Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Monday, September 29, 2014

New York Senators and state lawmakers seek federal waiver to import medical marijuana

DownloadAs reported in this interesting local piece, headlined "U.S. senators join request for medical marijuana waiver: Schumer, Gillibrand back N.Y. in Justice Dept. effort," New York officials are making a concerted effort to aid in marijuana importation. Here are the details:

U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Monday joined New York State’s effort to obtain a waiver from the U.S. Department of Justice allowing the state to import medicinal marijuana to treat children who suffer from rare and deadly seizure disorders.

The letter by the two Democratic senators from New York to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. comes three days after the state Health Department submitted a new waiver request to Washington permitting the emergency importation of the drug while New York prepares to enact a broader medical marijuana program in the beginning of 2016.

The senators, acting after families of ill children sought their intervention with Justice, wrote to Holder that children with severe epileptic disorders “urgently need medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease, and these children obviously do not hold any imminent criminal threat.”

The senators are asking that the federal government help pave the way for Charlotte’s Web, a strain of marijuana grown in Colorado that is not smokable, to be permitted to cross state lines for distribution in New York. Parents of children with the condition say the drug offers no real attraction to the black market because the strain of marijuana they seek does not get users high....

There are an estimated 60,000 New Yorkers who suffer from a form of epilepsy that cannot be controlled by over-the-counter medicines, Schumer and Gillibrand said. How many of those are children with the rare seizure disorders who might qualify for the medical marijuana is uncertain, state officials say.

The specific request by Schumer and Gillibrand seeks assurances from Justice that individuals would not be prosecuted for shipping medical marijuana into New York under a state-created emergency program while the broader marijuana program is being developed.

At least three children have died in New York from the seizure disorders, including 9-year-old Anna Conte of Orchard Park, since the medical marijuana measure was signed by Cuomo in July. Before and after the law’s enactment, families urged the state to carve out an emergency exception for their children to get access to cannabidiol, or cannabis oil, which can be taken in pill, oil or other form other than smoking with no psychotropic effects....

In July, the state legalized medical marijuana, but the program is not set to begin before January 2016. Advocates were upset with Cuomo in June, when the medical marijuana deal was struck, because he insisted on killing a legislative provision to permit the state to participate in an emergency-type program for the seizure treatments by allowing marijuana to be transported across state lines into New York.

Now, advocates say that even if the federal government approves the waiver requests, the legislation Cuomo insisted upon and signed in July would have to be amended. That, they say, would require a special session of the State Legislature if patients don’t want to have to wait until January to gain access to the drug.

Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the two letters by the state Health Department have been received and are being reviewed. She said the department does not believe that it has ever granted a waiver like the one being requested by New York.

Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, D-Manhattan, sponsor of the medical marijuana law in the Assembly, recalled how the governor at the last moment during negotiations insisted that New York not be permitted to import the drug on an emergency basis and that any marijuana dispensed in the state must be grown in the state. “Even if the state licensed a registered organization tomorrow, it would not be allowed to dispense a product that was produced in Colorado or Vermont,” Gottfried said, suggesting that Cuomo call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the matter.

September 29, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Supporting the troops with cannabis in Colorado

ThAs highlighted in this local article, headlined "About a 1,000 show up in Colorado Springs for veterans marijuana giveaway," showing support for the troops had a unique meaning in one Colorado city this weekend. Here are the details:

A free cannabis giveaway at a Colorado Springs hotel Saturday attracted about a thousand people looking for an alternative medication for their physical and mental pain.

Roger Martin, the executive director and co-founder of Operation Grow4Vets, which put on the event, said the group's goal is to bring cannabis to veterans with service-related conditions as an alternative to pain medications. "It isn't going to hurt them as much as the prescription drugs," he said.

Martin, an Army veteran, said he struggled with prescription drug use to help with what he called 
"24-hour" pain and an inability to sleep. "I just need something to take the pain away during the day," he said. Martin said he discovered edible marijuana as a way to reduce pain and help him sleep more, and he wants other veterans to have the same chance to address ailments.

Matt Kahl, a former Army specialist who works for Operation Grow4Vets as a director of horticulture, said using marijuana saved his life and reduced his dependency on pain medication. Kahl said he was injured when serving in Afghanistan when he was thrown from a vehicle, causing a traumatic brain injury and hurting his spine and back. As part of his recovery, Kahl started taking more than a dozen pain medications per month. After a suggestion from a friend, Kahl started using marijuana to help with the pain. Now, he said, he is off all but two of his medications.

"It doesn't make sense that our first line of defense is toxic medication," Kahl said. He said marijuana use lessened his symptoms of hyper vigilance and pain, and he moved to Colorado, "I would not be alive without this," Kahl said....

Martin said some might have been disappointed because they were not handing out bags of marijuana, but that was not his group's goal. "We're not about getting people high," he said, Martin said the organization plans to have at least three more events this year, including another in Colorado Springs. Operation Grow4Vets also sponsored an event last weekend in Denver, which Martin said attracted hundreds of people, but the event in Colorado Springs, he said, attracted about 1,000 people.

September 28, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Illinois already collects $5 million in fees from medical marijuana applicants

Illinois-senate-passes-05-17As reported in this local AP piece, headlined "Illinois Banks $5 Million in Medical Marijuana Applications: More than 350 groups apply to run cultivation centers and dispensaries," the Prairie State is already seeing an economic benefit from its new medical marijuana laws. Here are the details:

Illinois is already seeing a lot of "green" thanks to medical marijuana. A preliminary count showed 158 applications for cultivation centers and 211 applications for dispensaries beat the Monday afternoon deadline. That means that nonrefundable fees collected by the state from the applicants topped $5 million.

"There's a ton of excitement and enthusiasm from the industry," said one applicant, Ben Kovler, founding partner and CEO of Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries. "This shows there is trust in the system the state has set up."

Green Thumb submitted applications for cultivation centers in Normal, Rock Island, Oglesby and Dixon and dispensaries in Mundelein, Chicago and Chicago Heights, Kovler said. Applications were so extensive that they filled many boxes and required the company to rent a truck, he said.

Bob Morgan, coordinator of the state's medical cannabis program, said the volume of applications "will allow us to pick the most qualified applicants." Applicants weren't deterred by stringent qualifications, fees and cash requirements, Morgan added. For cultivation centers, there was a non-refundable application fee of $25,000 and a first-year registration fee of $200,000....

Illinois expects to grant up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and up to 60 permits for dispensaries before the end of the year. The first legal marijuana would be available to registered patients in the spring of 2015.

September 28, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How much do endorsements matter in state marijuana reform campaigns?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this intriguing local article from Alaska, which is headlined "Hurdles on both sides as campaigns court marijuana endorsements." Here are excerpts:

Besides stacks of pizza and baskets of carrot sticks, one item was in striking abundance at a Wednesday night political fundraiser for the “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2” campaign last week: a long-list of supporters.

The event, held in a small gazebo off the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, listed 58 people as co-hosts, everyone from local legislators Shelly Hughes, Lynn Gattis and Wes Keller to teachers, city council and borough assembly members and even Joe Miller, the former candidate for U.S. Senate (who, despite co-hosting, did not attend). Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, running on the Republican ticket for lieutenant governor, made an appearance. Even though not all of the 58 showed up, those who did made it clear: They don’t support Ballot Measure 2.

Eric Derleth, a Soldotna attorney, was among the outspoken at Tuesday night hearing on the ballot initiative. He particularly criticized Kristina Woolston, a volunteer spokeswoman with the No on 2 campaign who is also part-owner of an Anchorage pizzeria that serves alcohol -- a substance he considers more dangerous than marijuana. Derleth said his pushback was done in part because people deserve to know “the background of people telling you these things,” especially when they’re criticizing laws impacting private behavior that in his opinion is not harmful....

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML, a national nonprofit that seeks to legalize recreational marijuana, said it’s not uncommon to see lopsided support from public figures when it comes to pot reform.

“As critical as I am with federal government and their nitwittery around prohibition, I definitely have to give them credit,” St. Pierre said from Washington, D.C., last Thursday. “If they’ve done nothing else right, they have created and maintained this stigma against an otherwise popular, non-toxic herbal product that is mildly psychoactive and demonstrably safer than the other legal recreational drug, alcohol,” St. Pierre said.

He noted that in campaigns across the country, often governments and government entities are some of the first groups to come out against the measure. Given their close ties to the federal government, where the substance remains strictly illegal, it makes sense, he said.

Alaska’s campaign has followed the national trend as endorsements opposing the initiative have piled up. As of Thursday, the “no” campaign counts 35 organization endorsements, which run the gamut from local governments to Alaska Native associations, health organizations, public safety groups and even the Alaska Chamber. On top of that, campaign manager Cordero said the group has about 40 individuals -- from Olympians to a swath of former lawmakers -- who have come out against legalization. There's also a 30-member campaign committee.

In comparison, the Yes campaign is light on official support. Few local leaders or politicians have come out in support of the initiative for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska. So far, the only politician running for major office to openly endorse the measure is Forrest Dunbar, the 30-year-old Democrat challenging longtime U.S. Rep. Don Young. He’s seen as a long shot against Young, who is seeking his 22nd term in Congress....

Bill Parker said it’s the stigma against marijuana that the Yes campaign is up against. He’s been a longtime advocate for Alaska marijuana legalization and is one of the co-sponsors of Ballot Measure 2. He said over the years he’s been “pigeonholed” for his stance on the issue, paying in “little ways” over the years. “I haven’t been invited to the peace officer picnic myself lately,” he joked. “But I don’t take it personally.”

Parker is serious about what he sees as the costs of keeping marijuana illegal. He said arrests have prevented people from getting jobs and acquiring student loans, among other things. “We can’t wait,” he said. “The war on marijuana is more harmful to Alaska than marijuana itself.”

September 27, 2014 in Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

A hearty welcome to the new Cannabis Law Prof Blog

I am pleased to see and to report that Professor Franklin Snyder of the Texas A&M University School of Law has now created another marijuana blog in the Law Professor Blog Network: Cannabis Law Prof Blog.  And in just the first few days of existance, one can already find a whole bunch of great posts (along with regular daily marijuana news reviews):  

September 26, 2014 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Federal bankruptcy judge dismisses petition filed by marijuana business

This new Denver Post article, headlined "Judge denies bankruptcy protection to Denver marijuana business," highlights another notable business problem created by the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Here are the basics:

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has dismissed the case of a Denver marijuana business owner, saying that although his activities are legal under Colorado law, he is violating the federal Controlled Substances Act. In dismissing the case, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver by Frank Anthony Arenas, Judge Howard Tallman said he realizes the "result is devastating for the debtor."

The Arenas case is at least the second such one involving a marijuana business tossed out of bankruptcy court in Colorado. At least two others have been dismissed in California. Tallman made a similar decision in a 2012 case involving Rent-Rite Super Kegs West Ltd, a company that operated a warehouse partially rented to a tenant cultivating marijuana.

"Violations of federal law create significant impediments to the debtors' ability to seek relief from their debts under federal bankruptcy laws in a federal bankruptcy court," Tallman wrote in the Arenas decision last month.

Arenas, who couldn't be reached for comment, has appealed the decision to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. According to his bankruptcy petition, Arenas owes more than $556,000 to unsecured creditors. He has assets of $595,925, personal property worth $47,191 and monthly income of $4,315.16. He has testified that he owns about 25 marijuana plants valued at $250 each, according to Tallman's decision.

Arenas, a wholesale producer and distributer of weed, filed for Chapter 7 protection, in which a debtor turns over assets to a trustee to liquidate and give the proceeds to creditors.

In the decision, Tallman alludes to the contradictions that dueling marijuana laws pose to liquidating assets and distributing the proceeds among creditors. The trustee can't take control of assets or liquidate the inventory without running afoul of federal law, he said. Nor can the debtors convert the case to Chapter 13, which would allow them to pay off debts over time because the plan would be funded "from profits of an ongoing criminal activity under federal law" and involve the trustee in distribution of funds derived from violation of the law.

Those who own and operate marijuana businesses are caught in a legal limbo with federal law restricting access to banking services and creating obstacles that other legitimate — at least by state law — businesses don't, said Sam Kamin, a professor at University of Denver's Sturm College of Law. "As long as it is illegal under federal law, we are going to have weird anomalies like that," Kamin said.

September 25, 2014 in Court Rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (1)

Marijuana legalization campaigns for 2016 in Arizona and California start heating up

As two recent articles highlight, advocates of marijuana of legalization in two states are not waiting to see how the 2014 election goes before getting a running start on 2016 campaigns.  Here are headlines and starting paragraphs reporting these developments:

"Marijuana advocates kick off 2016 initiative": "Supporters of an effort to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016 have filed paperwork with state elections officials, allowing them to raise money to campaign for the citizens initiative. The Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona initiative almost certainly will be modeled after the voter-approved marijuana program in Colorado."

"Marijuana legalization effort begins in California": "A U.S. marijuana advocacy group took steps Wednesday to begin raising money for a campaign to legalize recreational pot use in California in 2016, a move with potential to add a dose of extra excitement to the presidential election year."

September 25, 2014 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New polling suggests now declining support for legalization of marijuana

As highlighted in this Washington Post Wonkblog piece, headlined "Survey: Support for legal weed drops 7 points in the past year," a few recent polls suggest a reversal of recent trends of growing support for marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts from the report (with key links preserved, and my emphasis added):

National support for legalized marijuana has slipped by seven percentage points in the past year, from 51 percent in 2013 to 44 percent today, according to the Public Religion Research InstitutePRRI asked 4,500 Americans about the intensity of their support for or opposition to legalizing marijuana.  The year-over-year drop in overall support was concentrated among those who favored marijuana legalization last year, but not strongly.  Opposition increased greatest among those who strongly opposed legal marijuana.

These numbers suggest that people who only slightly supported legalization last year have changed their minds, and that people who slightly opposed legalization now feel more strongly about it....

An October 2013 Gallup poll found strong support for marijuana legalization nationally, with 58 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed.  The PRRI and Gallup numbers are not directly comparable, since the questions were worded differently in each survey.  Moreover, survey responses on marijuana legalization tend to be highly sensitive to particular question wording.

Still, the year-over-year drop within this one poll is significant and well outside the poll's 1.8 point margin of error.  If other surveys show similar findings, it could mean that Americans generally don't like the news coming out of Colorado and Washington - even if that news has been largely positive.

I have emphasized an important line in this discussion of this latest poll data because I think all polling on marijuana reform can be subject to a lot of varied responses among a significant number of folks who are not strongly for or strongly against reform in principle.  Thus, I tend to view polling on specific ballot proposals in specific states as more important than broad national polls on these matters.  But every bit for data about public opinion on this fast-evolving issue is still notable and potentially consequential.

September 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Banks, Marijuana, and Federalism"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Julie Andersen Hill now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, twenty-three states have legalized some marijuana use. The state-legal marijuana industry is flourishing, but marijuana-related businesses report difficulty accessing banking services.  Because financial institutions won’t allow marijuana-related businesses to open accounts, the marijuana industry largely operates on a cash only basis — a situation that attracts thieves and tax cheats.

This article explores the root of the marijuana banking problem as well as possible solutions.  It explains that although the United States has a dual banking system comprised of both federal- and state-chartered institutions, when it comes to marijuana banking, federal regulation is pervasive and controlling.  Marijuana banking access cannot be solved by the states acting alone for two reasons.  First, marijuana is illegal under federal law. Second, federal law enforcement and federal financial regulators have significant power to punish institutions that do not comply with federal law.  Unless Congress acts to remove one or both of these barriers, most financial institutions will not provide services to the marijuana industry.  But marijuana banking requires more than just Congressional action. It requires that federal financial regulators set clear and achievable due diligence requirements for institutions with marijuana business customers.  As long as financial institutions risk federal punishment for any marijuana business customer’s misstep, institutions will not provide marijuana banking.

September 23, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

With some on-air choice words, local Alaska TV reporter quits to work on marijuana legalization

This local article from Alaska, headlined "KTVA reporter quits on-air, reveals herself as owner of Alaska Cannabis Club," reports on how one TV personality decided to use her time on air to provide a marijuana-business-driven decision to tell her bosses to "take this job and shove it." Here are the details:

Reporter Charlo Greene quit on-air during KTVA-TV's 10 p.m. newscast Sunday, revealing herself as the owner of the medical marijuana business Alaska Cannabis Club and telling viewers that she would be using all of her energy to fight for legalizing marijuana in Alaska.

Greene had reported on the Alaska Cannabis Club during Sunday night’s broadcast, without revealing her connection to it. At the end of the report, during a live shot, she announced that she was the club's owner and would be quitting.

“Now everything you've heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska," she said. "And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit.” And with that, she walked off camera....

Reached later, Greene said KTVA had no idea she was going to quit, or that she was connected to the Alaska Cannabis Club. Asked why she quit in such a dramatic way, she said, "Because I wanted to draw attention to this issue. And the issue is medical marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real ... most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine."

"If I offended anyone, I apologize, but I’m not sorry for the choice that I made," she said. In a statement posted on KTVA's Facebook page Sunday night, news director Bert Rudman said, "We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated."

Started in April, the Alaska Cannabis Club connects medical marijuana cardholders with other cardholders who are growing cannabis. Growers are offered "donations" as reimbursement for the costs of growing marijuana, the club said in an interview with Alaska Dispatch News in August. The club said it hopes to increase access to medical marijuana patients, despite operating in a legal gray area within Alaska's murky medical marijuana laws. Video clips of the broadcast were quickly uploaded to YouTube and shared on Reddit Sunday night.

September 22, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Marijuana Money Is Still A Pot Of Trouble For Banks"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent lengthy and informative Forbes article by Jacob Sullum.  Here is how it gets started:

During a visit to the Dixie Elixirs & Edibles plant in Denver last summer, I saw the machines the company uses to produce cannabis concentrates, the kitchen where it makes marijuana-infused chocolates, and the bottling line for its THC-spiked sodas. Toward the end of the tour, I had a semi-serious question for the company’s CEO, Tripp Keber: “Where do you keep your piles of money?”

Keber laughed but quickly turned serious. “We actually have strong banking relationships,” he said. “We don’t talk about them. Asking someone about their banking is like asking them what they wear to bed at night. It’s an intensely personal question, even within the industry.” You can begin to understand why banking is such a touchy subject for the newly legal cannabusinesses in Colorado and Washington (as well as growers and dispensaries in the 21 states that allow medical but not recreational use of marijuana) if you consider the federal laws a financial institution violates when it does business with a state-licensed company like Keber’s.

“By providing [a] loan and placing the proceeds in [a] checking account, the institution would be conspiring to distribute marijuana,” writes University of Alabama law professor Julie Andersen Hill in a paper she presented at a conference on marijuana and federalism last week. “By facilitating customers’ credit card payments, the institution would be aiding and abetting the distribution of marijuana. And by knowingly accepting deposits consisting of revenue from the sale of marijuana, the institution may be acting as an accessory after the fact.”

That is not the end of the possible charges. “A financial institution that knowingly processes transactions for marijuana-related businesses commits the crime of money laundering,” Hill notes. Failure to meet the detailed monitoring and reporting requirements of the humorously named Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires financial institutions to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, also can be treated as a felony.

Bank employees, officers, and directors can be prosecuted for these crimes, some of which may, depending on the amount of marijuana involved, trigger five- or 10-year mandatory minimum sentences. BSA violations are punishable by up to 10 years in prison when combined with other federal offenses. Money laundering can get you up to 20 years, and life is the maximum for participating in a marijuana conspiracy. In addition to the daunting threat of criminal penalties, financial institutions that deal with cannabusinesses have to worry about offending federal regulators with the power to impose millions of dollars in fines or sentence a bank to death by revoking its deposit insurance.

It is little wonder, then, that financial institutions are wary of cannabusinesses, or that the growers, manufacturers, and retailers who are lucky enough to obtain banking services do not want to talk about how they managed to do that. The lack of banking services, which Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, calls “the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today,” makes it difficult for marijuana entrepreneurs to raise capital and forces most of them to deal exclusively in cash, which creates administrative, logistical, and security headaches.

September 20, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Local Officials Have Their Marijuana Boots On The Ground

 Thought this article  from American City and County on a conference call facilitated by the International City/County Managers Association  would make a good complement to Rob's work on the local option for marijuana.

 The topic of the conference call was "the cultural and logistical issues facing local governments that legalize the use of marijuana." Darin Atteberry, city manager for Fort Collins, Colo.; Jane Brautigam, city manger for Boulder, Colo.; David Timmons city manager for Port Townsend, Wash.; and Bill Kirchhoff, a municipal advisor from Coronado, California commented on their experiences implementing recreational and medical marijuana laws.

Here are some article snippets on the challenges of implementation:

One particular way the balancing act is playing out is with local law enforcement. “It’s a cultural change,” Timmons[from Port Townsend] said. “For many, many years you’ve had this culture, particularly in law enforcement, that this is an illegal activity and an illegal drug. We kind of have to change that whole culture within the police agencies as to how they respond, how they react, how they manage and handle the issues that arise from their interaction with this in the community.”

On the internal side of the equation, local governments must also consider how legalization will affect their employment policies. Federally, marijuana is still considered a schedule one controlled substance, which allows public employers to prohibit employees from using marijuana, regardless of its local legality, said Kirchhoff. However, he predicts this prohibition is on the way out.

If the legal status changes at the federal level, which Kirchhoff said is “right around the corner,” this will be the first time in history where cities and counties will have to shift “almost overnight from treating marijuana as a criminal issue and event to supporting it as a medical opportunity or option for employees in their workforce.” 



And to put the discussion in context [from another article which appeared in the McClatchey Tribune,] a comment from the panel's moderator, Ron Carlee, city manager of Charlotte, North Carolina.

This is all totally fascinating to me, sitting in North Carolina, where our hot issue in Mecklenburg County is banning tobacco use in public places,” he said. “It will be a long time before we have to wrestle with the marijuana issues _ possibly. But who knows?”



September 19, 2014 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

DC marijuana "legalization" ballot measure polling at 65%

From Marijuana Business Daily, a new poll shows 65% of registered voters in support of Washington D.C.'s Initiative 71, a quasi-legalization measure on the ballot this November.  

Initiative 71 is a bit different from previous marijuana ballot measures.  Though the campaign appears to be promoting the measure as a vote for legalization, it would really enact something that is much closer to decriminalization.  Legalization really refers to some sort of legal and regulated marketplace.  All I-71 would make legal is possession, home cultivation (of up to 6 plants) and transfer without payment between adults.  Removing criminal penalties for use is usually referred to as decriminalization, not legalization.  And I think permitting home cultivation and non=profit transfers also fit best in the same category since the reforms are really targeted at removing criminal penalties for users (who grow for themselves or share with friends).  

My sense has always been that "decriminalization" polls better than "legalization," so it is curious that I-71 is using the legalization language.  Since it seems to be comfortably ahead, perhaps the backers are confident of the outcome and want to be able to promote it as a win for "legalization" and so are using that language in the campaign.  

Opponents of the initiative launched their campaign this week, so it will be interesting to see if the current numbers hold.

September 19, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In new ad campaign, "Marijuana Industry Battling Stoner Stereotypes"

Crprintad_sep2014bThe title of this post is drawn from the headline of this notable new AP article.  Here are excerpts:

Tired of Cheech & Chong pot jokes and ominous anti-drug campaigns, the marijuana industry and activists are starting an ad blitz in Colorado aimed at promoting moderation and the safe consumption of pot. To get their message across, they are skewering some of the old Drug War-era ads that focused on the fears of marijuana, including the famous "This is your brain on drugs" fried-egg ad from the 1980s.

They are planning posters, brochures, billboards and magazine ads to caution consumers to use the drug responsibly and warn tourists and first-timers about the potential to get sick from accidentally eating too much medical-grade pot. "So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's biggest pot-policy advocacy group.

The MPP plans to unveil a billboard on Wednesday on a west Denver street where many pot shops are located that shows a woman slumped in a hotel room with the tagline: "Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation." It's an allusion to Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist who got sick from eating one on a visit to write about pot.

The campaign is a direct response to the state's post-legalization marijuana-education efforts. One of them is intended to prevent stoned driving and shows men zoning out while trying to play basketball, light a grill or hang a television. Many in the industry said the ads showed stereotypical stoners instead of average adults.

Even more concerning to activists is a youth-education campaign that relies on a human-sized cage and the message, "Don't Be a Lab Rat," along with warnings about pot and developing brains. The cage in Denver has been repeatedly vandalized. At least one school district rejected the traveling exhibit, saying it was well-intentioned but inappropriate.

"To me, that's not really any different than Nancy Reagan saying 'Just Say No,'" said Tim Cullen, co-owner of four marijuana dispensaries and a critic of the "lab rat" campaign, referring to the former first lady's effort to combat drug use....

The advocacy ads tackle anti-drug messaging from year past. Inside pictures of old TV sets are images from historic ads. Along with the fried-egg one is an image from one ad of a father finding his son's drug stash and demanding to know who taught him to use it. The kid answers: "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!"

The print ad concludes, "Decades of fear-mongering and condescending anti-marijuana ads have not taught us anything about the substance or made anyone safer." It then directs viewers to consumeresposibly.org, which is patterned after the alcohol industry's "Drink Responsibly" campaign.

September 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Florida is such an interesting marijuana reform state: "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana"

Fla med mjThis lengthy local article from Florida, headlined "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana," highlights just some of the many reasons I think Florida is the most interesting state to watch in the near future concerning marijuana law, policy and reform. Here are excerpts from the article:

Sunshine and beaches are great attractions, but there could be another reason snowbirds flock to Florida if Amendment 2 passes: The availability of medical marijuana. Whether that happens depends on several unknowns as Florida heads into the last seven weeks before people vote on the question of legalizing medical pot.

State and local tourism officials don't believe the amendment will have an effect on tourism if it passes. They say the impact on snowbird residents would be miniscule. They also say they have no intention of using medical marijuana as a marketing tool.

Others say it's too early to tell. "I'm a snowbird with pain associated with MS," said David Dillabough, of Syracuse, N.Y., who winters in St. James City. "I avoid hydrocodone, oxycodone and the like. Marijuana is my choice whenever I need a break from persistent pain.

"Like other retired/older people, Florida is attractive to me because of the warmth and sunshine. Legalized medical marijuana wouldn't be the icing on the cake (that would be my friends), but it would be the flowers on the icing."

The state Department of Health financial analysis estimating the possible impact of the passage of Amendment 2 says snowbirds are a potential pool for medical marijuana tourism. "An estimated 17,178 to 41,271 may apply for an ID," the analysis says. That estimate has not been updated since the analysis was released in early November, said Phil E. Williams of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, the multistep process someone will have to go through to get an ID for medical pot would discourage shorter-duration visitors, the analysis says....

If the amendment passes, the effective date would be Jan. 1. The health department would have six months from that date to come up with rules; nine months to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers; and nine months to register medical marijuana dispensaries.

Tamara Pigott, executivwere director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said you have to remember tourists and snowbirds are two different things: Snowbirds are considered part-time residents who are here for a month or longer and often own property. Many snowbirds have established Florida residency, an attractive option because the state has no income tax. Tourists are short-term visitors.

Even if up to 41,000 snowbirds could apply for a medical pot ID, that number pales in the context of the actual numbers of state visitors, she said. Visitors reached 94.3 million last year according to Visit Florida, the state's official tourism and marketing entity, and the state is aiming for 100 million in 2014. One conference alone could bring in 40,000 people in a big city, Pigott said. "I don't anticipate that we would see a significant bump."

The legalization of medical marijuana might affect seasonal residents, said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But it probably would not have much effect on short-term visitors, which is what we do and how we promote," he said. Snowbirds aren't even counted in their statistics, he said. "I guess we're going to watch it and see where it goes from here."...

Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry, agrees with Florida officials when it comes to tourism and medical marijuana. The reason is states that have legalized medical marijuana have a residency requirement, she said. However, one possible exception is that Nevada is planning to allow reciprocity in their medical program, so people who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients in other states can purchase medical marijuana in Nevada, she said. "But that hasn't actually started yet, and it's still not going to create a tourism boom, since anyone it would affect is able to access medical marijuana in their home states already," West said....

Kathy Lowers of Naples said Amendment 2 will not make Florida a more attractive place to visit or live. Lowers, who has six children, said she moved here from California in part to avoid what she called the "sleaziness" of pot shops that popped up there. "To me, if Florida goes the way of California, I will just be so depressed," she said. "I am not against medical marijuana, but against pot shops dispensing it. There is a big difference.

"The Florida amendment is way more liberal than even the California one, so goodbye to family-friendly Florida," Lowers said. "People like me come here because it is more wholesome than other places; pot will ruin that benefit of visiting or living in Florida."

September 16, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wisconsin police chief advocate marijuana legalization to fund treatment for harder drugs

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This Wisconsin State Journal article, headlined "Police chief: Legalize marijuana, use tax revenue to fund drug treatment," reports on a local police chief's notable response to reports highlighting racial disparities on who gets arrested for marijuana offenses. Here are excerpts from the article:

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval endorsed the legalization of marijuana last week, saying the drug should be regulated and taxed, with revenues used to fund treatment programs for harder drugs.

The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African-Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.

Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure,” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.

Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sell it at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.

Koval said he would like to see the state “acknowledge the failure” of marijuana prohibition and instead focus on the “infinite amount of challenges” posed by drugs such as heroin. Taxes from the legal sale of marijuana, he said, would create state revenue that could then be used to fund drug treatment and expand the capacity of drug court programs that divert addicts from the criminal justice system....

The cause has not advanced as far in Wisconsin, though, where the drug remains completely illegal. State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced a bill to legalize marijuana earlier this year, but the legislation stands little chance of becoming law.

September 15, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Are cities being racially discriminatory in banning legal marijuana?"

Marijuana-map-620x410The title of this post is the headline of this very intriguing piece from the Seattle Times, which spotlights a very interesting new lawsuit filed in Washington concerning a local ban on marijuana sales.   Here are the details:

The growing number of cities and counties in Washington opting out of Washington’s marijuana legalization experiment is eating away at the foundation of Initiative 502, as a Seattle Times editorial in Thursday’s paper suggested. The lack of stores in widening swaths of the state perpetuates the black market and maintains underground access of youth.

A new lawsuit filed in Benton County Superior Court against Kennewick’s ban takes the argument further: Bans are also racially discriminatory. The suit, filed on behalf of a would-be marijuana company, suggests that Kennewick’s ban (as well as similar prohibitions in all three Tri-Cities and Franklin County) push the underground marijuana trade to poorer neighborhoods. Since marijuana is a cash cow for gangs, they’ll continue to battle for turf.

The lawsuit makes some broad assumptions, including that white marijuana users primarily buy from “friends,” and most transactions occur in private homes.... “Minorities and minority children, who reside in racially segregated, high poverty rate neighborhoods in Kennewick, where black market transactions do not occur in private between friends, but instead on the public streets, are therefore disproportionately subjected to violence as a product of the black market trade as compared to whites.”

Attorney Liz Hallock, who filed the suit on behalf of American Weed LLC, summed it up: “This is white people who don’t see the effect of a ban on their street corners.”

The case is scheduled for a hearing next week. Whether it is successful or not, the legality of these municipal bans is likely headed to the state Supreme Court, as another lawsuit, against Fife, is being directly appealed to the high court. These cases will hinge on a lack of specific authority in I-502 for cities and counties to opt out. Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a non-binding opinion in January that they have an implied right under the state Constitution, which spurred jurisdictions queasy about marijuana to drop the curtain on I-502.

The ACLU’s Alison Holcomb, the architect of the initiative, believes the question about the bans falls to the Legislature: “Are we going to allow opt-out (from I-502), and under what circumstances?” State liquor laws, for example, require an alcohol ban to be put to voters. If state law now treats marijuana like liquor, shouldn’t voters get a say on pot bans?

The Legislative debate is likely to center on whether cities and counties get some of the 25 percent marijuana excise taxes in exchange for accepting state-licensed I-502 businesses. Holcomb said municipalities should have to justify their costs, because legalization, in theory at least, would lower criminal justice costs. “Cities and counties need to make the case and tie the request to the needs,” she said.

Until the Legislature, or the court, acts, the bans are here to stay.

September 13, 2014 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Watch now: Case Western's Marijuana, Federal Power, and the States conference

As Rob noted yesterday, Case Western Law is hosting a conference today on Marijuana, Federal Power, and the States.  The first panel has just begun and Rob's presentation will be beginning soon.  Doug and I will both be speaking on a panel this afternoon.  There is a fantastic lineup top-to-bottom today (myself excluded).  Best of all, if you'd like to watch, you don't have to buy a last minute ticket to Cleveland.  The event is being webcast--the webcast link and the conference agenda are both here.  The conference's organizer, Jonathan Adler, has a post with some additional background on the conference here.

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September 12, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Watch Friday's Conference on Marijuana and Federalism

Case Western is holding a conference  Friday, September 12 on Marijuana and Federalism. The conference will take place at the Law School from 8:30-4:00. Jonathan Adler has graciously organized the event, which will feature presentations from a number of legal and policy scholars (including Doug, Alex, and myself -- I'll be presenting my marijuana localism paper). The website for the event is here; the webcast of the proceedings is here –tune in and enjoy!  

September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Does nearly every NFL player really have a "certifiable need for medical marijuana"?

Jackson1The question in the title of this post is prompted by the very first sentence of this provocative recent New York Times op-ed authored by former NFL player Nate Jackson.   Here are excerpts from a piece headlined "The N.F.L.’s Absurd Marijuana Policy":

Virtually every single player in the N.F.L. has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.

The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it.  Some players choose marijuana to manage this pain, which allows them to perform at a high level without sacrificing their bodies or their minds.

I medicated with marijuana for most of my career as a tight end from 2003 through 2008. And I needed the medication.  I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc.  Most players have similar medical charts.  And every one of them needs the medicine.

Standard pain management in the N.F.L. is pain pills and pregame injections. But not all players favor the pill and needle approach.  In my experience, many prefer marijuana.  The attitude toward weed in the locker room mirrors the attitude in America at large.  It’s not a big deal.  Players have been familiar with it since adolescence, and those who use it do so to offset the brutality of the game.  The fact that they made it to the N.F.L. at all means that their marijuana use is under control.

Had marijuana become a problem for me, it would have been reflected in my job performance, and I would have been cut.  I took my job seriously and would not have allowed that to happen.  The point is, marijuana and excellence on the playing field are not mutually exclusive....

Nearly 17,000 Americans overdosed and died from prescription painkillers in 2011, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These are the same pills I was handed in full bottles after an injury.  The same pills that are ravaging our cities.  The same ones that are creating a population of apathetic adults, pill-popping their way through the day and dead behind the eyes. The same ones that are leading high schoolers to heroin because the pills no longer get them high and are too expensive. Yeah, those....

In my playing days, the marijuana smokers struck me as sharper, more thoughtful and more likely to challenge authority than the nonsmokers.  It makes me wonder if we weren’t that way because marijuana allowed us to avoid the heavy daze of pain pills.  It gave us clarity.  It kept us sane....

Professional football is a violent trade that could use some forward thinking.  The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association, which agreed to the league’s substance abuse policy in collective bargaining, should rethink their approach.  The policy reflects outdated views on marijuana and pain management, punishes players who seek an alternative to painkillers, keeps them in a perpetual state of injury and injury management, and risks creating new addicts.

September 10, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)