Monday, December 11, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new report from Tom Angell under the headline "Will Legalize Marijuana In Early January, House Speaker Says." Here are the details:
A top Vermont lawmaker says the state could become the first in the U.S. to legalize marijuana through an act of lawmakers early next year. “It will be up for a vote in early January,” House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) said on Friday. “I expect that it likely will pass in early January.”
In 2017, the state fell just short of enacting legalization. The legislature passed a bill to legalize personal cannabis possession and homegrow, but Gov. Phil Scott (R) vetoed it. However, in doing so, he laid out a few small changes he wanted legislators to make in order to win his support. The Senate quickly acted to make the requested revisions, but the House was not able to jump through procedural hurdles to get it done in time during a short special session over the summer.
Because the legislature operates on a biennial basis, the bill is still alive, and the House just needs to take one more vote to get the bill onto the governor’s desk. Last week, Scott said he is “comfortable” signing a marijuana legalization bill into law early next year.
Johnson, in the Friday interview with Vermont Public Radio, said there “hasn’t been a significant shift” in support in the legislature since the momentum for legalization that built up earlier this year. “We do have agreement with the governor and with the Senate on what that bill currently says,” she said....
Vermont’s approach would be different than the laws that exist in other states, in that it would enact a noncommercial form of legalization where only possessing small amounts of cannabis and growing a few plants at home would be legal. There would initially be no licensed stores where consumers could purchase marijuana, but the Senate-passed legislation would create a commission to study possible future commercialization....
Johnson, in the new interview, said the commission “will provide some suggestions for further action,” such as potentially legalizing and regulating cannabis sales. “We’ll be looking into further legislation to really go about this in as thoughtful and responsible a way as possible,” she said.
I was disappointed by the veto of the marijuana reform bill that Vermont's legislature passed last year in large part because I think it could be extremely valuable, to both policy-makers and researchers, to have a state embrace a distinctive approach to marijuana legalization. Now I am excited anew that this distinctive approach to marijuana legalization may still soon become law in the Green Mountain State.
In the article linked above, Tom Angell notes that marijuana reform advocates have been watching New Jersey closely as a state that might in early 2018 enacted marijuana legalization through the traditional legislative process. For various reasons, I think action in New Jersey becomes even more likely if Vermont becomes the first state to legalize through the usual legislative process.
A few prior related posts from May 2017:
Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto
December 11, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 8, 2017
Earlier this week, the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz released this notable discussion brief titled, “The Marijuana Gateway Fallacy.” This short report covers a lot of marijuana reform ground outside the arena of "gateway drug" discourse, but here is one passage from the report on that front highlighting that we still hear "gateway" talk from politicians on both sides of the political aisle:
There are alternative explanations to the gateway hypothesis for why most users of dangerous drugs report the use of marijuana. The Common Liability Model posits that the use of multiple drugs reflects a common risk for drug use, rather than the use of one drug increasing the risk of using other. This may arise from common genetic predispositions, psychosocial factors, drug availability, and opportunity to use. Availability is linked to the age of an individual. Because of the relative ease of obtaining alcohol and marijuana in the home (compared with cocaine and heroin), youth interested in drug experimentation are likely to try these first.
In 2016, the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) — while not fully rejecting the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug—concluded that, given the evidence to date, “further research is needed to explore this question.” Shortly after NIDA released this determination, D.A.R.E. quietly removed marijuana from its publicized list of gateway drugs.
Yet, non-evidence-based political factors on both the left and the right remain the reason for the persistence of the gateway myth. In 2015, Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor and former Republican presidential candidate is quoted as saying, “Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country, and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement.”
In Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, both Democrats, and Republican Governor Charlie Baker formed a coalition opposing legalization of recreational marijuana. Mayor Walsh said “You’ll hear the other side say that marijuana is not a gateway drug. If you know anyone in the recovery community, talk to them… You’ll hear that most of them, many of them started with marijuana.” Speaker DeLeo added that it would be hypocritical to support legalization of marijuana while fighting the opioid abuse epidemic. When talking about legalization of the medical use of marijuana in Florida, her state, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said about marijuana policy: “I just don’t think we should legalize more mind altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs.”
Friday, August 11, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this extended Washington Post magazine article exploring whether marijuana reform could help address some of the woes to be found in Wast Virginia. Here are excerpts:
One of the leading proponents of loosening restrictions on marijuana in West Virginia is Democratic state Del. Mike Pushkin, who represents parts of Charleston and its surrounding areas. Pushkin is an unconventional pol — a cabdriver and folk musician who has spoken about his own struggles with addiction. He once told the Charleston Gazette-Mail how he spent 11 years living from crisis to crisis. “I’m sure there were times that my mother would have thought it more likely she would be attending my funeral than she would be attending my swearing-in at the Capitol,” he said.
It took a spiritual awakening to get his addiction under control. To stay sober, he told me, he volunteers at detox facilities and talks to addicts in area jails. This experience informs his policy positions. He’s sure West Virginia can’t arrest its way out of this drug crisis. And he has pushed his colleagues to consider marijuana in a new light. “While marijuana is described as a gateway drug, that’s not proven,” he says. “What is proven is that a lot of people who are prescribed painkillers get hooked on heroin.”...
In May 2016, Pushkin introduced a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to let adults grow, use and possess a limited quantity of marijuana, provided that they paid a one-time fee of $500. That month, he told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he didn’t have high hopes for its passage. He was right: It wasn’t even debated in a committee. But it did spark media attention and prompted an eye-opening brief from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, which showed that a marijuana tax could be a boon for the state, generating as much as $194 million annually if the drug were legal for adult use. That would be enough to eliminate West Virginia’s projected deficit and create a $183 million surplus, a dramatic improvement in a place that’s been slashing everything from higher education to Medicaid as it tries to stay afloat.
Indeed, Pushkin’s argument for marijuana legalization had a strong economic component. “They’re not having the types of budget issues in Colorado that we’re having here,” he told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. In Colorado, where pot is now fully legalized, the industry created 18,000 full-time jobs in 2015 alone. New Frontier Data, a financial consultancy in Washington, estimates that by 2020 the marijuana industry will create upward of a quarter of a million jobs in the United States, more than manufacturing is expected to create.
It’s hard to imagine anywhere that could use these jobs more than West Virginia. Since the 1980s, both coal and manufacturing in the Mountain State have been in a steep decline. As these industries have dried up, so have others that rely on them — such as freight rail, which has cut jobs by the thousands and begun pulling up tracks.
Monday, June 19, 2017
I already have my eye upon states like Arizona and Michigan for potential notable marijuana initiative votes in 2018. And this local article, headlined "Medical marijuana advocates within weeks of filing ballot initiative," suggests Utah is another state worth watching. Here are the basics:
For years now, the Utah Legislature has labored over the question of whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. In 2014, the Legislature chose to legalize a marijuana extract for use in controlling epileptic seizures.
In 2016, two laws which would have legalized medical marijuana — to differing extents — both passed through the Utah Senate, but never reached a vote in the House of Representatives. And in the 2017 session, the only marijuana legislation passed allowed only for studies to take place, which could take years to yield results.
Despite the Legislature’s hesitancy to act on medical marijuana legalization, Utahns may have the chance to vote on the issue directly in the form of a ballot initiative in 2018. “Having tried multiple times to persuade the legislature to help these people and facing significant resistance, we think it’s best now to give the public a chance to decide for themselves,” said Connor Boyack, who is acting as a consultant for the ballot initiative. Boyack has previously advocated for medical marijuana in his role as the president of Libertas Institute, a Libertarian think tank....
It’s an extensive process to put an issue on the ballot. First, the language of the legislation must be written and an application turned into the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. The language of the medical marijuana initiative is almost complete, Boyack said, and is based off of language from one of the bills that failed in the Legislature in 2016. Senate Bill 73, sponsored by then-Sen. Mark Madsen of Saratoga Springs, was used as a baseline for the language of the ballot initiative, Boyack said, with just a few tweaks. For instance, autism was added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana could be used....
According to state law, to get an initiative on the ballot, signatures must be gathered that total 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last presidential election. Since Utahns cast approximately 1.13 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, it would take just over 113,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot. It’s not as simple as just collecting the 113,000 signatures. They have to be spread out semi-evenly over the many senate districts in the state....
Boyack said they already have much of the financial backing that will be needed to pay professionals to gather signatures. “We’ve got some very strong commitments,” Boyack said. “We’re following up to get checks written.” He said he’s confident that they’ll get the $2 million needed to pay for signature gathering and promotional media. “There are a lot of individuals who are very upset with the Legislature for having the chance to help people, then punting,” Boyack said....
Even if the necessary signatures are collected, Utah voters would still have to choose to pass the initiative. Organizations like the Utah Medical Association have consistently opposed legalizing cannabis as medicine before it has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Even the prominent and influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighed in on the issue in 2016, specifically favoring one medical marijuana bill over another more comprehensive one. Boyack says he believes the odds of passage are good — polls show that people want medical marijuana to be legal, he said.
June 19, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto
As reported in this local article, "Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont." Here is more:
At a highly anticipated press conference in his Montpelier office, the Republican governor said he could not sign S.22, which passed the Vermont House and Senate in the waning days of the recently concluded legislative session. But Scott said he was open to revisiting the debate with legislators — perhaps as soon as an expected veto session next month.
Vermont’s Democratic legislature is unlikely to override Scott’s veto, given that the bill squeaked through the House two weeks ago on a 79-66 vote.
The legislation would have allowed adults over age 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow as many as two mature plants per household, starting in July 2018. Similar to Washington, D.C.’s marijuana law, it would not have allowed for sale or commercial growing of the drug. The bill would also have created a commission to study how Vermont could tax and regulate marijuana sales, as Colorado and several other states have done.
The governor has said he does not consider marijuana legalization a priority and has concerns about the lack a roadside test to detect driver impairment.
Had Scott signed the bill, Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through legislative action rather by public referendum.
Prior related post:
UPDATE: I have now had a chance to read Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's remarks explaining his veto, and they are available at this link. Here are some of the interesting particulars:
I have been clear since the campaign and throughout the session: I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana, and I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction. However, I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward.
We must get this right. Let the science inform any policy we make around this issue, learn from the experience of other states, and take whatever time is required to do so. In my view, policymakers have an obligation to all Vermonters – and those who visit us – to address health, safety, prevention and education questions before committing the state to a specific timeline for moving forward.
More specifically – as I have said repeatedly throughout the campaign and this session – we should know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not, and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing.
From my vantage point, S.22 does not yet adequately address these questions. Therefore, I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.
I’ll be providing the Legislature with recommended changes. And to be clear, if they are willing to work with me to address my concerns in a new bill passed during the veto session this summer, there is a path forward on this issue.
Those recommendations include the following:
First, in its attempt to equate marijuana with alcohol. This bill appears to weaken penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors. Sections of this bill must be rewritten to make clear that existing penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors and on school grounds remain unchanged.
Weakening these protections and penalties should be totally unacceptable to even the most ardent legalization advocates.
Second, I am asking for changes to more aggressively penalize consumption while driving, and usage in the presence of minors....
Third, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission section must be enhanced in order to be taken seriously. It must include a broader membership, including representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse prevention and treatment community. The Commission must be charged with determining outcomes, such as an impairment threshold for operating a motor vehicle; an impairment testing mechanism; an education and prevention strategy to address use by minors; and a plan for continued monitoring and reporting on impacts to public health.
May 24, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, April 20, 2017
This 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.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
More notable comments about marijuana and federal enforcement from AG Sessions in new speech and Q&A
Over at my Sentencing Law & Policy blog, I have this new post highlights various aspects of this extended speech delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions today in Richmond, Virginia. Though covering various topics, these passages from the speech are sure to intrigue those following marijuana law, policy and reform:
Our nation is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014. According to the CDC, about 140 Americans on average now die from a drug overdose each day. That means every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks. Illegal drugs are flooding across our southern border and into cities across our country, bringing violence, addiction, and misery. We have also seen an increase in the trafficking of new, low-cost heroin by Mexican drug cartels working with local street gangs. As the market for this heroin expands, gangs fight for territory and new customers and neighborhoods are caught in the crossfire.
There are three main ways to fight the scourge of drugs: criminal enforcement, treatment and prevention. Criminal enforcement is essential to stop both the transnational cartels that ship drugs into our country, and the thugs and gangs who use violence and extortion to move their product. One of the President’s executive orders directed the Justice Department to dismantle these organizations and gangs — and we will do just that.
Treatment programs are also vital. But treatment often comes too late to save people from addiction or death. So we need to focus on the third way we can fight drug use: preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place.
I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.
In the ’80s and ’90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction. We can do this again. Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse.
In addition to these prepared remarks, AG Sessions also apparently had some interesting things to say during a Q&A after his speech. Tom Angell, in this new MassRoots posting, provides this report:
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is indicating that he might keep Obama-era marijuana enforcement guidelines in place, perhaps with some modifications. "The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama's Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid," he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters following a speech in Richmond, Virginia.
That memo, adopted in 2013, lays out guidelines for how states can avoid federal interference with their marijuana laws.
Sessions added that he "may have some different ideas myself in addition to that" but indicated that the federal government would not be able to enforce its remaining marijuana prohibition across the board in states with legalization. "Essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades," he said.
The attorney general also addressed medical cannabis, suggesting that it "has been hyped, maybe too much."
"It's possible that some dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial," he said. "But if you ever just smoke marijuana for example where you have no idea how much THC you're getting it's probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So, forgive me if I'm a bit dubious about that."
Monday, March 6, 2017
Pennsylvania's Auditor General suggests marijuana legalization could help state close budget deficit
A notable bean-counter is making a notable case for marijuana reform in the Keystone State. This official press release, headlined "Auditor General DePasquale Recommends Regulating, Taxing Marijuana as Right Move to Help Deal with Critical Issues: Result would bring in revenue, create jobs, reduce corrections costs," explains:
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today Pennsylvania should strongly consider regulating and taxing marijuana to benefit from a booming industry expected to be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 in the next decade. “The regulation and taxation of the marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” DePasquale said during a news conference at the state capitol.
“I make this recommendation because it is a more sane policy to deal with a critical issue facing the state. Other states are already taking advantage of the opportunity for massive job creation and savings from reduced arrests and criminal prosecutions. In addition, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that could help tackle Pennsylvania’s budget problems.”...
In 2012, Colorado voters approved legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. Last year, Colorado – which has less than half the population of Pennsylvania – brought in $129 million in tax revenue on $1 billion in marijuana sales from the new industry that had already created an estimated 18,000 jobs. “The revenue that could be generated would help address Pennsylvania’s revenue and spending issue. But there is more to this than simply tax dollars and jobs,” DePasquale said. “There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional, and financial devastation that may result from such arrests.”
In Colorado’s experience, after regulation and taxation of marijuana, the total number of marijuana arrests decreased by nearly half between 2012 and 2014, from nearly 13,000 arrests to 7,000 arrests. Marijuana possession arrests, which make up the majority of all marijuana arrests, were nearly cut in half, down 47 percent, and marijuana sales arrests decreased by 24 percent. “All told, this decrease in arrest numbers represent thousands of people who would otherwise have blemished records that could prevent them from obtaining future employment or even housing,” DePasquale said. “Decriminalization also generates millions in savings from fewer arrests and prosecutions.”
DePasquale said Pennsylvania has already benefited by some cities decriminalizing marijuana. In Philadelphia, marijuana arrests went from 2,843 in 2014 to 969 in 2016. Based on a recent study, the RAND Corporation estimated the cost for each marijuana arrest and prosecution is approximately $2,200. Using those figures, that’s a savings of more than $4.1 million in one Pennsylvania city. Last year, York, Dauphin, Chester, Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties each had more arrests for small amounts of marijuana than Philadelphia. Those counties had between 800 and 1,400 arrests in 2015.
“Obviously, regulation and taxation of marijuana is not something that should be entered into lightly,” DePasquale said. “Should Pennsylvania join the growing number of states benefiting financially and socially from the taxation and regulation of marijuana; there are many things to consider, including details about age limits, regulatory oversight, licensing, grow policies, sale and use locations, and possession limitations.
“As I said earlier, the train has indeed left the station on the regulation and taxation of marijuana,” DePasquale said. “It is time for this commonwealth to seriously consider this opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.”
March 6, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, February 25, 2017
This new lengthy Los Angeles Times article, headlined "California officials and the marijuana industry are ready to fight a federal crackdown," reports on what folks on the Left Coast are thinking and saying in the wake of the recent comments from White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggesting the Trump Administration might be ramping up federal enforcement of blanket marijuana prohibition. Here are excerpts:
Warned of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they were preparing for a potential showdown in the courts and Congress to protect the legalization measure approved by state voters in November.
The flashpoint that set off a scramble in California was a news conference Thursday at which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no plans to continue the Obama administration's permissive approach in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. "I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement,” he said, adding that the administration would continue to allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana for medical use.
The latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.
The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it was going ahead with its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers in January. “Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights of the 56% of voters who approved Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. “I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”
State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64. “We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.
Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort. “I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.
If the Justice Department starts arresting licensed marijuana sellers, the multibillion-dollar industry would join forces with the states that issue permits to challenge the action in court, said Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, including businesses in California. “This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”
Margolis would argue that it is a states’ rights issue. “The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs....
However, the states may find their hands tied legally if they try to keep federal agents from raiding and shutting down marijuana growing and sales operations, according to Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law. “I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.” He said there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government does have the authority to enforce federal drug laws.
Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes. “Let's face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.
Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs. States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64....
Because Spicer did not provide details on what an enforcement effort might look like, many in the industry hope it will focus on the illegal exporting of marijuana to other states, leaving alone state-licensed firms that grow and sell pot. “The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.
Prior related post:
White House press secretary hints of "greater enforcement" by feds of marijuana prohibition in recreational marijuana states
February 25, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (2)
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
As reported in this local article, "opposition to legal marijuana is dropping in Texas, with fewer than one in five respondents to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll saying they are against legalization in any form." Here is more on these poll results:
“We’ve seen this movie before on a couple of social issues,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. He thinks the changes in Texas have more to do with shifting attitudes than with news of legalization in other states. “There’s a little bit of normalization. I don’t think this is a states-as-laboratories issue. Voters don’t care about that kind of stuff.”
Overall, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use; 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use, the poll found. Two years ago, 24 percent of Texans said no amount of marijuana should be legal for any use and another 34 percent said it should be allowed only for medical use.
Legal pot is more popular with Democrats than Republicans, with men than with women, and with younger Texans more than older ones. All of those subgroups support legalization of marijuana for medical or nonmedical use. Among Democrats, 62 percent would legalize pot in some amount for nonmedical use, while only 41 percent of Republicans agreed. Sixty percent of men would support legalization of non-medical marijuana, compared with 48 percent of women. Among 18-44 year olds, 55 percent would approve of non-medical marijuana and 51 percent of 45 to 64-year-olds agreed. But only 38 percent of Texans 65 and older agreed.
“The number of people who want to keep marijuana completely illegal decreased by seven points,” said poll co-director Jim Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The commensurate shift is in Republicans saying small amounts should be legal, and those who said any amount should be legal increased by six points."
Friday, February 3, 2017
I’m happy to announce that my first-of-its-kind textbook on Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority will soon be published by Aspen. It will be out in April (in e form) and May (in print). The teacher’s manual and a companion website will be available soon thereafter. Many thanks to Doug and others who have provided helpful feedback on this book over the last 2.5 years!
The book covers a lot of ground, befitting a field that implicates so many different areas of law. The first chapter of the book is now available on SSRN. That chapter provides more details about the book’s coverage and approach, and it also explains why this is such an interesting and worthwhile area of law to study – and not just for those who are interested in practicing in this burgeoning field.
Not coincidentally, I will be posting more this month (both here and at Prawfsblawg) on topics drawn from the book. My first post at Prawfsblawg briefly laid out the case for teaching and writing about marijuana law. Even though most people who read this blog are already sold on the subject, I’ll copy the relevant passage here:
“For one thing, state marijuana reforms and the federal response to them have sparked some of the most challenging and interesting legal controversies of our day. May the states legalize a drug while Congress forbids it? Even so, are state regulations governing marijuana preempted by federal law? Does anyone (besides the DOJ) have a cause of action to challenge them as such? Can the President suspend enforcement of the federal ban? Do state restrictions on marijuana industry advertising violate the First Amendment? These are just a handful of the intriguing questions that are now being confronted in this field.
Just as importantly, there is a large and growing number of people who care about the answers to such questions. Forty-three (43) states and the District of Columbia have legalized possession and use of some form of marijuana by at least some people. These reforms – not to mention the prohibitions that remain in place at the federal level – affect a staggering number of people. Roughly 40% of adults in the U.S. have tried marijuana, and more than 22 million people use the drug regularly. To supply this demand, thousands of people are growing and selling marijuana. In Colorado alone, for example, there are more than 600 state licensed marijuana suppliers. There are also countless third parties who regularly deal with these users and suppliers, including physicians who recommend marijuana to patients, banks that provide payment services to the marijuana industry, firms that employ marijuana users, and lawyers who advise all of the above.
All of these people need help navigating a thicket of complicated and oftentimes conflicting laws governing marijuana. Colorado, for example, has promulgated more than 200 pages of regulations to govern its $1 billion a year licensed marijuana industry. Among many other things, Colorado’s regulations require suppliers to carefully track their inventories, test and label their products, and limit where and how they advertise. These regulations are complicated enough but doubts about their enforceability (highlighted in the questions above) only add to the confusion and the need for informed legal advice.”
In the coming weeks, I will blog about some of the questions noted above. In the meantime, if you are interested in teaching a course or a unit on any aspect of marijuana law, contact me – robert<dot>mikos<at>vanderbilt<dot>edu -- I would be happy to chat.
February 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Books, Business laws and regulatory issues, Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
Thursday, February 2, 2017
The Hill has this notable lengthy article, headlined "Marijuana lobby goes mainstream," highlighting the . Here are excerpts:
In a sign that the budding marijuana industry is moving away from the fringes and into the political mainstream, into the political mainstream, a number of officials once tasked with managing the growing legal cannabis sector are leaving their government positions to take jobs in the sector.
Many are advising states and cities as voters loosen marijuana restrictions across the country. Others are becoming industry advocates, lobbying the former colleagues and coworkers they left behind to craft more favorable rules and regulations.
In Colorado, Andrew Freedman, once the state’s director of marijuana coordination, and Lewis Koski, who headed the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, teamed up to form a consulting firm that advises local and state governments on crafting new marijuana regulations. Laura Harris, Koski’s predecessor at the Marijuana Enforcement Division, took a post this month as director of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
Manny Munson-Regala, who oversaw Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, now runs a consulting firm of his own. John O’Brien resigned his post overseeing New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to take a job as chief compliance officer of a New York cannabis company. And several former top officials at Washington State’s Liquor and Cannabis Board have left in recent years to form their own firms.
“That’s how America works. You work for the government, then you become a lobbyist,” said Ian Eisenberg, a leader in the legal marijuana industry who runs Uncle Ike’s, a dispensary in Seattle, Wash. “I don’t think it’s any different than the defense industry.”
Those who have made the jump from the government sector to the private sector say they offer a valuable service, both to governments that need to establish new rules and to the businesses that need to navigate complex regulatory schemes that have never been implemented before. “We’re the only ones to have stood this up before,” said Freedman, who now consults with governments looking to set up their regulatory structures. “There’s a real opportunity to come in and show lessons learned quickly.”...
But opponents of legalized pot, and some government transparency groups, say the relationship between the marijuana industry and its regulators should be treated like any other. “The revolving door from government to private sector isn’t anything new, but it represents the worst of our politics. This isn’t the paper clip or oven mitt lobby, this is the drug lobby,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization. And we know that the pot lobby wants to make money, just like big tobacco executives do.”
Aaron Scherb, legislative affairs director at the government transparency group Common Cause, said states should implement a cooling-off period between the time when a regulator leaves government service and when he or she begins working on behalf of the industry. “These individuals are the most familiar with the rules and regulations of a particular industry, and their experience means they’re able to exploit loopholes,” Scherb said. “At least some minimal amount of time is appropriate so we can avoid this revolving door problem.”
At least one state, Minnesota, required its regulators to take a year off before returning to work in the field they oversaw. Munson-Regala, the former head of the state’s medical marijuana program, said that reminded him of other industries he helped regulate, like the insurance business. “Embedded in that one-year cooling off period was an understanding that regulators are in a good position to help folks who are being regulated, in part because they understand what it takes to be compliant,” Munson-Regala said in an interview.
The revolving door is just one of the ways an industry that was once seen as the domain of hippies is trying to professionalize. Just a few years ago, proponents of legalizing marijuana brought 1970s-era stoner icon Tommy Chong to Capitol Hill to woo lawmakers. Today, Chong is gone, replaced by a booming industry of cultivators and retailers — and the trade shows, consultants and lobbyists who offer services to boost their business.
On Tuesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association kicked off a two-day Seed to Sale trade show in Denver, focusing on business practices for producers and retailers. The group’s first trade show several years ago attracted 800 participants; this year, they expect 2,000 vendors — and 4,000 to 5,000 at the annual Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, said Taylor West, the group’s deputy director. In November, 10,000 people showed up to another trade show in Las Vegas. “This industry is not slowing down,” West said.
Around the country, hundreds of lobbyists are already bending lawmakers’ ears on marijuana measures. In Colorado alone, 81 lobbyists reported advocating on marijuana proposals before the state legislature, according to data filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
February 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 5, 2016
Bring it, Jeff: why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive
The title of this post is my (foolish?) reaction to this notable new Politico magazine article headlined "Jeff Sessions’ Coming War on Legal Marijuana: There’s little to stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Here are excerpts from the start of the article which I follow with a (too brief) explanation for my blunt "bring it" bravado:
By nominating Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for attorney general, President-elect Donald J. Trump is about to put into the nation’s top law enforcement job a man with a long and antagonistic attitude toward marijuana. As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions said he thought the KKK "were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” In April, he said, “Good people don't smoke marijuana,” and that it was a "very real danger" that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions, who turns 70 on Christmas Eve, has called marijuana reform a "tragic mistake" and criticized FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing a the federal prohibition that President Obama has called “untenable over the long term.” In a floor speech earlier this year, Senator Sessions said: "You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
Sessions has not shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, but if he chooses, he will be able to act decisively and quickly — more so perhaps than with any other of his top agenda items such as re-doubling efforts to combat illegal immigration and relaxing oversight of local police forces and federal civil rights laws. With little more than the stroke of his own pen, the new attorney general will be able to arrest growers, retailers and users, defying the will of more than half the nation’s voters, including those in his own state who approved the use of CBD. Aggressive enforcement could cause chaos in a $6.7 billion industry that is already attracting major investment from Wall Street hedge funds and expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020.
And so far, Congress has shown no interest in trying to stop the Sessions nomination, at least on this issue. Even members who are in favor of protecting states from federal interference on the marijuana issue have said they support Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general: “I strongly support Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,” said Representative Tom McClintock, Republican from California. “He is a strict constitutionalist who believes in the rule of law. I would expect that he will respect the prerogative of individual states to determine their own laws involving strictly intra-state commerce.”
There are dozens of reasons I think it would be quite foolish as a matter of constitutional law and sound federal policing priorities for future Attorney General Jeff Sessions to start his tenure by using broad federal police powers to criminally prosecute tens of thousands of players in a growing recreational marijuana industry. This industry is already well-established and producing thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues in Colorado, Oregon and Washington; it is now gearing up for growth in Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Nevada and maybe Maine.
In the most simple of terms, it would be foolish for the Trump/Sessions Administration to try to "Make America Great Again" via tough federal pot prohibition enforcement because it would show to all who care to pay attention that the GOP's purported affinity for personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights is a huge bunch of hooey. But I genuinely believe that most younger GOP Senators — e.g., folks like Ted Cruz, my wish pick for AG, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott— have always voiced a genuine commitment to personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights. Consequently, I do not think these important GOP voices are going to be quick to bless any efforts by future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat.
Moreover, and completely missing from the facile analysis in this superficial Politico article, even if future AG Jeff Sessions were eager to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat for the emerging recreational marijuana industry, there will still be the bigger and stronger and much more consequential medical marijuana industry chugging along — especially in so many swing/red states that were critical to the election of Donald J. Trump circa 2016. I am thinking here specifically of now-red states like Arizona and Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those now-red states alone add up to nearly 100 electoral votes that a whole bunch of Dems would love to win back in 2018 and 2020; and they are all states that, I think, could easily go back into the Dem column if/when establishment Dems finally figure out that medical marijuana reform in a winning issue worth promoting forcefully. (I have blogged here an explanation for my claim in a post at my other blog that Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform.)
Importantly, in this post I have only outlined some obvious political/policy reasons for why I think it would be foolish (and ultimately unlikely) for future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal pot Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat. In a future post, assuming readers are interested, I can explain all the reasons I think the other two branches of the federal government — Congress and the federal judiciary — can and would and should find an array of means to "stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Given that Congress and federal judges over the last eight years have done a whole lot to preclude the Obama Administration from doing too much by executive fiat, everyone concerned about criminal justice and marijuana policy in the Trumpian future much keep in mind that the Framers gave us a wonderful federal system of check-and-balances that has been pretty effective at keeping the big bad federal government from doing too many stupid things that are obviously against the considered will of the people.
Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Reform
December 5, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?
In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).
I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)
I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.
This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.
November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, November 11, 2016
Thanks to Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority founder and Twitter fiend, I now have seen that CNN has great exit poll data detailing and breaking down by a variety of demographics who voted for and against the marijuana reform initiative in Arizona (which failed) and California (which passed).
For those who follow marijuana reform polling, many of these demographic data points are not surprising: younger voters supported legalization in both states much more than older voters. Democrats supported legalization in both states much more than Republicans. But there are also some really interesting distinctive data points to be found, such as:
In Arizona, the majority of voters making less than $100K were supportive of legalization, with those making less than $50K being the most supportive (at 53%). Among voters making more than $100K, a full 56% were against AZ legalization.
In Arizona, a strong majority of Latino voters supported legalization (60%), but a strong majority of white voters opposed legalization (55%)
In California, the majority of voters at all income levels supported legalization, but those making less than $100K did so by a much larger percentage.
In California, the majority of unmarried voters strongly supported legalization (64%), but a majority of married voters opposed legalization (52%), but it is really just married women (against 55%) and not married men (for 52%) who move the married voters into a majority no position.
- In California, the majority of voters saying no religion were huge supporters of legalization (76%), but protestants also were majority supporters (54%), but catholics were strongly opposed (61%).
November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, November 5, 2016
This new MarketWatch article, headlined "Marijuana ballot initiatives could get people who’ve done time for drugs back on their feet," reports on ways that marijuana reform efforts in California and other states could help unwind the drug war. Here are excerpts:
The war on drugs has disproportionately punished minority groups and the less fortunate for decades. Now, with five states set to vote on legalizing and regulating the recreational use and sale of marijuana on Nov. 8, the cannabis industry is using newfound support to undo the harm caused by the drug war....
As the cannabis industry grows and evolves, advocates and organizations are exploring ways to help those impacted by the war on drugs. “If we want to build a successful industry, it has to be diverse,” said Steve DeAngelo, executive director of medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center.
The problem is well documented. In 2015 there were 643,121 marijuana-related arrests in the U.S., according to the Drug Policy Alliance, 89% of which were for possession offenses that are often viewed as relatively minor. And while blacks use and sell drugs at a similar rate to whites, they are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
As sentiment has changed, more facts about the war on drugs have come to light. Former U.S. marshal and Drug Enforcement Administration agent Matthew Fogg, who is now running for Congress in Maryland’s fourth district, has said that during his time in law enforcement, he was directed to target black people and neighborhoods. “Race plays a very important part here,” Fogg said in a 2014 interview on CNN. “We were targeting black areas.”
On Nov. 8, five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will decide whether to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana. A recent Gallup poll shows that 60% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and recent election polling shows voters in each of the five states in favor of legalizing and regulating its adult use, production and retail sale, according to a Washington Post report....
And many see legalizing the drug as an opening to give back opportunities taken from those impacted by the war on drugs. For convicted felons, re-emerging into a legal cannabis landscape could prove difficult. Using California as the example, as it stands now, legislation governing whether medical-marijuana business licenses are granted to convicted felons is a patchwork of laws and discretionary decisions sewn by local governments. They grant and deny licenses on a case-by-case basis, said Steve DeAngelo, who is white.
DeAngelo, one of the industry’s pre-eminent advocates and businessmen, runs the largest medical-marijuana dispensary in the country in Harborside Health Center, helped to start a chain of marijuana testing labs and serves as president of influential cannabis investment network The ArcView Group.
Like many others, DeAngelo, who has been in the business for more than 40 years, worked on the black market and is a convicted felon. “It’s critically important this industry make a place for people of color, especially those hurt by the war on drugs,” said DeAngelo. “The cannabis industry is really different in that we were born out of this social-justice movement. There are some things government can and should address, but it’s also incumbent upon this industry to get this right.”...
California’s Proposition 64, which would legalize and regulate cannabis if passed on Tuesday, would not only offer resentencing, potentially reducing sentences for prisoners, but would give felons who have completed their sentences the opportunity to apply to have their criminal records revised.
It echoes a process in Oregon — a state where marijuana is legal — that allows people with a felony drug conviction to get criminal records expunged. Jesce Horton, co-founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said that his organization has worked to educate people about the process and added that other states are looking at it as an option.... Expunging records can have a far-reaching impact, said Horton. “Even for people who don’t want to get into the industry, this can really help them in life. A rising tide will lift all boats.”
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new piece by John Hudak at the Brookings FixGov website. I recommend the piece is full for all political junkies, and here are excerpts:
Much attention has been paid to the fact that several states are voting on marijuana initiatives this November. Five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—will vote on recreational legalization. Four more states—Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—will have medical marijuana on their ballots. In many places, polling is tight and there are no sure bets on passage (not even in the Golden State).
The presence of these initiatives on ballots is important in and of itself, and passage would mean tremendous drug policy changes in any state that votes to approve its initiative, but they could also have significant ripple effects on other elements of this year’s election. How might the ballot initiatives affect voter turnout, the outcomes of other races, or the accuracy of polling in these states?...
From a policy perspective, differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are significant. Medical markets are smaller, access to the product is more limited, and overall public support is higher for medical marijuana. That broader support also makes it harder to identify concrete and significant differences of opinion across demographic groups. For recreational marijuana, where support nationwide stands at around 60 percent divisions exist and they are significant. We know that Democrats support legalization at higher rates than do Republicans (and about the same as Independents). Men support legalization at higher rates than women. We also know that the younger you are, the more likely you are to support legalization. For instance, voters under the age of 30 support legalization at around 80 percent, while fewer than four-in-ten voters 65 and older support it....
For medical, it makes sense that differences are muted because overall support is higher. What adds to that trend is the product’s broader consumer base. While there are plenty of young medical marijuana patients in states that have passed reform, it is not necessarily a “young person” issue. Patients who swear by the therapeutic benefits of marijuana span age groups and, in fact, many qualifying conditions disproportionately affect voters aged 30 and over — think MS, ALS, arthritis, cancer, etc. Similarly, you don’t have to be young to be convinced by a relative or friend that medical marijuana is helping them. For voters of all ages, seeing is believing.
Having recreational marijuana on the ballot matters for more than just these initiatives in and of themselves. Advocates put the initiatives on the ballot in even numbered years — especially presidential election years because turnout is significantly higher. However, there is some evidence from 2012 that marijuana initiatives have coattails, too. Those coattails have meaningful effects up and down the ballot.... As I have written previously the 2012 initiatives in Colorado and Washington had unique impacts on turnout in those states.... Marijuana legalization impacted who turned out in 2012 and we should believe it may have similar effects in 2016.
It is no secret that when liberals turn out and younger voters turn out, it helps Democrats, ... [and] legalization initiatives have [had] a clear Democratic benefit. Reform supporters and those behind ballot initiatives strategically time measures to happen during presidential years in order to capitalize on the increased turnout. Yet, we know that the initiatives themselves can dramatically transform turnout and can have significant effects on other races as well.
With five recreational legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, what might it mean for the election generally? First, there is a clear Democratic benefit to these initiatives. In some states that may not matter, though. California and Massachusetts have ballot measures but they are not competitive in the presidential election and California’s Senate race is not competitive. In Maine, Arizona, and Nevada, however, there are competitive presidential contests. In the latter two, there are also competitive Senate races. Even though none of the candidates have embraced legalization, Hillary Clinton and Democrats across those ballots may see a bump because of changes in turnout. Democratic-leaning voters, who otherwise might have stayed home, could turn out to vote on marijuana reform. Some may leave other parts of the ballot blank, but Democrats could see a meaningful benefit overall. In a race that is close, a few thousand votes here or there could force an incumbent Republican Senator to pack up his office or shift a state’s electoral votes from red to blue....
If turnout among those under the age of 30 and among self-described liberals explodes in those five states [voting on reform initiatives], it could transform the outcome of many other races. It may also mean that the actual effect of Cannabis Coattails could lead pollsters to underestimate both support for Democrats and the support for the initiatives themselves. This really is not the fault of pollsters; it is a problem that stems from a lack of data. However, 2016 will provide additional data on the effect of marijuana initiatives on the composition of the electorate and the benefit for Democrats, so that the next time we face a similar situation — and 2020 will almost certainly have more legalization initiatives — pollsters will be better informed when designing poll samples and generating results.
None of this is to say that marijuana legalization initiatives will have a disruptive effect on the election. However, if Nevada’s Democratic Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto, narrowly defeats Joe Heck, or if Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick outpaces John McCain, or if Hillary Clinton manages to hold the electoral vote awarded from Maine’s Second Congressional District, it may not be a hard-fought campaign that made the difference. Such wins might occur because cannabis has a coattail effect — and even candidates who oppose legalization may find that marijuana was the medicine their campaign needed.
November 1, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, October 29, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this provocative article authored by David Schlussel now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Note suggests that "white individualism" has characterized many campaigns for the legalization of recreational marijuana, including in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. "White individualism" implicitly suggests that white, hard-working, middle-class, marijuana consumers are deserving beneficiaries of legalized marijuana. The white-washed framing of legal marijuana omits and implicitly reinforces marijuana prohibition’s racist legacy.
Marijuana criminalization was originally justified through racist propaganda; the war on drugs has been enacted through coded racial appeals; and marijuana enforcement has disproportionately fallen upon black and brown people. White individualism in marijuana legalization campaigns has tended to correlate with policies that favor white entrepreneurs rather than policies that redress past harms of prohibition, such as the expungement of criminal records.
Friday, October 21, 2016
On November 8, five states will consider legalizing recreational marijuana use--Arizona, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. While polls show majorities favor legalization in each state, the opposition has perhaps had the most success in a surprising place--Massachusetts. Joel Warner examines the battle over legalization there in this lengthy piece in The Boston Globe, writing in part:
Massachusetts may have seemed like a legalization shoo-in, but that’s not how things have been working out. After several early 2016 polls showed the pro side with a considerable lead, polls in May and July suggested a majority of voters opposed legalization and, until recently, online betting markets gave Question 4 less chance of winning than nearly all marijuana measures being tracked nationwide. While surveys over the past two months have given Question 4 a better shot at victory, don’t count out the opposition just yet. Massachusetts-born casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunch marijuana opponent, recently donated $1 million to fight passage of Question 4...
Around the United States, dozens of efforts to pass pro-marijuana initiatives have faced opposition from elected officials. But only in Massachusetts has a group of a state’s top brass joined together, across party lines, to formally oppose a legalization campaign.
The broadside began in March, when Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey co-authored a joint Boston Globe op-ed opposing legalization. A month later, Baker and Walsh launched their anti-Question 4 Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Eventually, Healey and more than 120 elected officials and 15 statewide organizations joined with the group.
The legalization campaign, which had until then enjoyed a year of favorable polling, took a big hit almost immediately. In April, one poll had voters supporting legalization by a 57 to 35 percent margin. But a month later, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll reported respondents opposing it 46 to 43 percent. Two months later, the opposition’s lead grew even wider: 51 to 41 percent.
Question 4’s sizable and unprecedented opposition could be in part happenstance, says Kris Krane, president of the Boston cannabis consulting and operations firm 4Front Ventures. “You have a governor who has very strong ties to the treatment community from his ties to health care,” he says. “And you have the mayor of Boston who is a recovering alcoholic and very anti-drug.” (4Front Ventures donates office space to the Yes on 4 campaign and has given it more than $35,000.)
Then there’s the state’s opioid crisis, which claimed more than 1,500 lives in 2015. Baker pledged to make combating addiction a top priority, working closely with Walsh and Healey last year to craft an opioid-control law — with a coalition in place to stop one kind of drug, the three then also opposed the legalization of another. “As we are addressing the opiate crisis, now is not the time to introduce an entirely new drug market,” says Corey Welford, spokesman for the campaign...
The Yes on 4 campaign argues that marijuana reform could actually help address the opioid epidemic. They point to studies that suggest that physicians prescribe fewer pain pills in states with legalized medical marijuana and that opioid overdose deaths are 25 percent lower in those locales. But when the state’s top officials and health experts link marijuana and opiate deaths, folks are bound to listen.
The legalization movement’s first response to its formidable opposition didn’t help. In Colorado, marijuana advocates made hay from the fact that Governor John Hickenlooper had once cofounded a brewery. The day after Walsh and Baker launched their campaign, the MPP-backed Yes on 4 team tried a similar approach, unveiling a sign depicting the two officials — who had supported additional Boston liquor licenses and longer bar operating hours — saying, “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!” In the face of widespread criticism, particularly in light of Walsh’s status as a recovering alcoholic, Luzier and Borghesani quickly apologized and scrapped the sign.
It was a hint that the MPP’s top-down approach to legalization campaigns might not work amid the deeply personal politics of Massachusetts...
Along the way, Massachusetts legalizers might have lost their ability to fully leverage one of their big arguments: that cannabis should be treated like booze. Originally, their initiative was titled the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, as similar MPP-backed efforts are called in Maine, Nevada, and Arizona. But by August, the Massachusetts campaign was known simply as Yes on 4.
Daunting adversaries aren’t the legalization campaign’s only problem. There’s also the lack of unified support from those who are supposedly on its side...
Even medical-marijuana advocates are struggling with Question 4. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which supports the 36,000-plus medical-marijuana patients statewide, is remaining neutral. That’s partly because the organization doesn’t want to jeopardize its relationships with public health officials, says the Alliance’s executive director Nichole Snow. But it’s also because in other states recreational marijuana has had a way of eclipsing patient needs. “The marijuana industry has great potential for crowding out advocacy groups,” Snow says. “Business interests are going to outnumber the patients. I have already seen it happen.”
Earlier this year, Washington state shut down nearly all its roughly 1,500 medical dispensaries, forcing most medical marijuana patients to buy their cannabis, at a slightly discounted price, from recreational shops. Even if Massachusetts didn’t go the same route after legalization, market forces could have the same effect. Legalization “slows the growth of medical markets,” a recent analysis by a cannabis investor network concluded. But though that’s bad for medical marijuana investors, it can be good for consumers, who benefit from falling prices and broader selection amid the competition.
Despite these obstacles to legalization, the likelihood that Bay Staters will be free to legally light up in the near future is good. Recent polls show a majority of likely voters support legalization in the state; according to one poll, support for legalization has grown from 50 percent in September to 55 percent this month, increasing the polling advantage for the question's supporters from 5 to 15 percent.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
This Hartford Courant article, headlined "Massachusetts Marijuana Vote Could Mean Legalization Across New England," highlights reasons why I expect the recreational marijuana legalization initiative vote in the Bay State to have important ripple effects well beyond the state's borders. Here are excerpts from the piece:
As a multimillion dollar fight over recreational marijuana in Massachusetts races toward the finish line, both sides of the debate in Connecticut are keeping a close eye on a vote that could open the door to legalization across New England.
Massachusetts is one of five states where measures to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will also vote on the issue. An affirmative vote in Maine or Massachusetts would bring legal recreational marijuana to the region for the first time, putting new pressure on those in the state that oppose expanded marijuana use.
Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor's Prevention Partnership, said her group wasn't yet willing to shift the dialogue from opposing recreational marijuana use to figuring out the best way to regulate it. At the same time she acknowledged how legal cannabis across the border would complicate that fight. "We're staying focused on opposition," Spineti said. "But I do believe that if Massachusetts approves it, it will be much harder to oppose it here."
There's also the question of people crossing the border to buy marijuana. Something Spineti said some Connecticut employers have raised concerns about.
It's been almost two years since a public opinion poll asked Connecticut voters about marijuana legalization. In that March 2015 Quinnipiac Poll, 63 percent of voters said they supported allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.... A legalization and taxation bill was introduced last year [in Connecticut] and had about a dozen Democratic co-sponsors. An informal informational hearing was held with experts on both sides offering testimony before interested legislators.
Proponents of the bill said Connecticut would be losing out on valuable tax dollars if it wasn't the first state in New England to move forward with recreational marijuana legalization. State Rep. Vin Candelora, a Republican from North Branford who opposed the bill, said lawmakers shouldn't see tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana as a solution to the state's budget problems. He called it "blood money."...
Rep. Edwin Vargas, a Hartford Democrat who supported the marijuana legalization bill, said money that is funding criminal enterprises would instead be directed toward state government. Drug dealers would see their business undercut, he said, and fewer youths would be arrested for dealing.
"I knew all along this was going to sweep the states after the success in Colorado," Vargas said. Colorado, the first state to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use, brought in $130 million in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. "The only thing I feel bad about is we could have been first in the area and established the industry here. The one that establishes the industry first has a huge advantage."
At the University of Massachusetts last week, Rick Steves, an author and travel host who helped with the marijuana legalization effort in his home state of Washington, talked about the tax benefit. But he also made a civil liberties and criminal justice argument. "I'm a hardworking, kid-raising, church-going, taxpaying American citizen," he told the crowd of about 100 students and residents. "If I work hard all day long, want to go home, smoke a joint and just stare at the fireplace for three hours, that's my civil liberty."
Steves said marijuana could be regulated like alcohol. He didn't buy arguments by opponents who say it's a gateway drug, or that legalizing marijuana will lead to increased use by youths. "The opponents of these initiatives and moves to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, they cherry-pick their problems and they don't recognize that the major problem is with us right now — its called the status quo. We're arresting hundreds of thousands of people every year for nonviolent marijuana crimes. They're not rich white people, they're poor people and people of color. That's a real problem."
Steves acknowledged the difficulty getting marijuana legalized through a legislative effort rather than by ballot. Lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island had bills that progressed further than Connecticut's but neither were adopted. But public opinion is shifting. A national Pew poll released last week showed 57 percent of adults were in favor of legalizing marijuana use, up from 32 percent 10 years ago. "Politicians are realizing that the days when somebody could condemn you as being soft on drugs are slipping away," Steves said. "I don't think the issue is are you soft on drugs or are you hard on drugs. Now the issue is are you smart about drug policy reform?"
But even in Massachusetts most of the political establishment has shied away from supporting the ballot initiative. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healy and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both Democrats, are against it. As is U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy. The "yes" campaign has fought back with television advertising and a substantial campaign war chest, including more than $3 million in contributions from a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis reform advocacy group.
October 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)