Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"From Medical to Recreational Marijuana Sales: Marijuana Outlets and Crime in an Era of Changing Marijuana Legislation"

1The title of this post is the title of this notable new research published today in the Journal of Primary Prevention and authored by Bridget Freisthler, Andrew Gaidus, Christina Tam, William Ponicki and Paul Gruenewald. Here is the abstract:

A movement from medical to recreational marijuana use allows for a larger base of potential users who have easier access to marijuana, because they do not have to visit a physician before using marijuana. This study examines whether changes in the density of marijuana outlets were related to violent, property, and marijuana-specific crimes in Denver, CO during a time in which marijuana outlets began selling marijuana for recreational, and not just medical, use.

We collected data on locations of crimes, marijuana outlets and covariates for 481 Census block groups over 34 months (N = 16,354 space–time units). A Bayesian Poisson space–time model assessed statistical relationships between independent measures and crime counts within “local” Census block groups. We examined spatial “lag” effects to assess whether crimes in Census block groups adjacent to locations of outlets were also affected. Independent of the effects of covariates, densities of marijuana outlets were unrelated to property and violent crimes in local areas.

However, the density of marijuana outlets in spatially adjacent areas was positively related to property crime in spatially adjacent areas over time. Further, the density of marijuana outlets in local and spatially adjacent blocks groups was related to higher rates of marijuana-specific crime. This study suggests that the effects of the availability of marijuana outlets on crime do not necessarily occur within the specific areas within which these outlets are located, but may occur in adjacent areas. Thus studies assessing the effects of these outlets in local areas alone may risk underestimating their true effects.

April 27, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States"

DUIDinfographic_web1The title of this post is the title of this notable newly updated report with newly updated statistics about the road-safety problems created by drugged driving.  Here is a part of the report's introduction and background:

This report, originally released in September 2015, was prepared by Dr. James Hedlund under contract with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the national association of state and territorial highway safety offices that address behavioral highway-safety issues, including drugimpaired driving.  An open forum on drugged driving at GHSA’s 2014 Annual Meeting noted the need for this type of resource.  Funding was provided by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org).

This revision, also prepared by Dr. Hedlund, updated the report to April 2017.  It includes 34 additional citations, drug-impaired driving data from 2015, state laws as of April 2017, and 15 state programs.

The report was guided by an advisory panel of experts from the states, the research community, and several organizations concerned with impaired driving.  It provides references to research and position papers, especially papers that summarize the research on drugs and driving that have appeared in the last 20 years.  It includes information obtained by GHSA from a survey of state highway safety offices. It does not attempt to be a complete review of the extensive information available on drugs and driving.

Drug-impaired driving is an increasingly critical issue for states and state highway safety offices. In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result, more frequently than alcohol was present (FARS, 2016).  NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22% of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekday days (Berning et al., 2015).

In particular, marijuana use is increasing.  As of April 2017, marijuana may be used for medical purposes in 29 states and the District of Columbia (NCSL, 2017a).  The most recent is West Virginia, which authorized medical marijuana in April 2017, with use to begin in July 2019.  Recreational use is allowed in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia and 13 other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (NCSL, 2016). Congress identified drug-impaired driving as a priority in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/fastact/).   This multi-year highway bill directed NHTSA to develop education campaigns to increase public awareness about the dangers associated with drugged driving.   The Act also required the Department of Transportation to study the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment and to identify effective methods to detect marijuana-impaired drivers.  Legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices in many states are urged to “do something” about drug-impaired driving, but what to do is far from clear.

April 27, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Osbeck and Bromberg's Marijuana Law in a Nutshell"

The title of this post is how West Academic Publishing is promoting its latest notable nutshell publication authored by Mark Osbeck and Howard Bromberg. In part because I think it is near impossible to summarize modern marijuana law in short form, I view this nutshell effort as extraordinary in various respects. And here is how West briefly describes the product:

Concise yet comprehensive text that provides an overview of marijuana law. It discusses important issues pertaining to public policy, legal history, constitutional law, criminal law, and jurisprudence, as well as practical legal issues that concern both marijuana-related businesses and individuals, in areas such as banking, employment, tax, bankruptcy, and child custody.

The text provides in-depth coverage of federal laws governing marijuana, along with an overview of international, state, and local laws relating to marijuana regulation. It also provides an overview of arguments for and against medical and/or recreational legalization, as well as an analysis of how marijuana compares to other potentially harmful substances, both legal and illegal.

April 26, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

National District Attorneys Association releases report on "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors' Perspective"

UntitledIn this post a few months ago, I praised the  National District Attorneys Association for forming a diverse working group to address modern marijuana laws and polices.  As detailed in this local article, though, it does not seem all the diverse perspectives reflected in the working group resulted in a nuanced position paper from the group:

District attorneys from across the nation recently backed a position statement that declares that marijuana legalization has increased access by children and that supports federal enforcement.  The perspective – ironically released by the National District Attorneys Association on April 20, the 420 day of marijuana celebration – could help guide policy direction by the Trump administration, which has signaled a possible crackdown.

“Legalization of marijuana for purported medicinal and recreational purposes has increased access by children.  For all of these reasons, it is vitally important to do all we can to prevent access to marijuana by youth in America.  Their health, safety and welfare demand no less,” the perspective states.  It suggests that “marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”  The opinion goes on to say that alcohol is different because “alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn that marijuana does.”

The perspective cites “scientific studies” that show cannabis can be addictive, especially for children, and initial evidence of child hospitalizations due to “unintended exposure to marijuana.”   The perspective in many instances draws upon information provided by the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.

On federal enforcement, the NDAA white paper states that there should be a consistent application of federal law across the nation “to maintain respect for the rule of law.”

The statement has split Colorado district attorneys, especially on the issue of impacts to children. In Colorado, the experience has been the opposite. The latest Healthy Kids Colorado Survey from 2015 found that teen cannabis use has not increased since legalization.  Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, in February on national television reiterated those statistics.  “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use, if anything it’s come down in the last year, and we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers,” Hickenlooper said on “Meet the Press.”

It’s a thorny subject for Colorado prosecutors, where legalization has often left district attorneys in an uncomfortable situation. While cannabis is legal in Colorado, it remains illegal on the federal level and in many states.

Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, was one of four people from Colorado on a policy group along with prosecutors from other states with “positions all over the spectrum,” he said.  “Nowhere does that document say an individual office or any state organization takes a specific position,” Raynes said.  Raynes said he finds the NDAA statements to be “innocuous and general in nature.”

“The only other statement one could make is that federal drug policy should be applied inconsistently across the nation,” Raynes said. “That would be absurd.”

But Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who leans to the left on criminal justice reform and who sat on the NDAA panel, took issue with the perspective of the association. He said the association is “dominated” by conservative prosecutors from the rural South.  “They don’t tend to be people on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform,” Garnett said.  He added that his participation on the working group was “pretty painful.”  Prosecutors wanted to send a letter to Hickenlooper demanding that he close down all legal marijuana businesses in Colorado.  The governor would not have even had the authority to make such a move.

“If anything, use is going down by children,” Garnett said, adding that NDAA is a conservative group without a lot of experience in the regulated legalized marijuana industry.  There’s a lot of urban myths out there about what’s going on in Colorado from people who don’t really know, and some of that is promulgated by the DEA and the prohibition groups who are funded pretty heavily to continue marijuana prohibition, They tend, on occasion, to distort the reality of what’s going on in Colorado.”

The relatively short report from NDAA is titled "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective," and it can be accessed in full at this link.

April 26, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Pennsylvania receives "flood of applications" seeking one of a few dozen medicial marijuana licenses

This local report from Pennsylvania highlights the large number of applications received by state officials from businesses looking to get in on the ground floor of the state's medical marijuana industry.  Here are the basic details:

Hundreds of applicants have asked for licenses to grow or sell medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, including dozens in the state's southeastern corner.

In their first accounting of the flood of applications, Health Department officials said Wednesday that they received more than 500 packages by the March 20 deadline, and have sifted through 258 applications. Among those have been 31 applications to grow medical marijuana in Philadelphia or its surrounding suburbs.

But officials wouldn't release the names of the principals behind the company names — or divulge the locations where they propose to grow or sell the drug. More company names will be released after additional applications have been reviewed.

Still, the data suggests the frenzied interest in getting in on the ground floor of the potentially lucrative medical marijuana industry, which some advocates hope will be the first step toward broader legalization of the drug.

Only 12 growing permits will be granted statewide. The state has been moving swiftly to implement a law passed last year with support from both parties in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The law aims to supply cannabis to seriously ill patients who have any one of 17 qualifying ailments.

March 20 was the deadline for all materials for people vying for one of 12 initial grower licenses. The state also received applications for would-be operators seeking one of 27 permits that would allow up to 81 dispensaries, where prescriptions could be filled, across the state.

The permit applications that are pending represent just the first phase of the bidding process. The state also is preparing to offer clinical registrant licenses, which would attach medical marijuana to existing hospitals that also serve as academic medical institutions. That credential would allow eight academic medical centers to select investor partners to establish research, growing, and dispensary networks of their own. Health systems have been soliciting potential suitors for months....

Each applicant was required to put up a non-refundable $10,000 fee, in addition to a $200,000 permit fee that will be returned only to the unsuccessful applicants. The ante for dispensary licenses, which will allow the winner to operate up to three storefronts, was $5,000, and those checks were accompanied by a refundable permit fee of $30,000 per storefront.

I am expecting that the same sort of "frenzied interest" will also be the medical marijuana story here in nearly Ohio when the has its license application process fully up and running in the coming months.   (This short column from an Ohio business publication, headlined "Intense competition for state-issued medical marijuana licenses necessitates advance preparation," suggests I am not alone in that view.)  The old "Field of Dreams" adage, "if you build it, they will come," seems fitting here. Though perhaps in this setting the adage should be tweaked to "if you build it, they will come with checks with lots of zeroes."

April 26, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

New research highlights increased "illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders" in medical marijuana states through 2013

JAMA Psychiatry has this notable new research published under the title "US Adult Illicit Cannabis Use, Cannabis Use Disorder, and Medical Marijuana Laws, 1991-1992 to 2012-2013." Here are parts of its abstract:

Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time....

Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013)....

Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7–percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03)....

Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

April 26, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Delaware court examines whether, after marijuana possession decriminalized, felony charges are proper for possessing gun with marijuana

This local article from the First State, headlined "Marijuana decriminalized but still triggers gun felony," spotlights an interesting case and this lower court ruling concerning the intersection of marijuana reform and guns laws.  Here are the details:

Delaware judge is putting lawmakers on notice that they may want to take another look at a law that still makes it illegal for someone to have a handgun while carrying a decriminalized amount of marijuana.

In a recent ruling, Superior Court Judge Paul R. Wallace pointed out that the legislature may not have realized it left on the books a law that bars Delawareans from simultaneously possessing a handgun and any amount of marijuana, even though less than an ounce of marijuana was decriminalized in Delaware in 2015....

The legal conundrum arose in February 2016 when the Wilmington police's drug unit went to an apartment in the unit block of 31st Street to arrest 21-year-old Imeir Murray's mother who was wanted on a probation violation.... Police smelled burnt marijuana and saw a marijuana grinder, an ashtray and a blunt in plain sight in Murray's bedroom, the warrant said. Officers also found a loaded Walther PK380 handgun on an upper shelf of the closet....

Authorities initially believed the marijuana was slightly more than an ounce, but later learned through laboratory testing that it was only 0.798 ounces, or 22.63 grams, which is a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine that can be paid like a traffic ticket, according to Wallace's opinion. At the police station, Murray and the woman in the bedroom admitted to possessing marijuana, but said the handgun was not theirs. Murray told police he had found the gun in his closet a few days earlier and had asked everyone in the apartment if it belonged to them, but no one took ownership, the warrant said.

Murray was arrested and charged in a grand jury indictment with possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, a felony. He was legally allowed to own a firearm, except for a state law enacted in 2011 that says one cannot have a semi-automatic firearm or handgun while possessing a controlled substance.

"It is undisputed that the amount of marijuana found in Murray's room exposes him to, at most, a civil marijuana possession violation," Wallace wrote in his April 13 opinion. "It is disputed what legal effect that fact has on the two charges for which Murray was indicted and faces trial in this Court."

Murray's attorney, Matthew Buckworth, argued that the firearm charge should be dismissed because the firearm statute wasn't intended to apply to someone possessing under an ounce of marijuana for personal use. "It is not fair for someone to have the potential to be felonized for an offense that would otherwise be OK," Buckworth said. "It was never the intent of the legislature to criminalize that behavior."

Wallace disagreed with Buckworth, saying he must apply the law as it currently reads. "Sure, it's conceivable that if it ever did, the legislature might choose to eliminate non-criminal marijuana possession as an element of that compound weapons crime," Wallace wrote. "But, the legislature has not done so. And, this court cannot do so in its stead."...

Murray's case went to trial in January, and he was found not guilty of the firearm charge, after his attorney argued the firearm in the closet did not belong to Murray. The judge found him liable for a $100 civil violation for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Even though he was found not guilty of the firearm charge, Wallace decided to still write a court opinion after the fact in April. That signaled to lawmakers a need to take a second look....

Buckworth said he is hopeful the legislature will make changes to the firearm charge since they likely never imagined a scenario would arise like it did for Murray. "I think changing the law is so important because he's a very good kid," Buckworth said. "He has a full-time job, and this could have really messed him up. That doesn't seem like the intent of the legislation."

April 25, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making the latest full-throated pitch for Congress to finally do something on marijuana reform

Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML, has this new Daily Caller commentary headlined "It’s Time For Congressional Action On Marijuana Policy." Like many other calls for congressional action, I doubt this piece will actually prod any politician into action. But it is a worthwhile read as a sign of the federal reform advocacy times, and here are excerpts:

West Virginia recently became the 30th state to authorize the physician-recommended use of marijuana or marijuana-infused products.  An additional fourteen states permit patients to access products containing cannabidiol, a specific chemical compound available in the cannabis plant.  And this past January, scholars at the National Academy of Sciences determined that there exists “conclusive evidence” that the herb is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases.  Nonetheless, federal law continues to declare that neither marijuana nor any of its organic constituents possess any “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”  This sort of Flat Earth contention no longer passes the smell test.

That is why it remains exceedingly curious and excruciatingly frustrating that members of Congress steadfastly refuse to amend federal law in a manner that comports with this new reality.  Ninety-four percent of US voters now believe that medical cannabis therapy ought to be legal and regulated, according to survey data provided last week by Quinnipiac University, and the overwhelming majority of Americans now reside in jurisdictions that have amended their laws in a manner that recognizes the therapeutic utility of the cannabis plant.  It is high time that federal lawmakers do the same, and do so soon.

The failure of Congress to amend federal marijuana laws places the millions of patients who rely on these state-sanctioned programs at legal risk.  That is because an existing federal provision protecting these programs could potentially expire later this week. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”  In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package through April 28, 2017, at which time the budget — and the Amendment — will expire unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

In recent years, strong majorities of Congress have voted in favor of keeping this budgetary provision in place and it is vital that they do so again, especially now that the incoming administration has threatened to increase anti-marijuana enforcement efforts in states that have legalized it.  Yet Congress can do far more.

Several bipartisan pieces of legislation are pending before the House and Senate that would rectify the existing, and ultimately untenable, conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.  Among these, SB 777 | HR 1810 would amend the federal tax code in a manner that acknowledges the legitimacy of state-licensed marijuana businesses, HR 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, and HR 715 would reclassify marijuana and cannabidiol under federal law in a manner that for the first recognizes their therapeutic utility.

In addition, both HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and HR 1227 provide states with the flexibility and autonomy to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.  More than seven out of ten voters, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, support allowing states — not the federal government — the power to arbitrate pot policy....

[W]e know enough about the relative safety and efficacy of cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow adults the option to consume it and to allow states the autonomy to regulate it as best they see fit. It is time for members of Congress to acknowledge this reality and to amend federal laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.

April 25, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Marijuana may be a miracle treatment for children with autism"

Images (1)The title of this post is the headline of this notable new USA Today article.  I generally have a tendency to be skeptical of the tendency of some marijuana reform advocates to claim that marijuana is a "miracle plant" that can safely cure every possible ailment.  But I also generally have a tendency to believe there is a whole lot we still do not know about how the cannabis plant might impact brain functioning, and thus I do not wish to be immediately dismissive of serious research making serious claims about cannabis being helpful in dealing with a serious medical problem.   With that prelude, here are a few excerpts from the USA Today piece:

There is anecdotal evidence that marijuana’s main non-psychoactive compound — cannabidiol or CBD — helps children in ways no other medication has. Now this first-of-its-kind scientific study [in Israel] is trying to determine if the link is real.

Israel is a pioneer in this type of research. It permitted the use of medical marijuana in 1992, one of the first countries to do so. It's also one of just three countries with a government-sponsored medical cannabis program, along with Canada and the Netherlands. Conducting cannabis research is also less expensive here and easier under Israeli laws, particularly compared to the United States, which has many more legal restrictions.

Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its debilitating symptoms include impaired communication and social skills, along with compulsive and repetitive behaviors. Autism typically emerges in infancy or early childhood. Advocates for combating the disorder are calling attention to it by declaring April National Autism Awareness Month....

Only two medications have been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of autism. Both are antipsychotic drugs that are not always effective and carry serious side effects....

Adi Aran, the pediatric neurologist leading the study, said nearly all the participants previously took antipsychotics and nearly half responded negatively. Yael desperately pushed Aran and other doctors to prescribe cannabis oil after a news report aired about a mother who illegally obtained it for her autistic son and said it was the only thing that helped him. “Many parents were asking for cannabis for their kids,” Aran said. “First I said, 'No, there’s no data to support cannabis for autism, so we can’t give it to you.'”

He said that changed about a year ago after studies in Israel showed that cannabis helped children with epilepsy by drastically reducing seizures and improving behavior for those who also have autism. Epilepsy afflicts about 30% of autistic children, Aran said. Mounting anecdotal reports of autistic children who benefited from cannabis also led Aran to pursue more scientific testing. After seeing positive results in 70 of his autistic patients in an observational study, Aran said, “OK we need to do a clinical trial so there will be data."...

Aran cautioned against premature conclusions about cannabis as a treatment for autism, but he said many children have shown significant improvements. Some no longer hurt themselves or throw tantrums. Some are more communicative. Others were able to return to classes after they had been suspended for behavioral problems....

Tamir Gedo, CEO of Breath of Life Pharma, which provides the cannabis oil for the study, said one mother reported, "My child is speaking relentlessly. … He never spoke before. And he's 12 years old.” One major concern is the long-term impact of prescribing cannabis to young patients, said Sarah Spence, co-director of the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There certainly could be harm” to brain development, she said. But opioids and antipsychotic drugs currently prescribed to children are more harmful, said Gedo. “These families have no other hope.”

Notably, there is an advocacy group for treating autism with medical marijuana known as MAMMA, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism.

April 25, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?

4-24-17-COTWThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Marijuana Business Daily article headlined "Colorado marijuana sales off to strong start in 2017." Here are excerpts:

Colorado’s marijuana industry – one of the most mature in the nation – continues to thrive, posting record-setting sales figures through the first two months of 2017. Combined sales of medical and recreational marijuana in January and February 2017 totaled over $235 million, up 30% from the same period in 2016.

The increase is good news for marijuana businesses in Colorado, although it’s too soon to know if sales will continue at such a strong clip throughout the rest of 2017. While MMJ sales are up slightly so far in 2017, sales of recreational marijuana have increased substantially. January 2017 rec sales were 38% higher compared to January 2016, while February 2017 rec sales were a whopping 48% above those in February 2016. In fact, February 2017 ranks as the second-highest monthly total for recreational marijuana sales in the Colorado program’s history, falling just short of the $88.2 million sold in September 2016.

The sales figures are especially striking because they come amid a time of historically low wholesale marijuana prices, meaning that a 48% increase in sales represents an even larger increase in consumption....

Generally speaking, two market forces fuel rising sales:

•Increased spending by existing users.

•New consumers entering the market.

As for what’s happening in Colorado, it’s likely a mixture of both. Considering the Trump administration’s relatively unfriendly stance toward recreational marijuana, it’s conceivable that more out-of-state visitors are visiting Colorado to stock up on product that may no longer be available in the coming months.

This phenomenon has been on full display in the firearms industry. Gun sales spiked during the Obama administration when many believed their Second Amendment rights were being threatened. But since president Trump took office and the perceived threat has subsided, firearm sales have sharply declined.

For consumers who have stuck to their black-market dealers, lower prices may have persuaded some to finally make the transition to the legal side of the industry. For consumers already purchasing marijuana legally from a rec store or dispensary, lower prices may be encouraging increased consumption.

April 24, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Heading out to speak at 2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo

Blogging in this space will be light over the next few days because I am about to travel to Pittsburgh to attend and participate in the 2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo.   As this schedule details, I am speaking tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) on a panel titled "Higher Education & Its Role in the Industry." Here is how the panel is previewed:

The cannabis industry is set to create more jobs than established industries like manufacturing by 2020.  However, there is still no clear path to getting involved in the industry or clear educational path.  Students need more courses and curriculum that teaches the fundamentals of the industry.  These include all areas of the industry including business, agriculture, research, etc.  This panel will talk about what courses are currently available for students and what still needs to be offered as well as how higher education can translate their findings into commercial services and products the industry can use to advance itself.

April 21, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Might a crack down on state reforms by the feds actually increase the pace for national marijuana reform?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this Washington Post piece by Paul Waldman headlined "Will Jeff Sessions launch a War on Weed? If so, it could accelerate marijuana legalization." Here are excerpts:

A CBS poll out today shows that 61 percent of Americans favor full legalization, the highest number the poll has recorded, while a Quinnipiac poll puts the number at 60 percent, with an incredible 94 percent saying people ought to be able to get it if their doctors prescribe it (CBS put that figure at 88 percent). Perhaps more important, 71 percent in the CBS poll and 73 percent in the Quinnipiac poll said that the federal government should leave states that have legalized it alone.

But there’s one person who doesn’t agree, and he happens to be the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. government. In fact, if there’s a single thing that Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates more than undocumented immigrants it might just be marijuana, which is why he appears to be planning what amounts to a return to a 1980s-style War on Drugs. We don’t yet know what practical steps Sessions will take, because things are still in the planning stages. But allow me to suggest that in the end, Sessions might actually accelerate the country’s move toward the eventual goal of full legalization....

[T]he big unanswered question is how the attorney general will approach the states that have passed some form of legalization. He could follow the (mostly) hands-off approach that the Obama administration did. Or he could send out federal agents to start shutting down dispensaries across the country. Or he could do something in between. But given his strong views and the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law — which gives him substantial power to go after the burgeoning pot industry in states that have legalized it — it’s hard to believe there isn’t some kind of crackdown coming from the Justice Department.

Sessions may already be having a deterrent effect. The Colorado legislature was all set to pass a law regulating marijuana clubs but backed off after the governor warned that doing so could incur Sessions’s wrath. But in other places, the movement toward legalization continues. Just yesterday, West Virginia’s governor signed a law passed by the legislature to create a medical marijuana system in the state.

Which means that if and when he attacks legal marijuana, Sessions will be going after a movement with extraordinary momentum. And it’s not just the opinion polls; it’s also what’s happening at the ballot box. In 2016, marijuana initiatives were on the ballot in nine states and won in eight of them. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada legalized marijuana for recreational use, while Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota passed medical marijuana initiatives. Only Arizona’s recreational measure was narrowly defeated....

So consider this scenario. Sessions initiates some kind of new War on Weed, one that results in lots of splashy headlines, dramatic video of state-licensed businesses being shut down and thoughtful debates about the proper balance between federal and state power. Then the backlash begins. Even many Republicans express their dismay at the Justice Department’s heavy-handed actions. Pressure builds on President Trump (whose comments on the topic have been mostly vague and noncommittal) to rein Sessions in. The controversy energizes cannabis advocates and the voters who agree with them. More and more candidates come out in favor of legalization, or at least a new federal law that would remove the drug from Schedule 1 (which puts it in the same category as heroin) and leave it up to states to decide how to handle it without any federal interference.

Then in 2020, we see the first major-party nominee who advocates full legalization of marijuana. That last part might not happen three years from now (though some past and future nominees have already sponsored bills to allow medical use). But it will eventually, because politicians inevitably follow where the public has moved.

Most of them do, anyway. But on this issue, Sessions is not such a politician — he’s going to pursue that demon weed no matter what the public thinks. We all know where America is heading on this issue, and Sessions may end up pushing us there just a little faster.

I have been saying throughout the semester in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar that a significant marijuana prohibition enforcement effort by the Justice Department might provide the spark in Congress to move forward more seriously and effectively with a variety of proposed federal legislative reforms in this space. For a bunch of reasons, I do not think federal reforms and national legalization are a certainty no matter what AG Sessions decides to do, but I do think there are a lot of interesting elements to what we will see in the marijuana reform space over the next decade and that what AG Sessions seeks to do in this space will be a very important part of the story with lots of unpredictable ripples.

April 21, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Medical Marijuana Laws May Be Associated With A Decline In The Number Of Prescriptions For Medicaid Enrollees"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new study to be published in the journal Health Affairs.  Here is the abstract (with one line emphasized):

In the past twenty years, twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of medical marijuana law.  Using quarterly data on all fee-for-service Medicaid prescriptions in the period 2007–14, we tested the association between those laws and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries.  We found that the use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied.  If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.  These results are similar to those in a previous study we conducted, regarding the effects of medical marijuana laws on the number of prescriptions within the Medicare population.  Together, the studies suggest that in states with such laws, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries will fill fewer prescriptions.

April 20, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest polling shows new high for support of marijuana legalization

Support-mj-pollThis new CBS News item, headlined "Support for marijuana legalization at all-time high," reports on a notable new CBS News poll about marijuana policy and reform.  Here are some details:

Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll.  Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use.

Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs.  And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.

More generally on the topic of drug abuse, 69 percent think that should be treated as an addiction and mental health problem rather than a criminal offense.

The belief that pot should be legal has reached a new high in CBS News polls. Sixty-one percent of Americans now say the it should be, a five-point increase from a year ago. This sentiment has increased each year we’ve measured it since 2013, with the turning point to majority support coming in 2014. Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal.

Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so.

Many states have legalized pot in some form, and most Americans don’t think the federal government should try to stop its sale and use in those states. Even among those who think marijuana should be illegal, only half think the federal government should get involved with the states.  This sentiment cuts across party lines: Majorities of Republicans (63 percent), Democrats (76 percent), and independents (72 percent) oppose the federal government trying to stop marijuana use in these states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asserted a connection between marijuana and violent crime, but few Americans see it that way: just 23 percent think legalizing pot increases violent crime, while nearly as many think legal marijuana decreases it.

Generally, most Americans think habitual drug use should be treated as an addiction problem rather than a criminal offense.  Even most Americans who oppose legalizing marijuana think so. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree. Most Americans view marijuana in particular as safer than alcohol....

Support for legalization has risen among all age groups – particularly those under 55.  Americans under 35 show the strongest support.  Three in four adults between 18 and 34 support legal marijuana use, as do six in 10 Americans between 35 and 64.  Seniors remain the one age group for whom a majority still think marijuana use should be against the law.

I think especially interesting and notable are the breakdown in these numbers by party affiliation detailed here. Specifically, I find it quite interesting that, according to this poll, Republicans disfavor marijuana legalization by a slight margin (49% to 46%), they still overwhelming support medical marijuana access (87% to 11%) and significantly oppose the federal government taking action to stop marijuana sales in legalization states (63% to 33%). These numbers suggest that any strong Trump Administration push against state legalization efforts will likely engender some backlash among supporters as well as opponents of the President.

April 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Why Women Founders Are Ruling Legal Marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article from the May 2017 issue of Inc Magazine.  Here is an excerpt:

There's some evidence that women are finding it easier to break into cannabis than other sectors of corporate America. One 2015 survey of 630 marijuana professionals found that women held leadership roles in 36 percent of those businesses, compared with 22 percent of U.S. companies generally, according to the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily, an Inc. 500 company that was co-founded by two women -- Cassandra Farrington and Anne Holland. "I hit that glass ceiling at 100 miles an hour," Farrington, a former Citigroup employee, says. "There's no question this is a huge area for entrepreneurship, and there are so many women fed up with the corporate arena" who find marijuana more appealing.

Like Farrington, many of the women already running marijuana-focused businesses have extensive -- and seemingly boring -- résumés at banks, hedge funds, law firms, consultancies, insurance giants, and other traditional, highly regulated corporations. They not only know how to cut through the red tape -- they welcome it. "I just got up one morning and read all the Colorado rules," shrugs Peggy Moore, who spent 33 years working for United Health Group before becoming the CEO of Denver-based pot bakery Love's Oven. "After dealing with all of the insurance industry's regulations, it wasn't that complicated."

Another lengthier article in the same issue is titled "How the Queen of Legal Weed Is Targeting the Chardonnay Crowd."  Here is how it starts:

Nancy Whiteman still mourns those candied, spice-dusted almonds.  "They were so good. They were so stinking good," she sighs longingly.  And so stinking hard to make -- legally. Because Whiteman, the unlikely co-founder and co-owner of the most successful specialized candy business in Colorado, didn't stop with the curry powder and sugar and salt.  She also dredged those almonds through syrup infused with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

After all, that's what her seven-year-old company, Wana Brands, makes: treats that can get you really, really high.  The Boulder-based business, which Whiteman runs with her ex-husband, ended last year as the best-selling purveyor of marijuana-infused edibles in its home state of Colorado, according to industry data firm BDS Analytics.

Whiteman may have begun her legal-pot career rummaging through weed-extraction videos on YouTube and testing recipes in a kitchen that was "one step up from an Easy-Bake oven," but Walter White she is not.  Nor is she even Mary-Louise Parker's Nancy Botwin, the housewife-dealer of Weeds.  A 58-year-old mother of two, Whiteman presents as more sales rep than drug lord: russet hair in a sensible bob, a sly sense of humor tucked beneath a Northeastern reserve, and the professionally tidy business casual of someone who started her career in suits.  "Whatever your stereotype might be of somebody in the marijuana business, I'm probably not it," Whiteman, a former insurance marketing executive, wryly acknowledges. "I think a lot of times people are just surprised."

April 19, 2017 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

West Virginia officially becomes first new medical marijuana state of the Trump era

St small 215x235-pad 210x230 f8f8f8.lite-1As reported in this local article, headlined "WV governor signs medical marijuana into law," the latest state to reform its marijuana laws is the Mountain State.  Here are the details:

Gov. Jim Justice signed a comprehensive medical marijuana bill into law Wednesday, wrapping up what might have been the legislative underdog story of the session. Justice signed Senate Bill 386, which will put a medical cannabis commission into place to begin forming the regulatory infrastructure for the Bureau of Public Health to begin issuing marijuana patient ID cards on July 1, 2019.

This action makes West Virginia the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Surrounded by Democratic legislators who helped push the bill through, Justice said the law will help those who are suffering obtain access to a treatment approved by the medical community. “Our doctors are telling us, this is a pathway to help those people [who are suffering],” Justice said. “How could you turn your back on that? How could you turn your back on a loved one who is really suffering? To have a vehicle to be able to help, and to turn our back on it and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ To me, that’s not listening to the wise, and it’s not being charitable and caring, like we ought to be.”

The new law will allow patients suffering from 16 conditions to apply for a card with permission from their doctor, who must be approved to recommend marijuana by the Board of Public Health. Acceptable conditions include terminal illnesses, cancer, HIV or AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

The law does not allow patients to grow or smoke marijuana. Only a licensed dispensary can issue marijuana in the form of pills, oils, topicals (gels, creams, ointments), tincture, liquid, dermal patch or non-whole plant forms for administration through a vaporizer or nebulizer.

Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, who sponsored the legislation and served as its point man, said he thinks the bill will help ease suffering of fellow veterans who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and simultaneously cut into the state’s opioid crisis, by taking money out of illegal drug dealers’ pockets.

Sporting a cannabis leaf-shaped pin on the breast of his jacket, Nitro resident Rusty Williams watched Justice sign the bill. Williams survived a late-stage diagnosis of testicular cancer. He said his doctors prescribed him aggressive doses of chemotherapy to combat the cancer, and he used illegally purchased marijuana to help him handle the treatments....

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said that, although some might be frustrated by the gap between the bill’s passage versus its 2019 full activation date, it will be a good thing for the state to not botch such a promising, although complex, initiative. He said other states have tried to shoot the moon and get things rolling prematurely, and it only served to their detriment. Woelfel also pointed out that the Legislature can revisit the bill in any session down the road and add to it, as needed.

April 19, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Examining interaction between the marijuana legalization and crime rates, accidents and other feared harms

I am saddened by reality that this week is the final week of my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, which means it will be the last week of student presentations. One presentation this week is exploring "the interaction between the legalization of marijuana and crime rates, crash fatalities, etc." Here are the links this student has assembled in preparation for his presentation this coming week:

Empirical article published in March 2014, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006"

Cato policy analysis published in September 2016, "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations" Empirical article published in December 2015,

"Impacts of Changing Marijuana Policies on Alcohol Use in the United States"

April 19, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Homeland Security Secretary Kelly speaks sternly about marijuana after some prior moderate comments

DownloadAs reported in this NBC News article, the head of the Department of Homeland Security made a few notable statements about federal marijuana policy and practice in a speech today.  Here are the details:

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Tuesday called marijuana a "gateway drug" and vowed his agency will uphold federal laws against its possession, a sterner message than he delivered on the topic just last week.

"Let me be clear about marijuana. It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs," Kelly said during a speech about his agency's mission at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books," he added.

Kelly made headlines on Sunday when he told NBC News' Chuck Todd that "marijuana is not a factor in the drug war" during an interview on "Meet The Press."

That was a noticeably softer tone than other members of President Donald Trump's administration have taken, especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an open opponent of legal weed. And Kelly seemed to go out of his way Tuesday to say marijuana is not something the administration takes lightly.

"When marijuana is found at aviation checkpoints and baggage screening, TSA personnel will also take appropriate action," Kelly said. "Finally, ICE will continue to use marijuana possession, distribution and convictions as essential elements as they build their deportation, removal apprehension packages for targeted operations against illegal aliens."

April 18, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Denver Post rounds up series of "Perspectives on Cannabis"

The Denver Post, as highlighted here, this past weekend had a section of its "Sunday Perspective" focused on marijuana reform. Included among the section's contributors were "former Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, L’Eagle grow and dispensary owner Amy Andrle, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting, and former teachers turned science-based marijuana curriculum developers Sarah Grippa and Molly Lotz." Here are the headlines of the pieces with links:

April 17, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another look at banking problems and alternatives for the marijuana industry

As noted in this prior post, this past week a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar presented on the law, policies and practices surrounding banking activities for the marijuana industry.  But this issue is so big and important, another student also spent the semester looking at this topic, and here are additional resources he sent my way in preparation for his coming coverage of the issue in class:

My paper is on the intersection of the marijuana laws and the banking industry but also details attempted risk management and solutions via technology. Technologies such as cryptocurrencies and third party payment apps such as Paypal and Venmo have all toed the line of anti-money laundering statutes.  Likewise, I address third party apps that perform due diligence for the banking industry by way of seed to sale tracking systems and point of sale systems thereby reducing risk for the banks.

The following are articles relevant to my paper.  I did not want to send FinCEN guidance or the 2014 Cole Memo as they have already been posted here.

An article detailing the secrecy of big banks working with the marijuana industry and suggesting that the banking woes may not be as deep rooted as once thought.

A link to podcasts from past Crypto Cannabis Conferences discussing cryptocurrencies in the marijuana industry.

An article which details one of the many tech startups attempting to reduce risk for banks by performing due diligence in compliance with FinCEN guidance and the Cole memos.

An article describing an alternative payment system for the marijuana industry

April 14, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)