules included in the Controlled Substances Act have remained the same, including the Schedule I designation for marijuana.

The fact that marijuana’s therapeutic effects are real — as evidenced by what science says about its effects on the human body, and supported by hundreds, indeed thousands of years of effective treatments in places around the globe — has not sufficed to get it removed from that list.  This is unfortunate, because the Schedule I designation has consequences that extend beyond the legal restrictions.  It has created negative cultural norms — biases — that permeate much of society.  Patients wanting to be treated with marijuana are often embarrassed and scared — even after a doctor has recommended that they use it, and they’ve gotten the approval of state authorities to do so.  For some first‐time medical marijuana patients, a trip to the dispensary is not like a stroll to the pharmacy with a prescription for a drug like amphetamines, or oxycodone, or morphine, or compounds that include cocaine, all of them Schedule II drugs; it’s more like a teenager’s trip to the corner store for condoms.

That social stigma likely keeps many sick people from even considering marijuana as an option.  For them, there will never be an opportunity for responsible dispensary owners like Rabbi Kahn to have the chance to calm their nerves and show them that purchasing pot is not shameful — and that using it can be helpful.

March 29, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"District of Cannabis: Evaluating the Cannabis Legalization Regime in the Nation's Capital"

The title of this post is the title my student developed for his coming in-class discussion of the status of marijuana reform in Washington DC.  And here are the reading the student has assembled:
  • Ballot Initiative 71: The referendum that overwhelmingly passed after a vote by D.C. residents on On November 14, 2014, making it legal to posses up to two ounces of marijuana for medical use, to grow up to six cannabis plants, and to sell paraphernalia for drug use, but not to transfer marijuana for money.

  • DC's Marijuana Law: Explained: A brief video by the Washington Post that explains what "you need to know to smoke pot in DC" released after BI-71 became effective.

  • DC Council Warned Not to Regulate Marijuana: Detailing a letter from the District's AG to the DC Council warning that holding a hearing on regulating marijuana would be in violation of Congress' mandate that the Council not use any of its budget to regulate marijuana--an example of the tense cannabis standoff between Congress and D.C.'s self-governing body.

  • Weed is Legal in DC, so Why is No One Acting Like It?: New York Magazine article detailing the complex realities of marijuana laws in Washington, D.C. and their on-the-ground impact.

  • Marijuana Arrests Down 85% After One Year: According to data from the Metropolitan Police Department, "[o]verall, marijuana arrests [in D.C.] decreased by 85% from 2014 to 2015. Marijuana possession arrests fell from 1,840 in 2014 to just 32 in 2015."

  • Kush Gods Pleads Guilty: One of the first entrepreneurs to openly sell marijuana in the BI-71 created "gray market" pleads guilty on March 21, 2016 to two counts of selling marijuana to an undercover police officer.

March 22, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

The challenges of bankruptcy issues for marijuana businesses

After a week off for Spring Break, the students in my semester-long OSU Moritz College of Law seminar on marijuana laws and reform are back to assembling readings on particular topics in preparation for an in-class presentation/discussion. One of the presentations scheduled for this week is to focus on bankrupcy laws and their general unavailability to marijuana businesses, and here are readings that my student has assembled on this front:

"Judge denies bankruptcy protection to Denver marijuana business"

"Bankruptcy: The Ultimate Buzz-Kill? Sobering Considerations for Financing the Marijuana Industry"

"Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy"

"Another Marijuana Bankruptcy Case Bites the Dust as the Arizona Bankruptcy Court Dismisses an Involuntary Case Filed Against a Medical Marijuana Dispensary"

March 22, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 21, 2016

SCOTUS rejects original lawsuit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado over marijuana reform

Legal gurus closely following state-level marijuana reforms have been also closely following the lawsuit brought directly to the Supreme Court way back in December 2014 by Nebraska and Oklahoma complaining about how Colorado reformed its state marijuana laws.  Today, via this order list, the Supreme Court finally officially denied the "motion for leave to file a bill of complaint" by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado.  This is huge news for state marijuana reform efforts, but not really all that surprising.  (It would have been bigger news and surprising if the motion was granted.)

Notably, Justice Thomas authored an extended dissent to this denial, which was joined by Justice Alito.  Here is how this dissent stats and ends:

Federal law does not, on its face, give this Court discretion to decline to decide cases within its original jurisdiction. Yet the Court has long exercised such discretion, and does so again today in denying, without explanation, Nebraska and Oklahoma’s motion for leave to file a complaint against Colorado.  I would not dispose of the complaint so hastily. Because our discretionary approach to exercising our original jurisdiction is questionable, and because the plaintiff States have made a reasonable case that this dispute falls within our original and exclusive jurisdiction, I would grant the plaintiff States leave to file their complaint....

Federal law generally prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, and possession of marijuana.  See Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 84 Stat. 1242, as amended, 21 U. S. C. §§812(c), Schedule I(c)(10), 841–846 (2012 ed. and Supp. II).  Emphasizing the breadth of the CSA, this Court has stated that the statute establishes “a comprehensive regime to combat the international and interstate traffic in illicit drugs.”  Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 12 (2005).  Despite the CSA’s broad prohibitions, in 2012 the State of Colorado adopted Amendment 64, which amends the State Constitution to legalize, regulate, and facilitate the recreational use of marijuana.  See Colo. Const., Art. XVIII, §16.  Amendment 64 exempts from Colorado’s criminal prohibitions certain uses of marijuana. §§16(3)(a), (c), (d); see Colo. Rev. Stat. §18–18–433 (2015).  Amendment 64 directs the Colorado Department of Revenue to promulgate licensing procedures for marijuana establishments. Art. XVIII, §16(5)(a).  And the amendment requires the Colorado General Assembly to enact an excise tax for sales of marijuana from cultivation facilities to manufacturing facilities and retail stores. §16(5)(d).

In December 2014, Nebraska and Oklahoma filed in this Court a motion seeking leave to file a complaint against Colorado.  The plaintiff States — which share borders with Colorado — allege that Amendment 64 affirmatively facilitates the violation and frustration of federal drug laws.  See Complaint ¶¶54–65.  They claim that Amendment 64 has “increased trafficking and transportation of Coloradosourced marijuana” into their territories, requiring them to expend significant “law enforcement, judicial system, and penal system resources” to combat the increased trafficking and transportation of marijuana.  Id., ¶58; Brief [for Nebraska and Oklahoma] in Support of Motion for Leave to File Complaint 11–16.  The plaintiff States seek a declaratory judgment that the CSA pre-empts certain of Amendment 64’s licensing, regulation, and taxation provisions and an injunction barring their implementation. Complaint 28–29.

The complaint, on its face, presents a “controvers[y] between two or more States” that this Court alone has authority to adjudicate. 28 U. S. C. §1251(a).  The plaintiff States have alleged significant harms to their sovereign interests caused by another State.  Whatever the merit of the plaintiff States’ claims, we should let this complaint proceed further rather than denying leave without so much as a word of explanation.

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform.

March 21, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Assembling disconcerting data showing crime spikes after marijuana reform

At-logoAs regular readers of my Sentencing Law and Policy blog should know, careful and responsible researchers and advocates should be careful and cautious about making any bold assertion about which kinds of laws and legal reforms may or may not impact crime rates.  Just about every pundit who ever asserts boldly that this reform or that reform certainly will (or certainly won't) reduce or increase crime is proven wrong at some point in some way.  For that reason, I am generally disinclined to put too much stock in any assertions that marijuana reform definitely will or definitely won't lead to a change in serious crime rates in a jurisdiction.

That all said, I think it is very important to keep an eye on any notable corrections between reported crime rates is jurisdictions that have reformed its marijuana laws. And, I just came across a few recent postings by Sierra Rayne at the American Thinker website that present data showing significant crime spikes in key marijuana reform jurisdictions.  Going through the author's posting archive, I found this array of posts  that ought to be of interest to everyone following the impact of marijuana reforms:

As these post headlines perhaps reveal, the author of all these pieces seems quite interested in making the case that there is a causal link between marijuana reform and increases in crime. But even if these posts involve an effort to spin crime data to serve a particular agenda, the data assembled in these posts are disconcerting (and perhaps help explain why we are not hearing from marijuana reform advocates the claim that reform contributes to a decrease in crime).

Critically, lots of crime rates were up in lots of urban and suburban US regions throughout the end of 2014 and through all of 2015; spikes in crime rates in marijuana reform cities might ultimately reflect some broader national trends that have no direct link to marijuana laws and related practicalities.  In addition, especially because marijuana reformers reasonably assert that legalization enables law enforcement to refocus energies on more serious crimes, I wonder if any crime spikes in reform cities might reflect, at least in part, the ability for cops on the beat to discover a greater percentage of serious crimes that we already happening but were going unreported before marijuana reform.

I am hopeful (though not all that optimistic) that over time we will see more and more careful analyses of patterns of crime in the wake of local, state and national marijuana reforms.  In the meantime, though, I want to complement Sierra Rayne for keeping an eye on this important issue, and I robustly encourage everyone else interested in marijuana reform to look closely at all the emerging data in this space.

March 20, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)