Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New report highlights persistent racial skew in marijuana arrests in New York City

Earlier this week, as reported in this press release, a new report focused on New York City was released "by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, [which] shows that marijuana possession arrests under Mayor de Blasio continue to be marked by extremely high racial disparities, as was the case under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations." Here is more about the report from the press release:

The report, Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York, shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues to make large numbers of unjust and racially-targeted marijuana arrests.  The report is based on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to end racially-biased policing, in 2016 marijuana possession was New York City’s fourth most commonly charged criminal offense.  Black and Latino New Yorkers continue to comprise 85 percent of the more than 60,000 people arrested for low-level marijuana possession on Mayor de Blasio’s watch.  Most people arrested are young Blacks and Latinos – even though studies consistently show young whites use marijuana at higher rates....

Key findings include the following:

  • In the first three years of the de Blasio administration, the NYPD made over 60,000 criminal arrests for the lowest-level marijuana possession offense, an average of 20,000 marijuana arrests a year.

  • The NYPD’s marijuana arrests under de Blasio suffer from the same overwhelming racial disparities as under Bloomberg – about 86% of the arrests for marijuana possession are of Blacks and Latinos.

  • As in previous years, in 2016 and in the first four months of 2017, 81% of the people arrested for marijuana were age 16 to 34, 58% were 16 to 25 and 27% were age 16 to 20.

  • Residents of New York City’s public housing developments constitute the single largest group of people arrested.  In 2016, NYPD housing police made 21% of the city’s total of 18,121 arrests for marijuana possession and 92% of those arrested were Blacks and Latinos.

  • Of New York City’s 76 neighborhood police precincts, 37 neighborhoods have a majority of Black and Latino residents.  They have about half the city’s population but provide 66% of the marijuana possession arrests and 92% of the people arrested are Blacks and Latinos.

  • Police in New York also target neighborhoods in midtown and lower Manhattan with active nightlife. Although pedestrians in those areas are predominately white, police arrest Blacks and Latinos at very high rates.

  • In 2016, in Greenwich Village, 69% of the people arrested for marijuana possession were Blacks and Latinos.  In Chelsea, 77% were Blacks and Latinos.  In Soho-Tribeca-Wall St. 73% were Blacks and Latinos. In tourist-heavy Little Italy and Chinatown, 66% of the people arrested for marijuana possession were Blacks and Latinos.

  • In 2016, police enforcement targeted people of color, especially Blacks, everywhere in New York City.  In Manhattan, Blacks are 13% of the residents but 45% of the people arrested for marijuana possession.  In Queens, Blacks are 18% of the residents but 49% of the people arrested for marijuana.  And in Staten Island, Blacks are 10% of the residents but 49% of the people arrested for marijuana possession.

  • The rates of NYPD arrests for marijuana possession per 100,000 of the population are extremely skewed. In Queens, police arrest Blacks at seven times the rate of whites.  In Manhattan they arrest Blacks at 10 times the rate of whites.  And in Staten Island the NYPD arrests Blacks at 15 times the rate of whites.

July 13, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Another accounting of the big drop in traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington

Wa_b9a991a80a9f2dbe4e216f8a9e0cdfc4.nbcnews-ux-600-480In this recent post I noted The Marshall Project article discussing data showing many fewer traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington.   This new NBC News article, headlined "Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana," covers similar ground. Here are excerpts of this reporting of fascinating data:

Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012.  That also reduced the racial disparities in the stops, according to a new analysis of police data, but not by much.  Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates than whites.  Highway stops have long been a tool in the war on drugs, and remain a charged issue amid a furious national debate about police treatment of minorities....

The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers.  “Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community," said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice in Boston.  "Have a police officer search your car is really like, 'Why are they doing this to me?' And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”

The analysis comes from data crunched by the Stanford Open Policing Project....  The data compiled by the Stanford group is limited in that it is not uniform across states. Each of the country's law enforcement agencies track traffic stops differently, and some don't release the data publicly.  In the end, the group compiled data from 20 states that was deep enough to allow a rigorous analysis.  Colorado and Washington were compared against 12 of these states to arrive at the conclusion that marijuana legalization likely had an effect on search rates.

In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year.  In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization.  The search rate remained low thereafter.  The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops.

The biggest finding ─ and one that mirrors the results of investigations in individual states and jurisdictions ─ is that minorities are still stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers.  The threshold before a search is performed is also lower for minority drivers than it is for whites, according to the researchers at Stanford behind the Open Policing Project.  Those differences remained in Colorado and Washington even after searchers dropped following pot legalization.

Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that although the disparities persisted, the overall drop in searches means that fewer minorities would be unfairly targeted. "As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious," Glaser wrote in an email.

Prior related post:

"How to Cut Down on Traffic Stops: Legalize Pot"

June 24, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 16, 2017

New report from ACLU of NJ: "Unequal & Unfair: New Jersey’s War on Marijuana Users"

Mariajuna_arrestsAs noted in this recent post, a coming election for Governor in New Jersey suggests the possibility of coming major marijuana reform in the Garden State.  With that possibility clearly in mind, the ACLU of New Jersey has released this new report on marijuana enforcement in the state titled "Unequal & Unfair: New Jersey’s War on Marijuana Users."  This press release and this webpage provides highlights from the 70-page report, and here is an excerpt from the executive summary: 

New Jersey’s arrest practices for marijuana possession illustrate the failure of marijuana enforcement. They have a devastating impact of aggressive, costly, racially disparate punishment for use of a drug that for adults is less dangerous than alcohol. For the first time ever, the analysis in this report takes a deep dive into New Jersey’s marijuana possession arrest practices. What it finds is deeply troubling: New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever in a manner that is more racially disparate than ever.

Indeed, our marijuana arrest problem is getting worse, not better.

Key findings of the report include:

New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever before.  In 2013, New Jersey law enforcement made 24,067 marijuana possession arrests, 26 percent more than in 2000, when police made 19,607 arrests.  Between 2000 and 2013, New Jersey police made nearly 280,000 total marijuana possession arrests.

Police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes.  This plays out with varying frequency around the state. Cape May was the county with the highest per capita arrest rate in 2013, and the 28th Legislative District, represented by Senator Ron Rice and Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Cleopatra Tucker, was the district with the highest per capita arrest rate that year. Seaside Park in Ocean County had the highest per capita arrest rate of any community in the state.

Racial disparities in New Jersey marijuana arrests are at an all-time high.  The racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests reached an all-time high in 2013. That year, Black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates. In 2000, Blacks were 2.2 times more likely to be arrested than Whites, an increase of 34 percent. In 2013, Blacks were 11.3 times more likely to be arrested than whites in the 21st Legislative District. And in Point Pleasant Beach, Blacks were 31.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2013 — the highest racial disparity of any municipality included in the study.

New Jersey wastes more than $143 million per year to enforce our marijuana possession laws.  Adding up the cost of police, courts, and corrections, New Jersey expends tremendous resources to implement and enforce marijuana prohibition. Indeed, throughout the past decade, New Jersey has spent more than $1 billion to enforce these laws. These are resources that could be invested in treatment, education, prevention, or other community needs.

Nine out of ten marijuana arrests are of users, not dealers.  In 2013, marijuana possession arrests made up 88 percent of total marijuana arrests statewide. In other words, nearly nine out of 10 arrests made for marijuana were not of dealers or kingpins, but rather New Jerseyans who possessed the lowest amount counted by New Jersey law. In Monmouth County, this number reached 95 percent. It was 97 percent in the 8th Legislative District. In 14 New Jersey communities included in the study, 100 percent of arrests were for low-level possession in 2013.

These findings are particularly troubling when one understands the potential collateral: jail, loss of one’s job, a criminal record for at least three years, driver’s license suspension, up to $1,255 in fines and fees, and potential consequences for one’s immigration status, financial aid eligibility, access to public housing, and the ability to adopt children.

June 16, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Battling the racial roadblocks to joining the legalized marijuana trade"

Download (2)The title of this post is the headline of this lengty new Washington Post article which highlights racialized realities in the marijuana industry.  Here are excerpts:

States generally do not track the race and ethnicity of license applicants, but industry analysts and researchers say that dispensaries and the more-profitable growing operations across the country are overwhelmingly dominated by white men.

The lack of minority representation is especially fraught given that research shows African Americans were disproportionately arrested and incarcerated during the war on drugs. Now that marijuana is seen as a legitimate business, advocates argue that minorities should also reap the profits....

The marijuana trade, legal in some form in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries. The $6.6 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2016 is expected to expand to $16 billion by 2020, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis data analytics company headquartered in the District.

But African Americans seeking to go into business as growers or retailers face a host of hurdles, researchers say. Many states bar convicted drug felons from the industry, disproportionately hurting minorities because of historically higher conviction rates. Others have set high investment requirements. Some dole out licenses through appointed commissions that industry researchers say reward the politically connected, who by and large are wealthy and white.

“Marijuana legalization without racial justice risks being an extension of white privilege,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist for Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for drug policy reforms.

The disparities have become such a source of consternation for some lawmakers and industry leaders that more than half a dozen states and municipalities, including Oakland and the District, are taking steps to boost minorities in the competitive licensing process....

Colorado, one of the earliest states to legalize marijuana, has nearly 1,000 dispensary licenses and nearly 1,500 cultivation licenses. African Americans make up less than a handful of license holders, according to cannabis entrepreneurs in the state. Wanda James, a former Navy lieutenant who says she’s one of the few black growers and dispensary owners in Colorado, blames regulations barring those convicted of drug crimes from owning, and working in, a dispensary or cultivation center.

“In Colorado, if you sell 10 pounds of cannabis today, you probably get written up in Forbes about what a great businessperson you are, but if a young black man sells a dime bag on a street corner in Alabama, he’s probably going to jail for 10 years,” she said. A black person is nearly four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though the two groups use marijuana at similar rates, according to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report that examined arrests in every state using a decade’s worth of FBI crime data....

Jesce Horton, an Oregon marijuana entrepreneur who started the Minority Cannabis Business Association in 2015 to diversify the industry, said that as a college student in Florida, he was arrested three times for marijuana possession. His criminal record would have barred him from entering the business in other states. “It’s really a slap in the face to communities who have been targeted,” Horton said. “A lot of people see these as racist regulations. These are fear-based tactics by legislators who are more than willing to go along with the business interests sitting in the room.”

Some states also require applicants to have financial holdings upward of $1 million, a particularly high bar given the documented wealth disparities between blacks and whites. Those without ready access to capital cannot turn to banks, which are unwilling to provide business loans for an industry that is still illegal at the federal level....

Even with potential shifts in federal drug-enforcement policies, several jurisdictions have moved to address racial disparities in the industry. Oakland recently voted to set aside half of all marijuana business permits for people who had been arrested for drug crimes in the city or lived in neighborhoods with high marijuana arrests.

Illinois, like Pennsylvania, awards extra points to minority applicants. Ohio requires 15 percent of licenses to be issued to minorities. Florida has reserved one of its future marijuana-cultivation licenses for a member of the state’s Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. Maryland marijuana regulators, meanwhile, are fending off a lawsuit that threatens to halt its program after no black-owned businesses won cultivation licenses.

Some prior related posts:

June 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable commentary and stories about mothers and marijuana

Especially because I have long loved and respected all the mothers in my life, I am always drawn to motherly perspectives on marijuana and also to considering the various potential connections between mothering and marijuana.  Accordingly, these recent commentaries and stories on these kinds of topics caught my attention:

From ABC News here, "Doctors worried about increased marijuana use in pregnant women"

From Babble here, "Inside the Private World of Mothers Who Smoke Weed"

From Creators here, "A Conservative Mom Breaks the Pot Taboo"

From Metro (UK) here, "Weed-smoking Mums are sick of being judged by wine-drinking Mums"

June 2, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Highlighting notable state efforts to enhance minority participation in marijuana industry

This new AP article, headlined "Growing pot industry offers breaks to entice minorities," reviews some efforts in some jurisdictions to help some minorities participating in the emerging marijuana industry. Here are excerpts:

Oakland and other cities and states with legal pot are trying to make up for the toll marijuana enforcement took on minorities by giving them a better shot at joining the growing marijuana industry.... The efforts' supporters say legalization is enriching white people but not brown and black people who have been arrested for cannabis crimes at far greater rates than whites....

Massachusetts' ballot initiative was the first to insert specific language encouraging participation in the industry by those "disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." The law does not specify how that would be accomplished.

In Ohio, a 2016 medical pot law included setting aside 15 percent of marijuana-related licenses for minority businesses. In Pennsylvania, applicants for cultivation and dispensing permits must spell out how they will achieve racial equity. Florida lawmakers agreed last year to reserve one of three future cultivation licenses for a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association.

There have been setbacks as well. The Maryland General Assembly adjourned last month without acting on a bill to guarantee a place for minority-owned businesses that were not awarded any of the state's initial 15 medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

There's no solid data on how many minorities own U.S. cannabis businesses or how many seek a foothold in the industry. But diversity advocates say the industry is overwhelmingly white. The lack of diversity, they say, can be traced to multiple factors: rules that disqualify people with prior convictions from operating legal cannabis businesses; lack of access to banking services and capital to finance startup costs; and state licensing systems that tend to favor established or politically connected applicants. "It's a problem that has been recognized but has proven to be relatively intractable," said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation....

The Minority Cannabis Business Association has drafted model legislation for states considering new or revised marijuana laws, including language to expunge pot-related convictions and to encourage racial and gender diversity among cannabis businesses. "The people who got locked up should not get locked out of this industry," said Tito Jackson, a Boston city councilman and mayoral candidate. He suggests Massachusetts give licensing preference to groups that include at least one person with a marijuana conviction....

An Oakland-based nonprofit known as The Hood Incubator provides training and mentoring to minority cannabis entrepreneurs. "Maybe they lack the money to get into the industry or they might have, you know, gotten arrested in the past for oh, what do you know? Selling weed. And now they can't actually get into the legal industry," said Ebele Ifedigbo, one of the group's three co-founders.

This related AP article provides a details state-by-state run down of efforts to aid minority participation in the marijuana industry.

May 31, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Older Women and Medical Marijuana: A New Growth Industry"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy New York Times article.  Here are excerpts:

Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left the hospital, her doctors handed her a “shopping bag filled with opiates,” she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her pharmaceuticals.

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to stash their drugs. “Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and I thought, ‘Why are we sneaking around like guilty teenagers?’” Ms. Moss said.

In 2015, she started a business called AnnaBis, a line of aroma-controlled handbags, clutches, vape cases and other pot-related accessories. Soon after, she began publishing cannabis-friendly travel guides exclusively for women — becoming one of a small but growing number of older women who are marijuana entrepreneurs.

“What other industry is growing so fast there’s the opportunity and low cost of entry?” Ms. Moss said. “Entrenched opportunities already have their systems set up. This hasn’t been created yet.”

Her story is typical of the women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have started up businesses in the world of pot. Inspired partly by their own use of the drug for pain relief, or by caring for others who use it for their own aches, these women see viable business opportunities and view their work as therapeutic for their customers. “It’s definitely a trend,” said Troy Dayton, the chief executive and a co-founder of the Arcview Group, an investment and market research firm that focuses on the cannabis industry....

There seems to be a market for such services: A study of 47,140 participants released in December, based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that cannabis use among adults ages 50 to 64 had increased nearly 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, while use by people 65 and older had risen 250 percent.

Ms. Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, used to think marijuana was a “hard-core drug like crack or cocaine,” she said. “If someone would have told me 12 years ago that I’d be an advocate for cannabis, I’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking too much.’” But now? “I get so much gratification from this work, and it’s so rewarding to see people get healed,” she said. “My life is better than ever. I’m healthy, and I’m starting a new business at 69.”

May 27, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Why Women Founders Are Ruling Legal Marijuana"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Looking at marijuana reform in black and white

Though a number of folks in a number of ways have brought a critical race perspective to discussion of marijuana law, policy and reform, I still think this topic always merits even more extensive and thoughtful attention.  Thus, I am very pleased that a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is planned a presentation on racial issues surrounding marijuana reform.  And here are materials this student sent my way in preparation for the class presentation and discussion next week:

ACLU Report, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests"

Seattle Times article, "Minorities, punished most by war on drugs, underrepresented in legal pot"

Huffington Post commentary, "A Big Shift Is Necessary to Successfully Market Cannabis to Minorities"

 

March 24, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Cannabis use disorder and suicide attempts in Iraq/Afghanistan-Era veterans"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research appearing in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. Here is the abstract:

The objective of the present research was to examine the association between lifetime cannabis use disorder (CUD), current suicidal ideation, and lifetime history of suicide attempts in a large and diverse sample of Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans (N = 3233) using a battery of well-validated instruments. As expected, CUD was associated with both current suicidal ideation (OR = 1.683, p = 0.008) and lifetime suicide attempts (OR = 2.306, p < 0.0001), even after accounting for the effects of sex, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol use disorder, non-cannabis drug use disorder, history of childhood sexual abuse, and combat exposure. Thus, the findings from the present study suggest that CUD may be a unique predictor of suicide attempts among Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans; however, a significant limitation of the present study was its cross-sectional design. Prospective research aimed at understanding the complex relationship between CUD, mental health problems, and suicidal behavior among veterans is clearly needed at the present time.

January 31, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A (sexist?) look into challenges facing "pot moms" ... aka women working in the medical marijuana industry

CBS News has this notable (and sexist?) new segment about some women working in the medical marijuana industry.  The piece is given the headlined "'Pot moms' share passions and anxieties about their profession," and here are excerpt from the coverage:

Marijuana is now legal in some form in more than half of all states, and more women are legally getting into the pot industry -- many of them are moms.  At a medical marijuana cultivation center in Washington, CBS News correspondent Chip Reid spoke to a group of so-called “pot moms” who fight the stigma of their job.

“PTSD, depression, insomnia, eczema – is there anything that marijuana does not help with?” Reid asked one mom. “I don’t know yet,” Chanda Macias said, laughing. Macias calls herself a pharmacist. But the medical marijuana she is licensed to distribute, while legal in D.C., is illegal under federal law.

“When you see our patients come in every day and they say that, ‘I can have a quality of life,’ to me, that’s my purpose,” Macias said.  The former cell biologist has a PhD and an MBA. But first and foremost, she’s a mother to four children.

“So your seven-year-old, MJ, has he ever seen this room?” Reid asked. “Oh no, he hasn’t seen this room,” she said....  “It’s okay for people to judge me based upon what I’ve chosen to do, but it’s very hurtful for them to judge my son where he’s innocent in this,” Macias said.  That’s why she needs help.

“What do you call this group by the way, do you just say the group?” Reid asked a group of women in the industry, including Macias.  “Support group,” Macias said.  “Canna-moms,” Shawnta Hopkins-Greene said.  “My buds!” Leah Heise said.

All of these buds participate in this budding industry, and all of them are moms.  “I didn’t have any problem with the sex talk,” said Jennifer Culpepper, a mom of two. “And I think it was ‘cause I had a book to go with.”

The inside jokes these mothers tell here deal with the stigma surrounding their jobs. “I don’t want my kids to have their friends’ parents say, ‘Oh, you’re not allowed to go to their house,’” Culpepper said.

“When I first decided to come into the industry, I had a lot of concerns because I was a licensed attorney. So I had to decide and I chose that I was going to go outside the box, and I was going to risk my license to do this,” said Heise, a mother of two teenage girls.

Only Macias actually dispenses the drug.  The others are involved in other aspects of the industry.  Leah Heise is an attorney and president of a company that recently earned a license to dispense medical marijuana in Maryland.  “Some of the biggest anxieties that we all share, regardless of whether we touch the plant or not, is this concept that our businesses are at risk,” Heise said. “So our incomes are at risk. And that is an issue that comes up with my kids a lot.”

Hopkins-Greene guides medical marijuana patients through the regulatory red tape.  She has a 10-year-old. “For me, the challenge is just every time I answer a question, it leads to more questions with my son. But I have that relationship with him where I will answer it. I try to answer it in an age-appropriate way,” Hopkins-Greene said. “But he can ask me anything and he does.”

Culpepper’s company does brand strategy and graphic design for the marijuana industry. “I do feel like I have a timeline because my nine-year-old has one more year in elementary school and I think that she cannot enter middle school without having this conversation,” Culpepper said.

“As moms, are you all a little nervous about going this public about what you do?” Reid asked. “No, I’m not. I’m wide out there,” Heise said. The other women also shook their heads.

“So all of you with young children are going to let your children watch this story on TV?” Reid asked. “I might screen it first,” Culpepper said, laughing.

When I first saw the headline of this segment, I assumed (wrongly) that the piece was about mothers who work on being able to give forms of cannabis to their kids for medical reasons. But upon realizing the CBS News piece is only about women working in the marijuana industry who have children, the segment struck me as a bit sexist because presumably men with children working in this industry face similar types of issues.

I am fully aware of and interested in hearing more about how the stigma surrounding marijuana impacts the industry and the families of those working in the industry. But I wonder if we undermine commitments to gender equality here and elsewhere when we suggest that there is a unique set of problems for "moms" in the industry rather than just "parents."

That said, I am fully aware of the fact that women and mothers are judged by society in ways that are often quite distinct from how men and fathers are judged. Thus, I want to be clear that I can see the value and virtues of taking a gendered look at the issue of "pot parents." Nevertheless, I would be very eager to hear from readers (especially those in the industry) about whether they this this CBS News segment does more good than harm or more harm than good.

January 25, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"The Growing Movement for Marijuana Amnesty"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Atlantic piece, which carries the subheadline "As legalization spreads, so do calls to ease sentences for those convicted of possessing pot." Here are excerpts:

Colorado, which legalized marijuana for recreational usage in the 2012 elections, doesn’t allow anyone with a felony marijuana conviction in the last decade to apply for a retail marijuana business license — this in a state where African-Americans are more than three times more likely and Latinos 1.5 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites.  So even though arrests are down 81 percent since 2012, there’s a whole host of black and brown people in the state who will be excluded from participation in the legalized industry for almost another decade.

Activists have, however, learned some lessons from the Colorado experience. “The devastation of communities of color by the war on drugs was always a top priority for people working on this issue,” said Shaleen Title, a marijuana activist on the board of Marijuana Majority and the founder of THC Staffing Group. “But what we started seeing in 2012, and particularly as there started to be a big business incentive for legalization, was less focus on the social justice issues.”  This is, in part, because some newer proponents of legalization either didn’t focus on it or worried that introducing the issue of racial justice would impede the effort to legalize.  “It’s very well documented that it’s black and brown people who have borne the brunt of prohibition,” she added, noting that only one of Colorado’s 500 marijuana dispensaries is owned by an African-American woman. “When we pass these laws, we have to address that. We can’t just start from scratch and expect for that to be fair.”

Title was part of a coalition of activists in Massachusetts that made sure that the state’s ballot initiative in 2016 allowed people with marijuana-only convictions to be licensed marijuana business holders. It also forced the issue of broader amnesty for marijuana convictions.  “The war on drugs has been a racially discriminatory disaster and legalization should be an opportunity to try to correct that and make amends for past wrongs,” explained Tom Angell, the chairman of Marijuana Majority, which is devoted to reforming the country’s marijuana laws.  “But there’s still a lingering, outdated, and cruel attitude that people who broke the law should be punished as much as possible, even if it prevents them from fully participating in society.”...

California’s 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for recreational purposes set up a system providing for the reclassification and/or expungement of marijuana-related offenses. For those still serving sentences, there will also be opportunities for resentencing. It’s likely to have an impact on a significant number of Californians: The ACLU says that nearly 20,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession even after the state decriminalized possession in 2011.

In Oregon, which legalized recreational marijuana by ballot initiative in 2014, the law did not have an explicit expungement provision — but it did allow people with marijuana-related crimes to qualify for licensure to own a legal marijuana business.  Then, in 2015, the legislature passed a law allowing anyone with a marijuana conviction to apply for expungement if the act for which they were convicted — like possession, growing marijuana, or growing in excess of what was deemed allowable for medical use — is no longer considered a crime.

There are fees associated with expungement — as there are in most states — and the process requires legal assistance, which is why the Minority Cannabis Business Association, in partnership with the cannabis company Marley Natural, held its first-ever expungement clinic in Portland, which helped 30 clients. Jeannette Ward, the vice chair of the MCBA, noted that, because of Oregon’s law allowing people with convictions for marijuana-related offenses to participate in the legal system, the clinic wasn’t about helping potential marijuana business owners.  “We do it because the war on drugs targeted people of color,” she said, “and we want to take the profits from companies that are making money and try to rebalance the scales of the detrimental wars on drugs.”...

The impacts of a marijuana arrest, let alone a conviction, can be profound.  “Arrest is just one moment,” explained Jenny Roberts, a professor and the co-director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at the American University Washington College of Law.  “And then that moment is determinant of so many things down the line. One moment of racially disparate policing becomes a moment that follows people throughout their life.”  She noted that criminal records can — legally or not — affect arrestees’ employment prospects, their ability to find housing, and even their ability to travel outside the country—even if they aren’t convicted of any crime.  “We treat too many acts in this country as things that need to be processed through the criminal justice system,” she said. “Everyone knows that you can go around and arrest many, many people for marijuana, but we all know who actually gets arrested for it,” she added. “Policies that end up in racially disparate arrests are unfair and have much broader impacts than just the arrests.”

December 21, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"Can Oakland, a new capital of legal weed, undo the injustices of the war on drugs?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this lengthy and interesting recent California Sunday Magazine article. Here are excerpts:

Last year, U.S. legal marijuana was a $5.4 billion business, and that figure is expected to quadruple by 2020. According to one 2016 estimate, the industry and supporting businesses already employ between 100,000 and 150,000 people in the U.S., more than General Motors.  California’s recent vote to legalize recreational marijuana   — medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996  —  created the world’s largest legal market and sent the clearest signal yet that widespread legalization is inevitable. (Seven other states legalized medical or recreational marijuana as well.)

The most glaring irony of legalization is that for decades black and Latino communities have disproportionately suffered under harsh drug laws, and now, with those laws in retreat, the entrepreneurs cashing in on the booming business are overwhelmingly white.  California, like the four states that had previously legalized recreational pot, imposes restrictions on convicted felons joining the industry; some states also require business-license applicants to demonstrate cash reserves of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.  Both criteria weigh heavily against minority entrepreneurs seeking to enter the industry....

A diverse city with a history of tolerant pot laws, Oakland was hoping to lead the way in creating an industry that compensates for the racial inequalities of the past, but it was struggling with how to translate decades of injustice into still-hypothetical profits.  Weeks earlier, Oakland’s city council had passed a remarkable, first-of-its-kind “equity amendment,” guaranteeing 50 percent of cannabis business licenses to former marijuana felons and to residents of several neighborhoods considered especially damaged by the war on drugs.  In public statements, Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks, who introduced the amendment, made clear that her intention was to foster minority-owned businesses.  “When you look at the cannabis industry here with respect to the ownership, it is predominantly white,” she said from the podium in the drab chamber of Oakland’s city council. People of color “are tired of simply being employees.  When do they get an ownership piece of the pie?  That is what this is about.”....

Most jurisdictions consider cannabis businesses something between a nuisance and a threat, but the city government in perennially broke Oakland was quick to recognize the economic opportunity in legal pot.  It was an early jurisdiction to decriminalize adult use of marijuana, in 2004, and it became the first in the country to license medical marijuana dispensaries, also in 2004.  Harborside, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in October, was one of the first dispensaries to open in the city, and it helped pioneer the widely imitated idea that dispensaries should be clean, welcoming spaces, more like Apple stores than smelly, cramped head shops.  It now brings in a reported $30 million in annual sales and is an important Oakland taxpayer.  After the Justice Department initiated a case against the dispensary in 2012, Oakland took the unprecedented step of suing the federal government on behalf of a cannabis business. (The Justice Department dropped its case earlier this year.)...

As legalization has spread, other jurisdictions have recognized the moral urgency of creating diversity in the industry.  So far, none has succeeded.  This past summer, Maryland issued its first 30 medical marijuana business licenses, but the process was thrown into disarray once it became clear that none had gone to a woman or an African American.  It’s a “very complex problem,” the head of Maryland’s cannabis commission told The Baltimore Sun.  Time sensitive, too, since the established companies are getting bigger and richer.  Ohio’s medical marijuana law reserves 15 percent of business licenses for minority owners, but this aspect of the law immediately came under legal scrutiny and the program has yet to become operational.

December 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Highlighting ways marijuana reform might help undo some drug war harms

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.”

November 5, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"'The Mellow Pot-Smoker': White Individualism in Marijuana Legalization Campaigns"

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.

October 29, 2016 in Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Pew polling shows record high public support for recreational marijuana legalization

FT_16.10.11_marijuanaLegal_trendThe Pew Research Center has this new posting headlined "Support for marijuana legalization continues to rise," reporting on the results of its latest polling. Here are the particulars:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.

Young adults have disproportionately driven the shift toward public support of the drug, though support is rising among other generations as well. Millennials – those ages 18 to 35 in 2016 – are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71% today, up from 34% in 2006), and are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.

Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively). More than half of Gen Xers (57%) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21% in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56%) also support legalization, up from just 17% in 1990.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults, also finds persistent partisan and ideological divides in public opinion on marijuana legalization. By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

Republicans are internally divided over marijuana legalization. By a wide margin (63% to 35%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. By contrast, 62% of conservative Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana use, while just 33% favor it. The differences among Democrats are more modest. Liberal Democrats are 23 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to favor legalization (78% vs. 55%).

As past Pew Research Center surveys have found, Hispanics are less supportive of legalizing marijuana than are whites or blacks. Hispanics are divided – 49% say the use of marijuana should be illegal, while 46% say it should be legal. Identical majorities of whites and blacks (59% each) favor marijuana legalization.

I do not find the age-based and party-based polling particulars to be at all surprising, but I do find it quite notable and interesting that this poll suggests Latinos are slightly more likely to oppose than support marijuana legalization. I suspect that this finding could and would be even more interesting and telling if the Latino responses were broken down further by age, as I suspect older Latinos might continue to recall and fear the anti-Mexican/Latino biases that were integral to a whole lot of anti-marijuana policies and rhetoric until very recently.

The interesting Pew Center finding about Latino views on marijuana legalization also provides still further reasons to pay particular attention this election cycle to the marijuana reform ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and California and Florida. In addition to wondering whether exit polling in those states might confirm the likelihood of large blocks of Latino voters ending up on the "no" side of reforms, the traditionally different Latino origins that distinguish Latino population in different states might reveal still further deep insights into whether there are actually an array of distinct policy views on these issues among distinct groups of Latinos.

October 13, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Marijuana really can be deadly – when encountering police officers"

The title of this post comes from this Denver Post article by Christopher Ingraham noting new information from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg P.D. that the September 20th shooting that left Keith Lamont Scott dead was precipitated by simple marijuana possession. 

According to police, plainclothes officers first noticed Scott when he pulled into the parking lot in which they were sitting in an unmarked car waiting to serve a warrant on a wanted suspect, after he began rolling what appeared to be a "blunt." Police say they were not initially interested in Scott but later became concerned when they saw him with a gun. Notably, as The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery reported last week:

Because of that, the officers had probable cause to arrest him for the drug violation and to further investigate Mr. Scott for being in possession of a gun.

After changing into clothes that clearly marked them as police officers, they confronted Scott. They claim they later shot and killed him after he aimed his gun at them, though this newly released video appears to contradict that claim. Whether Scott brandished his weapon in a manner that would legally warrant the use of deadly force hopefully will be clarified when police release all available video of the incident next week (although we perhaps may never have a definitive answer to that question).

Importantly, however, as Ingraham writes: 

It’s not the first time low-level marijuana possession has escalated to a fatal police encounter. Last August, 19-year-old Zachary Hammond was fatally shot by police in Seneca, South Carolina, as he tried to flee from an attempted marijuana bust. In 2012, officers killed unarmed Bronx teenager Ramarley Graham as he tried to flush pot down the toilet. Trevon Cole was doing the same thing when police killed him in Las Vegas in 2010 during a drug raid at which no weapons were found.

 

As the Drug Enforcement Administration notes, nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose. But aggressive enforcement of drug laws has led to some deaths. Growing efforts to decriminalize or legalize marijuana in part seek to reduce these kinds of police encounters that can turn fatal.

 

Places that have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana treat offenses essentially like parking tickets. Data shows that decriminalization typically leads to drastic reductions in the number of marijuana-related arrests. For instance, the month after the New York City Police Department announced it would treat low-level drug possession as a noncriminal violation instead of a misdemeanor, arrests plummeted 75 percent year over year, according to the Associated Press.

 

But as the cases above vividly illustrate, decriminalization doesn’t eliminate violent encounters. Marijuana was decriminalized in Nevada when Cole was killed. It was decriminalized in New York state when Graham was killed. And it’s decriminalized in North Carolina, where Scott was killed.

 

This is one reason many drug policy reformers say decriminalization isn’t enough...

Indeed, after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use, the overall arrest rate for marijuana-related crimes fell significantly, although not indiscriminately. As The San Francisco Chronicle recent reported:

In the first two years of legalization, marijuana arrests fell 46 percent as many people complied with the new regulations, according to the Colorado Department of Public Safety. However, while the number of arrests decreased 51 percent for whites, they dropped only 33 percent for Latinos and 25 percent for African Americans. The pot-related arrest rate for African Americans remained nearly triple that of whites.

 

Juvenile marijuana arrests increased by 5 percent overall, but went up 29 percent for Latino youths and 58 percent for black youths. The number of white juveniles arrested fell 8 percent.

Put simply, marijuana won't kill you, but getting caught with it by police might; and, the chance of an encounter with police because of marijuana possession is higher if you're a person of color. If Chelsea Clinton had made this argument during her Ohio campaign stop earlier this week, perhaps she would have saved herself from the mockery of suggesting that marijuana can kill you, a claim she of course took back shortly thereafter.

October 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Legalizing Marijuana: It Changes Policing, But May Leave Racial Disparities"

The title of this post is the headline of this new NPR story, which includes these excerpts:

California is one of five states this year where marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Washington and Colorado paved the way for making recreational pot legal back in 2012. Since then marijuana arrests have plunged in Washington. They've also gone down in Colorado, but not by as much. This raises the question, what is the effect of legalizing marijuana on policing?...

Defense Attorney James Clark's office window looks down on the lake. He says [California police's] "stop and smell" practice happens across the state. In California, the smell of marijuana gives police probable cause to search someone's entire vehicle. If cops find something bigger - guns, stolen property - Clark says that can turn a traffic stop into a felony. "You can imagine that if you're trying to advance your career by searching cars along the freeway, that this is a tool that would be difficult to resist passing up," Clark says. [So now people] are wondering, if recreational pot gets legalized in California, could that be the end of this "stop and smell" practice?

Meanwhile, in Washington state, there have been some changes in policing since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Patrol sergeant Nate Hovinghoff has been with the Washington State Patrol for 11 years and works along the scenic Columbia River Gorge dividing Washington and Oregon, another state that recently legalized pot. "Prior to legalization in Washington state, odor alone was enough to arrest," Hovinghoff says.

If Hovinghoff pulled over a vehicle, say, for speeding and smelled marijuana, that gave him license to investigate further. "In my experience as a trooper, probably 90 percent of my felony arrests, they started with the odor of marijuana," he says.

But once pot was legalized in Washington state, the rules of engagement changed. "Now when I stop a vehicle and I go up and I smell marijuana, if they're 21 years or over it doesn't mean automatically a crime's occurred," Hovinghoff explains. He says as long as the driver of the car is compliant with the law and not impaired, and that's key, it's basically, "Have a nice day."

But folks ... aren't convinced that it will go down like that in California.... In fact, recent data from police stops in Oakland show that African-Americans are more likely than whites to be searched, handcuffed, and arrested.

That question of disparity is very much on the minds of researchers who are tracking the effects of marijuana legalization. Mike Males is with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He released a study earlier this year that's been widely cited. It shows that while marijuana arrests dropped dramatically in Washington state, African-Americans are still two times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses.

"So there's still a large racial discrepancy. It doesn't solve that. It does reduce the overall impact of marijuana arrests, but it doesn't change the racial discrepancy as much," Males says. The bottom line, says Males: "If one of the goals is to reduce marijuana-related arrests then legalization appears to accomplish that." But it may not resolve disparities in how the law is enforced or applied.

A few of many prior related posts:

September 25, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crimmigration and cannabis: "Marijuana Is Legal in Colorado — But Only If You're a U.S. Citizen"

ThThe title of this post is an expansion of the headline of this lengthy Westword article by Joel Warner.   Among many virtues in this long-form article is that it includes quotes from one of my former students who examined in my marijuana seminar the connections between marijuana reform and immigration issues.  Here is how the article gets started and some excerpt from its legal discussion:

Claudia didn’t think anything was wrong when United States Customs and Border Protection agents flagged her for an in-depth security screening after the early-morning flight from her native Chile landed at Los Angeles International Airport early on October 8, 2015. “It’s normal,” she says. “Sometimes the officers review people.” Besides, Claudia had never been in trouble in her life....

[Agent] Torres asked Claudia about past trips to the States; in her accented but largely fluent English, she told the agent that she’d previously visited Tennessee, Louisiana, New York and Colorado. At the mention of Colorado, he asked to see her phone. Since the device wasn’t password-protected, he quickly clicked to her photo gallery and began scrolling back several months to her visit from April through June of that year... The agent [eventually] arrived at three photos she’d taken inside Native Roots, a marijuana dispensary on Boulder’s Pearl Street. Looking at the images of glass display cases filled with edibles and jars of marijuana, he asked if she’d tried any. “Yes, I tried marijuana in Colorado,” she replied. “It’s legal there.”

With those words, Claudia immediately placed herself in the middle of a growing clash between state cannabis reforms and U.S. immigration law’s unyieldingly austere approach to marijuana. While cannabis may be legal in a growing number of states, it’s still very much against the law for all non-U.S. citizens to use it — even if few people know that. In fact, over the past decade, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has penalized and deported more people convicted of marijuana-related crimes than ever before. As a result of the inconsistencies between state marijuana laws and immigration law, immigration lawyers are finding themselves stymied by legal predicaments that don’t make any sense — and their clients are suffering. Husbands are being separated from wives, parents from children, because of activities that in many states are no longer crimes. And foreigners like Claudia are finding their lives changed forever when they simply admit that they tried something they assumed was completely legal.

But Claudia didn’t know that when she admitted to trying marijuana; she still thought everything was fine. After Torres had finished going through her luggage, two female agents gave her a pat-down and confiscated her belongings, then led her to a locked, windowless cell with security cameras on the ceiling and miserable-looking people of various nationalities lying on bare metal cots. Only then did she realize that something was very, very wrong....

The most famous example of a marijuana-based deportation might be the U.S.’s failed attempt to bar John Lennon from the country in 1973 because of a past cannabis conviction in England. But it was only later, as the War on Drugs heated up, that U.S. immigration policy became increasingly unforgiving regarding marijuana and other narcotics. These days, any drug offense, save for the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana, is a deportable crime for non-U.S. citizens, including those with green cards. And any offense involving the sale of marijuana — even just peddling $5 worth of the drug — is considered an “aggravated felony” that triggers mandatory deportation.

It doesn’t matter if the conviction doesn’t come with a prison sentence or is expunged through a drug-court program. It doesn’t matter if the convicted individual can prove that his or her expulsion would cause extreme hardship on U.S. family members, a situation that can be used to stop deportation for other crimes such as assault or fraud. If an immigrant is busted for marijuana or other drugs, they’re likely to be taken into immigration custody and deported without any chance of coming back.

While President Barack Obama has long promised to ease the drastic consequences of the drug war, immigrants convicted of drug crimes have faced increased penalties during his time in office. That’s because of the Secure Communities initiative, a program launched under George W. Bush but expanded by the Obama administration that allows immigration agents access to local fingerprint data banks.

The result is more drug-related deportations than ever before. According to a Human Rights Watch investigation of U.S. government data, between 2007 and 2012, drug-possession-related deportations increased 43 percent, and drug-sale-related deportations increased 23 percent. In all during that period, nearly 266,000 people were forced out of the country after being convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, which accounted for roughly one out of every four criminal-conviction-related deportations. More than 50,000 of those deportations were related to a marijuana conviction....

“We are at a really interesting time politically,” says Grace Meng, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the organization’s report on drug-related deportations. “The country is willing to reconsider drug policy and laws, but those same laws passed in the 1980s and ’90s have had really severe immigration impacts — and they aren’t being considered at all.”

According to Alexander Holtzman, a fellow with the Immigrant Justice Corps in New York City who studied marijuana-related immigration sanctions while at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, it’s hard to know exactly how many people are currently being deported because of minor marijuana offenses; most deportation statistics don’t indicate whether a cannabis crime was the cause of someone’s expulsion. (ICE didn’t respond to multiple interview requests from Westword.)

There is some indication that the agency’s stance on marijuana could be shifting, though. In 2014, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that immigrants convicted of minor cannabis crimes should be given a chance to contest their deportation, ICE released a policy noting that marijuana-possession convictions would no longer be an enforcement priority. But it’s clear that at least until recently, cannabis-related crimes were a main priority for immigration authorities. According to ICE deportation records stored and analyzed by Syracuse University, in 2013 marijuana possession was the fourth-most-common offense associated with deportation — above assault, illegal re-entry or any other drug charge. The sale of marijuana was the twelfth-most-common deportation-related crime. Holtzman estimates that slightly more than 6,000 people were deported that year after being convicted of minor marijuana-possession charges.

“If these individuals are deported because of these offenses, then the sanction of deportation strikes me as severe, disproportionate and unjust,” says Holtzman. “Citizens are not similarly punished for identical conduct.”

September 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)