Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AG Sessions indicates that Obama-era federal marijuana policies remain in effect

Just a short five years ago it would have been unusual for a member of Congress to ask the US Attorney General about federal marijuana policies.  But circa 2017 it now seems near impossible to have a congressional hearing involving the AG in which marijuana policy is not raised.  But, as detailed in this new Forbes piece by Tom Angell headlined "Sessions: Obama Marijuana Policy Remains In Effect," AG Sessions did not really have much new to say on this front during a hearing on Capitol Hill today:

Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday during a congressional hearing. He also conceded that cannabis is not as dangerous as heroin and that a current budget rider prevents the Department of Justice from prosecuting people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

"Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes," Sessions said, referring to his predecessors as attorney general during the Obama administration.

Sessions made the comments in response to a question from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.   Later, Sessions said, "I think that's correct," when Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) argued that cannabis isn't as dangerous as heroin.  Under current federal law, both are classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category that's supposed to be reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value....

Also during Cohen's line of questioning, the attorney general said, "I believe we are bound by" a federal budget rider that bars the federal government from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.  A federal court ruled last year, over Justice Department objections, that the rider specifically bars prosecution of patients and providers who are acting in accordance with those laws.  Earlier this year, Sessions, sent a letter to congressional leadership asking that they not continue the annual rider into the next fiscal year.

Sessions, a longtime vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, has previously said that the separate Obama policy on state marijuana laws remains in effect while the Department of Justice reviews potential changes, but has not before so clearly tied the Trump administration approach to that of his predecessors....

[I]n April, Sessions directed a Justice Department task force to review the Obama administration memo and make recommendations for possible changes. However, that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force’s report to the attorney general. Sessions did not refer to any ongoing consideration of enforcement policy changes during the House hearing.

During a Senate hearing last month, the attorney general said that allowing more researchers to legally grow more marijuana for scientific studies would be "healthy."  He has yet to respond to pending written questions stemming from that hearing about a federal budget rider that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

November 14, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

A reasonable accounting of public health realities surrounding marijuana and alcohol

ALCOHOL-VS-MARIJUANA-INFO-CROPThis new Business Insider article, headlined "We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner," provides a pretty reasonable review of basic public health research concerning marijuana and alcohol. Here is how the article starts, its main boldheadings, and it conclusion:

Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey? It's a tough call, but based on the science, there appears to be a clear winner.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked. Time is important, too — while some effects are noticeable immediately, others only begin to shape up after months or years of use.

The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is a lot murkier due to its mostly illegal status.

30,722 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been 0 documented deaths from marijuana use alone. ...

Marijuana appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol. ...

Marijuana may be harder on your heart; while moderate drinking could be beneficial....

Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; marijuana is not....

Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse. ...

Several studies link alcohol with violence, particularly at home. That has not been found for cannabis. ...

Both drugs negatively impact your memory, but in different ways. These effects are the most common in heavy, frequent, or binge users. ...

Both drugs are linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disease. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concern; with booze, it's depression and anxiety....

Alcohol appears to be linked more closely with weight gain than marijuana, despite weed's tendency to trigger the munchies. ...

All things considered, alcohol's effects seem markedly more extreme — and risky — than marijuana's.

When it comes to their addiction profile and their risk of death or overdose combined with their ties to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.

Still, because of marijuana's largely illegal status, long-term studies on all of its health effects have been limited — meaning that more research is desperately needed.

November 13, 2017 in Food and Drink, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Constitutional Clause Aggregation and the Marijuana Crimes"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Scott Howe now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

An important question for our time concerns whether the Constitution could establish a right to engage in certain marijuana-related activities.  Several states have now legalized cannabis, within strict limits, for recreational purposes, and that number will grow.   Yet, some states will not promptly legalize but, instead, continue to criminalize, or only “decriminalize” in minor ways, and the federal criminalization statutes also will likely survive for a time.   There currently is no recognized right under the Constitution to possess, use, cultivate or distribute cannabis for recreational purposes, even in small amounts, and traditional, single-clause arguments for such a right are weak.   Neither the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the Fourth Amendment, the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause can justify such a protection, and that would remain true even when most states have legalized.  But, could another theory justify this constitutional right?

A second important and topical legal question concerns when two or more rights-based clauses in the Constitution can combine to invalidate government action that none of the clauses could disallow on their own.  The Supreme Court generally has declined to recognize multiple-clause rights.  But, in the past, it occasionally seemed to endorse the approach. And, recently, in Obergefell v Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015), it gave new impetus to the idea by declaring the existence of a “synergy” between the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses that it asserted had helped explain its acknowledgment of certain rights previously and that purportedly helped lead, in the case at hand, to its acknowledgment of a right to same-sex marriage.  In consequence, enthusiasm has again intensified over the notion that rights-based clause aggregation can expand constitutional protections.  But, is clause aggregation only rhetoric offered to justify something the Court would have done anyway under a single clause or can it sometimes really matter?   And, if so, when?

This Article puts both problems in play by asking this question: After a super-majority of states legalize, could multiple clauses together reveal a constitutional right to engage in certain recreational, marijuana activities?  The Article answers with cautious affirmance: Clause aggregation could help justify such a constitutional right, in tightly limited circumstances.  But, the Article also notes that many of the contours remain undeveloped in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on rights-based clause aggregation, complicating any effort to predict whether and how the Justices would apply it in the future to recreational marijuana.

November 12, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 6, 2017

SAM promotes new campaigns and efforts to push back on marijuana reform movements

Download (9)Today via email I receive three alerts from SAM Action, the political action off-shoot of the leading advocacy group opposing marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).  Each email announces a notable new campaign or effort concerning marijuana policy, and here are the headlines and essentials as described in each announcement (I would link to a press release, but I cannot find one on-line):

1.  "Dallas-Area Families and Leading National Marijuana Policy Group Team Up to Support Congressman Pete Sessions' Stance Against Predatory Marijuana Industry"

A coalition of Texas families and doctors, alongside leading national marijuana policy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action), came out in support of Congressman Pete Sessions' stance against drug legalization. SAM Action is the 501(c)(4) sister organization of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, policy advisor to three U.S. administrations.

The campaign features a digital billboard that supports Congressman Sessions' fight to protect his constituents against the predatory tactics of the marijuana industry. The sign, located near his district office on U.S. Highway 75 and paid for by SAM Action, features a local Dallas-area mother expressing her thanks for Sessions' standing up to the marijuana industry.

2.  "New Group Formed, Marijuana Accountability Coalition, To Push Back on Recreational Marijuana Industry"

A new group, the Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), formed today to push back against the marijuana industry in Colorado. MAC, which will be based in Denver but have satellites across the state, came together from discussions of recovery advocates, parents, doctors, and other concerned citizens who do not think Colorado is better off after five years of legalization, despite industry claims.

"While the marijuana moguls are celebrating their financial success at the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel, we're here standing with our friends and neighbors who have been hurt, whose families have been hurt by commercialized, legal pot," said Justin Luke Riley, MAC's founder. "Colorado continues the pay the price for marijuana's rapid spread into our communities, our schools and our families."

"For too long, pot lobbyists in Colorado have gotten away with too much," said Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor and President of SAM Action. "We applaud the Marijuana Accountability Coalition for dedicating themselves to keeping the industry on their toes."

3. "Public safety advocates urge drugged driving protections as marijuana is permitted in states as drugged driving crashes spike"

With the recent legalization of marijuana, its impact on driving under the influence of marijuana and driving safety is a major concern of public health and safety advocates. Current laws governing driving under the influence of marijuana are either not based on science, absent altogether, or too difficult to enforce. Public safety advocates call for laws to keep us safer on our roads and bring marijuana drugged driving laws in line with alcohol driving laws.

Parents and loved ones who have lost family and friends to drivers impaired by marijuana (e.g. THC), public safety advocates, and other concerned citizens. SAM will be there to launch a national campaign: HIGH means DUI. The campaign's goals are to raise awareness about drugged driving and dangers of driving under the influence of THC and to advocate for sensible marijuana driving laws that promote road safety.

November 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

An extraordinary accounting of Ohio's recent marijuana reform history

I have said to my students at various times that a book or two or three or four could and should be written about the history of marijuana reform in the great state of Ohio.  This weekend I discovered that Angela Bacca, a freelance journalist, has provided nearly book-length treatment of some of the recent political stories of reform in the state via a four-part series of Huffington Post article.

The subtitle of each part of the series is "Inside Ohio’s Corrupt Medical Marijuana Rollout," and this reporting of recent Ohio history seems especially eager to play up the theme of greed.  But that reporting choice might well be justified, and the tales told in these articles involve more intricate and comprehensive reporting than I have seen anywhere else:

November 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Can Los Angeles repair the damage done by the war on marijuana?"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Los Angeles Times editorial.  Here are excerpts:

Make no mistake, the war on marijuana has not been colorblind. Despite national surveys showing that white people and black people use marijuana at approximately the same rates, blacks have over the years been nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

That disparity is as true in Los Angeles as it is elsewhere in the country. African Americans comprise less than 10% of the population in L.A. Yet between 2000 and 2017, blacks represented 40% of marijuana-related arrests.  Latinos made up 44% of arrests.  Whites made up only 16% of arrests, according to a city consultant’s analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data.  And even as Los Angeles and other cities allowed the growth of a quasi-legal, hugely profitable medical marijuana industry run mostly by white entrepreneurs, police arrests for marijuana possession and sales continued to target African Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly.

A drug arrest — especially if followed by a conviction — can have terrible consequences.  Even after a person has completed his or her sentence, it remains harder to get a job, get into college, rent an apartment or get a loan.  A drug conviction is a barrier to economic opportunity.

Now that California has voted to legalize marijuana for adults, a crucial question is whether there a way to repair the damage created by decades of unequal enforcement practices.  The answer being considered by the Los Angeles City Council is to make it easier for people who were arrested or otherwise affected by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws to get in on the ground floor of the emerging multibillion-dollar cannabis industry.

The idea behind the proposed “social equity” program is that the people most affected should now be helped to partake in the profits and benefits of legalization.  The challenges of opening a marijuana business are so great — there are huge upfront costs, serious impediments to getting bank loans and extremely intricate regulations — that many would-be entrepreneurs would be locked out without government assistance.

Without question, Los Angeles ought to use a portion of future marijuana tax revenue to help communities that have been disproportionately targeted for marijuana enforcement. Tax money could fund drug education and treatment, legal clinics to help people expunge their marijuana conviction records, and reentry programs for individuals leaving prison.

The city could also help encourage entrepreneurs from communities that have had disproportionate numbers of marijuana arrests to enter the business by offering training, compliance assistance and priority licensing. Priority licensing is important because, due to zoning restrictions, only a limited number of applicants will ultimately be granted the right to host a marijuana business.  The first batch of licenses will be offered to medical marijuana shops that have operated since 2013 in L.A. with limited immunity under Proposition D.  Under the city’s proposed rules, the second batch of licenses would be divided equally between general applicants and social equity applicants — giving the latter a better shot at snapping up those opportunities. The third batch of licenses would be open to all applicants.

But here’s where the social equity program raises concern: The current proposal gives special advantages, waives fees and offers the most assistance to low-income people who themselves have marijuana-related convictions.  It’s one thing to target assistance broadly to communities that have felt the impacts of unequal enforcement. It’s another thing to reward people who broke the law and got caught by giving them priority over people who did not break the law.  That doesn’t seem fair.  Nor does it seem like a great idea to incentivize people with convictions for selling or possessing marijuana to return to the drug trade — why not help them enter other businesses instead?

To be sure, people with nonviolent drug convictions shouldn’t be barred from owning marijuana businesses or from working in them.  But they shouldn’t be pushed to the front of the line either.

November 4, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In letter to Prez Trump, Gov Christie throws cold water on idea of marijuana as part of solution to opioid crisis

Prez Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued this big final report today, and marijuana only gets some minor mentions throughout the document.  The heart of the report's themes and recommendations are usefully summarized in this extended letter to Prez Trump penned by Commission Chair Chris Christie, and that letter include this notable final substantive  paragraph speaking directly to the notion that marijuana reform should be part of the response to the opioid crisis: 

The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. Recent research out of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use led to a 2½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser. The Commission found this very disturbing. There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.

For the record, I agree with the notion that we do not want to make mistakes in marijuana law and policy as a result of an "uninformed rush" to do anything. But marijuana's continued status as a Schedule 1 drug play a huge role in keeping us "uninformed" about so many aspects of the drug's potential benefits and harms, and only by moving marijuana off that Schedule do we really have any real chance in the coming years to start to get more of the needed "sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana."

November 1, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"New developments in cannabis regulation"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction authored by authored by Beau Kilmer. Here is the paper's introduction:

For decades, those seeking insights into alternatives to prohibiting cannabis supply have turned to Europe.  For nearly 40 years, the Netherlands has tolerated small retail sales, and in February 2017 the Dutch Parliament narrowly passed a bill to regulate the supply of cannabis to coffee shops.  Spain’s cannabis social clubs (CSCs), which are supposed to produce cannabis for non-profit distribution to club members, have proliferated throughout the country despite some of them being forced to shut down.  Similar CSCs are now appearing in other parts of Europe (Decorte, 2015; Belackova et al., 2016; EMCDDA, 2016).

For the past five years, however, many of those searching for new developments in cannabis regulation have turned their attention to the Western Hemisphere.  In 2012, voters in the US states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives to remove the prohibition on cannabis and to license profit-maximising firms to produce and sell it.  In late 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis, although its approach is much more restrictive than that being adopted in the United States.  Since 2016, four more US states have approved commercial models for cannabis — including California, the world’s sixth largest economy — and a bill to allow for-profit companies to produce cannabis for non-medical purposes has been introduced in Canada.

Recently, politicians in at least six European countries (in addition to the Netherlands) have introduced legislation to reform cannabis supply laws, with many proposing sales through licensed outlets (Hughes et al., 2017).  While most of these proposals have already been rejected (Hughes et al. 2017), conversations about cannabis regulation are expected to become more frequent and more detailed in Europe.  With this in mind, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has requested a brief report to address the following three questions:

• What new models of cannabis regulation are emerging worldwide and in Europe?

• What is the evidence about the impact of these reforms?

• What are the implications for drug policy and practice in Europe?

November 1, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

US distributor of Corona beer making big investment in Canadian marijuana grower

Download (8)As reported in this new Wall Street Journal article, headlined "Big Brewer Makes a Play for Marijuana Beverages," the "U.S. distributor of Corona beer is chasing a new type of buzz." Here are the details from a story giving new meaning to "Corona Extra" :

Constellation Brands Inc. has agreed to take a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth Corp. , a Canadian marijuana company, and plans to work with the grower to develop and market cannabis-infused beverages.  Canopy Growth is the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company, with a market valuation of 2.2 billion Canadian dollars on the Toronto Stock Exchange.   The C$245 million (US$191 million) deal gives Constellation a toehold in an industry that the brewer expects to be legalized nationwide in the U.S. in the coming years.

“We think that it’s highly likely, given what’s happened at the state level,” Rob Sands, chief executive of the Victor, N.Y.-based beer, wine and spirits company, said in an interview.  “We’re obviously trying to get first-mover advantage.”

Constellation — flush with cash after posting a 13% increase in beer sales in its latest quarter — is interested in developing drinkable cannabis products that don’t contain alcohol, he said.  Products currently on the market in U.S. states where they are legal include buzz-inducing sodas, coffees and fruit elixirs.

Constellation doesn’t plan to sell such a product in the U.S. before marijuana is legalized there nationwide, Mr. Sands said, but could sell it in Canada, where edible and drinkable cannabis products are expected to be legalized by 2019, or other countries where recreational marijuana is permitted....

U.S. beer-industry executives have been debating whether legalized marijuana could cannibalize sales of beer, even as other consumers migrate from beer to wine and spirits. Some brewers have experimented with cannabis-infused beers, not containing THC but instead a marijuana flavor.  “Wine and spirits are not sitting still, and marijuana is being legalized in many states,” Heineken USA Chief Executive Ronald den Elzen said at a beer wholesalers conference earlier this month. “We have to act now, and we have to do it together.”

Mr. Sands said he doesn’t see pot as a threat to booze. But if a consumer is going to choose a can of beer, a glass of wine, a shot of liquor or a weed-laced elixir, he wants to be able to offer all four, he said.  “Could it be a threat? Yes, I guess it could be,” he said.  “We’re not going to stand around twiddling our thumbs.”...

Canopy Growth, based in Smiths Falls, Ontario, is ramping up capacity ahead of next summer’s legalization in Canada and said it would use the new capital to expand its production and storage facilities throughout the country.  The deal, expected to close by early November, gives Constellation board-observer status and the option to increase its stake to just under 20%. Canopy

Growth CEO Bruce Linton said Constellation’s expertise in alcohol distribution would be helpful for the cannabis company as it determines how to distribute and package recreational cannabis. Canada’s provincial regulators are still considering how to handle the selling of marijuana, he said.  Mr. Linton said he hoped the deal could be the turning point for the nascent industry, signaling to institutional investors “that a cannabis company that fully complies within legal jurisdictions would be the right place to invest."

October 29, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Gallup reports record-high levels of support for marijuana legalization in US

Qpeszfyysk-vh_zwkbyskqAs reported in this new posting from Gallup, "Americans continue to warm to legalizing marijuana, with 64% now saying its use should be made legal. This is the highest level of public support Gallup has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement." Here is more:

Gallup first asked national adults about their views on the topic in 1969, when 12% supported legalization. Support had more than doubled by the end of the next decade but changed little throughout the 1980s and 1990s. By 2001, however, about a third of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, and support has steadily increased since. A majority of Americans have consistently supported legalizing marijuana since 2013.

The trajectory of Americans' views on marijuana is similar to that of their views on same-sex marriage over the past couple of decades. On both issues, about a quarter supported legalization in the late 1990s, and today 64% favor each. Over the past several years, Gallup has found that Americans have become more liberal on a variety of social issues.

Democrats and independents have historically been much more likely than Republicans to say marijuana should be legalized. In 2009, Democrats were the first partisan group to see majority support for legalization, followed by independents in 2010. This year for the first time, a majority of Republicans express support for legalizing marijuana; the current 51% is up nine percentage points from last year.

As efforts to legalize marijuana at the state level continue to yield successes, public opinion, too, has shifted toward greater support. The Department of Justice under the current Republican administration has been perceived as hostile to state-level legalization. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions could find himself out of step with his own party if the current trends continue. Rank-and-file Republicans' views on the issue have evolved just as Democrats' and independents' have, though Republicans remain least likely to support legalizing pot.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

October 25, 2017 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Reviewing the newest recreational marijuana markets to be coming on-line

CNN Money has this new article focused on the three states about to have their recreational marijuana markets up and running in the wake of 2016 legalization votes.  The piece is headlined "Retail marijuana is spreading to California, Massachusetts and Maine," and here is how it gets started:

The mainstreaming of marijuana is about to get huge boost. Recreational marijuana sales will launch in three states next year, including the biggest one of all: California.

It's already for sale in five states, but the addition of a legal retail marijuana market in California, with its massive economy and population, will dramatically change the landscape. California is aiming to open retail marijuana stores by January 1, Massachusetts and Maine plan to open stores next summer.

"We obviously still have a lot to do, but yes, we're going to be ready to go on January 1," said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California. "We will be issuing new regulations in November, so we're hard at work on those at the present time."

Among the checklist of expected regulations is new oversight on water usage -- like drip irrigation and reusing waste water -- that could prove expensive for marijuana businesses. Other rules will require licensing and background checks for distributors and safety and education training for consumers.

Dispensaries like Green Alternative, which has 10,000 patients in San Diego, are getting ready to add non-medical customers to their clientele. "We are in the process of stockpiling cannabis in order to fulfill the market needs," said Zach Lazarus, COO of the Green Alternative. "We believe there will be a huge rush. We go through two to four pounds [per day] on average, and we anticipate going through three to four times as much when we open the doors for recreational." This requires not only stockpiling pot, but negotiating hurdles on the state and local level, for licensing, zoning, taxation and other issues.

Erik Altieri, executive director of the pro-legalization group NORML, said it might take longer than January "to set up the regulation process and to work out how the new recreational market will exist alongside its already quite large medical market."

The Bureau of Cannabis Control in California put its proposed regulations up for public review and began holding community workshop meetings in Long Beach, Fresno and Sacramento in September.

Massachusetts will implement retail marijuana sales on July 1, once state officials finalize whether certain localities will be able to maintain a marijuana ban in their respective towns, said Altieri. "We are committed to make that deadline," said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission in Boston, which held its first meeting on September 12 on developing and implementing regulations.

Maine would have the smallest market, and it's unclear when they'll get it off the ground. Dan Tartakoff, clerk for the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee of state lawmakers, said draft regulations were released in September proposing a 20% tax rate.

October 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Cannabis Industry Struggles With Hiring People With Past Pot Convictions"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article, which includes these passages:

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, a debate is brewing over whether those with drug convictions should be allowed in the industry. Marijuana businesses are in a position of uncertainty amid U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' anti-drug rhetoric. Meanwhile, the fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar industry is drawing investors and entrepreneurs.

Indeed, there is a hypocrisy evident in some corners of the newly legal marijuana market. Earlier this year, Massachusetts medical marijuana provider Patriot Care drew controversy after it opposed a proposal to remove the ban on felony drug convictions from the state's medical cannabis program. "Permitting those who have demonstrated the interest and willingness to ignore state and federal drug laws sends the wrong signals to those who would participate in the legal, regulated industry," wrote Robert Mayerson, CEO of Patriot Care, in a letter to the Massachusetts Public Health Council.  While companies like Patriot Care operate legally under state law, all state-legal cannabis companies are violating federal drug laws.

Many states have marijuana laws that bar drug offenders from entering the cannabis industry in an effort to legitimize the trade and help prevent out-of-state diversion. In practice, the ban does not prevent trafficking.  But it does shut out individuals with marijuana-related convictions, who are disproportionately black and Latino. And in a twist of absurdity, many of these felony bans apply only to drug-related crimes.

“You can go to a cannabis investment conference and no one is talking about the fact that just down the road there are people who are incarcerated for smoking or dealing or growing this very same product,” said Ryan Anslin, who has been investing in the industry for nearly four years.  “To entirely leave that out of an investment conversation is fundamentally wrong.” Anslin believes that those in the industry are obligated to put resources towards changing drug laws. "There's a level of complacency that has emerged in the early industry," he said.  While that may be the case for many investors and operators, other players are working towards creating an equitable industry.

Derek Peterson, the CEO of Terra Tech, thinks it's a "disaster" that there are executives in the marijuana space who oppose social justice reforms. Terra Tech is a publicly traded cannabis company that operates in California and Nevada, and has a cultivation facility in Oakland, Calif. with minority interest.  Peterson says the company supports equity programs like that in Oakland, and it is working with lobbyists to insert criminal justice-reform language into legalization legislation in New Jersey. "We don't feel very comfortable about the opening up of markets and economic development [while] watching people sit in prison," he said. "There needs to be allowances in new legislation that allows for people who have been incarcerated for drug crimes to [enter] this industry."

Barring those with experience in the illicit market could also shut out people with relevant expertise. "[It's] doing a disservice to some of the best knowledge base in the cannabis industry. These are the guys who paved the way," said Rob Hunt, principal of the consulting firm ConsultCanna who was formerly a founding partner of the cannabis private equity firm Tuatara....

For Anslin, the key to crafting reforms is focusing on record expungement. "As an employer in the space… I would always be really careful to hire people who have knowingly done things against the letter of the law," he said. But when it comes to certain marijuana offenses, "they shouldn't have been convicted of anything to begin with."

October 5, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 2, 2017

"Government jobs sprout as California legal pot looms"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable recent AP article, which starts this way:

Scientists. Tax collectors. Typists. Analysts. Lawyers. And more scientists.

Recreational marijuana sales become legal in California in 2018, and one of the things to blossom in the emerging industry isn't green and leafy.  It's government jobs.

The state is on a hiring binge to fill what eventually will be hundreds of new government positions by 2019 intended to bring order to the legal pot economy, from keeping watch on what's seeping into streams near cannabis grows to running background checks on storefront sellers who want government licenses.  Thousands of additional jobs are expected to be added by local governments.

The swiftly expanding bureaucracy represents just one aspect of the complex challenge faced by California: Come January, the state will unite its longstanding medical cannabis industry with the newly legalized recreational one, creating what will be the United States' largest legal pot economy.

Last January, just 11 full-time workers were part of what's now known as the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state's chief regulatory agency overseeing the pot market. Now, it's more than doubled, and by February the agency expects to have more than 100 staffers.  The agency is moving into new offices later this year, having outgrown its original quarters.  It's expected new satellite offices will eventually spread around the state.

There also will be scores of jobs added to issue licenses for sellers, growers, truck drivers, manufacturers and others working in the projected $7 billion industry.  The state has taken to Facebook to lure applicants.  The bureau is using a video snippet of actor Jim Carrey, hammering his fingers into a computer keyboard, to catch the eye of prospective applicants online. "Get those applications in ... before this guy beats you to it," it reads. "New job just ahead," reads another post. "We're hiring."

This year's state budget contained about $100 million to fund regulatory programs for marijuana, which includes personnel to review and issue licenses, watch over environmental conditions and carry out enforcement.

Planned hiring into 2018 covers a range of state agencies: Fifty people are bound for the Public Health Department, 65 are slated to join the Water Resources Control Board, and 60 new employees are expected at the Food and Agriculture Department, which will oversee licensing for cultivators.

Some of the work is highly specialized. Environmental scientists will be responsible for developing standards for pot grows near streams, to make sure fertilizer or pesticides do not taint the water or harm fish. An engineer will monitor groundwater and water being diverted to nourish plants. Lawyers are needed to help sort out complex issues involving the state's maze of environmental laws.

Pay varies with position but can be attractive, with some scientist posts paying over $100,000 annually. Special investigators with the Consumer Affairs Department could earn in the $80,000 range.

Though not mentioned in this article, most states have funding government jobs in the marijuana arena through the fees and taxes that the marijuana industry produces for state coffers.  In a black marketplace, of course, there are no fees and taxes going to the government, though taxpayers are still paying for the costs of trying to enforce prohibition -- which, ironically, largely serves to drive up the tax-free profits that black market participants can secure.  With legalization and regulation, the monies paid by marijuana consumers gets channeled to fund state regulatory jobs that should help ensure the consumer gets a safer product at a lower cost.  From an economic perspective, it should be a win-win if all goes well (though all does not always go well, and there are other obvious concerns such as public health).

October 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Making the case for marijuana as a "driving engine of the American economy"

1Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, has this new commentary detailing positive elements of economic development that can be linked to marijuana reforms.  The full headline of the piece serves as a kind of summary: "Making the case for Marijuana Is Now a Driving Engine of the American Economy: From increased tax revenue to rising home prices, legalization is stimulating economic growth." And here are excerpts, highlighting more what has not to been previously highlighting on this blog:

The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes is having a positive impact on states’ economies in ways that go well beyond tax revenue. From job creation to increased tourism, marijuana legalization is driving economic markets. Here’s how.

TAX REVENUE...

JOB CREATION

The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of nearly 150,000 new full-time jobs, according to data compiled by the online content provider Leafly.com. Their September 12 analysis identified 149,304 jobs in the marijuana sector – a 22 percent increase over the number of jobs that existed one year ago. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).

TOURISM

The state of Colorado has experienced an unprecedented increase in tourism following the passage of marijuana legalization. According to data released last year by the Colorado Tourism Office, a record-setting 77.7 million people visited the state in 2015, spending over $19 billion. It is the fifth year in a row that tourism has set records in the state, which is experiencing a rapid growth in tourism that is nearly double the national average. And while not all of Colorado’s visitors are coming there for legal weed, many of them are. Among vacationers surveyed by the state’s Tourism Office in 2016, 49 percent responded that marijuana’s legal status positively influenced their decision to visit the state, and 22 percent of Colorado vacationers said that marijuana’s legal status was “extremely influential” in shaping their decision.

WORKPLACE PARTICIPATION AND WAGES

Lifting cannabis criminalization is linked with greater participation in the workforce and an increase in weekly income. A 2016 University of California at Irvine study reported that ending marijuana possession arrests is associated with an increased probability of employment, particularly among young African American males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. According to separate data published last year in the journal Health Economics, medical cannabis regulatory laws are associated with fewer workplace absences. Data published by the National Bureau of Economic research similarly reports that medicalization is associated with a "9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over 50 years of age. “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women,” researchers concluded.

HOME VALUES

The growth in the number of cannabis retail facilities is associated with an increase in nearby home values. That’s according to a just published economic analysis by researchers at the University of Georgia at Athens, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and California State University Sacramento. They reported that single family residences within 0.1 miles of a retail marijuana establishment saw an increase in value of approximately 8.4 percent compared to those located slightly further – between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles – from the site. That increase in property value was estimated to be almost $27,000 for an average house in the area.

October 1, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Examining the distinctive marijuana market in the distinctive District of Coulmbia

The_Naked_Truth__District_of_Cannabis__TThe District of Columbia — which, if anyone cares, is where I was born a long, long time ago — has long been a distinct part of the United States as a matter of law and practice.  For that reason and others, it should come as no surprise that marijuana reform takes on distinctive dynamic in our nation's capital.   This new AP piece, headlined "Giving the gift of green in the ‘District of Cannabis’," provides a profile of this interesting story, and here are excerpts:

A 2014 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use passed overwhelmingly. But unlike the eight states that have legalized recreational use, the Washington initiative also maintained it was still illegal to buy or sell the drug.

So instead of the straightforward marijuana storefronts common in Colorado or Nevada, Washington has developed a thriving “gift economy” marijuana industry. These businesses — many offering delivery — sell everything from coffee cups to artwork — all overpriced and all coming with a little something extra.

It’s a curious legal and semantic tightrope, and one the District’s politicians and police seem determined to keep walking. “It’s definitely unique,” said Morgan Fox of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. “The DC city council and the city government don’t want to be busting people for weed. They want this to work and work smoothly.”

Washington’s local government didn’t choose to make the District a real-time sociology lab for alternative legalization. The roots of this strange legal middle ground lie in the District’s tortured relationship with the federal government. “We would have regular stores if we had the normal rights of a U.S. state,” said Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ, a pro-legalization group that helped draft the initiative’s text.

All District laws are subject to review by a congressional committee, which can veto them or alter them by attaching riders to federal appropriations bills. After the initiative passed, Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from neighboring Maryland, introduced a rider prohibiting the District government from spending any funds or resources on developing a regulatory or taxation system for marijuana sales.

Harris, an anesthesiologist and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, remains a staunch opponent of recreational marijuana use and has no regrets about complicating the District’s legalization model. “I think the District of Columbia made a bad decision,” Harris said in an interview. “I would hope the District comes to its senses and realizes the dangers.”

According to marijuana merchants, the change has resulted in spiraling supply and demand. The relative ease of availability without risking arrest or having to maintain a relationship with a dealer has brought a wave of consumers of all ages and demographics. And that wave of demand has brought a wave of new suppliers. In addition to the dozens of different businesses working through the gift loophole, there are now hundreds of marijuana-themed public events taking place across the city — most openly advertised on social media. “Seven days a week, you can find an event going on,” said Gregory Moorer, whose Laid Back Lords company offers marijuana gifts to accompany $50 baseball caps and $80 sweatshirts.

One such event, known as Cannemania, happens weekly at a closed Ethiopian restaurant. Inside isn’t so much a stoner party as a fairly businesslike trade show. On a recent night, about 150 people crowded in to peruse about 25 different vendors’ tables offering large jars of buds and a huge variety of edibles, from brownies to marijuana-infused gummi bears. There were also marijuana vape pens and “concentrates” — a substance that looks like candle wax and requires a waterpipe and a blowtorch to consume.

Vendors hawked their wares like THC sommeliers and offered free hits of concentrates. But there was, according to the rules, no smoking of marijuana buds. For the most part everyone kept to the necessary gift loophole script: your money technically bought you a raffle ticket, some expensive rolling paper or, in one case, the baseball card of former Cleveland Indians shortstop Julio Franco.

Despite the ubiquity of the drug, it would be inaccurate to describe the District as some sort of marijuana free-for-all. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government has worked hard to establish clear lines on what is and is not permitted. It remains illegal to smoke in public. Arrests for public consumption have actually spiked since the legalization initiative came into effect. Bowser also personally lobbied the city council to defeat a proposal to permit pot smoking in bars or restaurants — fearing it would lead to private cannabis clubs.

The police have also pounced on entrepreneurs who push things too far. In late 2015 they arrested Nicholas “Kush God” Cunningham, who had deployed a fleet of cars covered in marijuana-leaf decals that would hand out pot edibles in exchange for “donations.”...

Police maintain that the gift loophole isn’t fooling anyone. “In our estimation, that’s still illegal,” said Lt. Andrew Struhar of the Narcotics and Special Operations division of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department. But Struhar also admitted that police aren’t “actively out hunting” for marijuana violators as long as everything stays low-key and the neighbors don’t complain.

“We serve the citizens and if they say there’s a problem on this or that block, we’re going to do something about it,” he said. “If you’re going to flaunt it and you’re going to stick it in our face and force us to take action against it, then we’re going to take action.”

For now the model seems to be staggering along, but it’s debatable how long this can continue. Legalization activists say that a quasi-legal grey area was never their goal. Members of the District’s government are even less enthusiastic; they complain about the intrusiveness of the congressional oversight and point to a study which estimated $130 million in potential annual revenue from taxing marijuana sales. “I don’t think it’s sustainable,” said City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “We have legal marijuana but we can’t regulate it. It’s stupid, it’s just stupid.”

September 28, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 15, 2017

In preparation for coming reforms, UMass to study marijuana use in Bay State before start of recreational sales

ThNF1SK14RAs reported in this press release, as "Massachusetts prepares to begin sales of recreational marijuana in 2018, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health (DPH), have begun a one-year baseline study to assess the level of marijuana use before legal, recreational sales go into effect." Here is more:

The investigation will be funded by a $275,000 contract from DPH as part of the DPH Marijuana Baseline Health Study to provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving. They will also look at outcomes such as marijuana-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities. Public health professors Rosa Rodríguez-Monguió and Jennifer Whitehill will lead the research at SPHHS.

David Buchanan, SPHHS chair of health promotion and policy, helped to organize two forums last year for Massachusetts lawmakers to hear about impacts of legalization in Colorado and Washington State. He says that agency directors in both states strongly recommend pre/post studies to evaluate the impact. After the forums, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana unanimously recommended that a baseline study be conducted in Massachusetts, and it was later mandated as part of legislation passed in December 2016 that tweaked the ballot question passed by the voters.

As part of the baseline study, Whitehill and Rodríguez-Monguió have designed a statewide survey plus other studies that will complement the efforts of investigators from DPH, John Snow, Inc., Mathematica Policy Research, and the UMass Donahue Institute. Findings from the various lines of investigation will be presented to a legislative committee in July 2018.

Rodríguez-Monguió says one question to be addressed with the collection of new survey data is whether increased marijuana availability leads to increased use of other substances, particularly alcohol and prescription drugs, or whether marijuana use might serve as a substitute for prescription drugs and other substances. The UMass Amherst team will also analyze several existing national and state databases to explore associations between recreational marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug use, and involvement in fatal car crashes and calls to poison control.

September 15, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Deputy AG Rosenstein hints about lingering concerns about sticking with Cole memo federal prosecution policies

As reported in this Forbes piece by Tom Angell, the "Trump administration is continuing to weigh whether or not to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference, the Justice Department's number two official said on Thursday." Here is more:

"We are reviewing that policy.  We haven't changed it, but we are reviewing it. We're looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation.  "And I think there is some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it's more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states," he said.

Under the so-called "Cole Memo," named after the former Obama Justice Department official who authored it in 2013, the federal government set out certain criteria that, if followed, would allow states to implement their own laws mostly without intervention.  Those criteria concern areas like youth use, impaired driving and interstate trafficking.

In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime legalization opponent, directed a Justice Department task force to review the memo and make recommendations for possible changes.  But that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force's report to the attorney general.

In his new remarks, Rosenstein expressed concern that people are misinterpreting the still-in-effect memo.  "That's been perceived in some places almost as if it creates a safe harbor, but it doesn't. And it's clear that it doesn't," he said.  "That is, even if, under the terms of the memo you're not likely to be prosecuted, it doesn't mean that what you're doing is legal or that it's approved by the federal government or that you protected from prosecution in the future."...

Citing ongoing federal prohibition laws, Rosenstein said,  "Marijuana is illegal, and it's a controlled substance and there are no authorized uses for it, with very limited exceptions for research approved by DEA."  Without saying when a decision or announcement might be made, he said that the administration will "take that all into consideration and then make a determination whether or not to revise that policy."

September 15, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"How Medical Marijuana Smoothed the Transition to Marijuana Legalization in the United States"

The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming article authored by Beau Kilmer and Robert MacCoun which is soon to be published in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.  Here is its abstract:

Public support for legalizing marijuana use increased from 25% in 1995 to 60% in 2016, rising in lockstep with support for same-sex marriage. Between November 2012 and November 2016, voters in eight states passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana sales for nonmedical purposes—covering one-fifth of the US population.  These changes are unprecedented but are not independent of the changes in medical marijuana laws that have occurred over the past 20 years.  This article suggests five ways in which the passage and implementation of medical marijuana laws smoothed the transition to nonmedical legalization in the United States: (a) They demonstrated the efficacy of using voter initiatives to change marijuana supply laws, (b) enabled the psychological changes needed to destabilize the “war on drugs” policy stasis, (c) generated an evidence base that could be used to downplay concerns about nonmedical legalization, (d) created a visible and active marijuana industry, and (e) revealed that the federal government would allow state and local jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from marijuana.

September 13, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"The Effects of Marijuana Liberalizations: Evidence from Monitoring the Future"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard and Jeffrey Miron. Here is its abstract:

By the end of 2016, 28 states had liberalized their marijuana laws: by decriminalizing possession, by legalizing for medical purposes, or by legalizing more broadly.  More states are considering such policy changes even while supporters and opponents continue to debate their impacts.  Yet evidence on these liberalizations remains scarce, in part due to data limitations.

We use data from Monitoring the Future’s annual surveys of high school seniors to evaluate the impact of marijuana liberalizations on marijuana use, other substance use, alcohol consumption, attitudes surrounding substance use, youth health outcomes, crime rates, and traffic accidents.  These data have several advantages over those used in prior analyses.

We find that marijuana liberalizations have had minimal impact on the examined outcomes.  Notably, many of the outcomes predicted by critics of liberalizations, such as increases in youth drug use and youth criminal behavior, have failed to materialize in the wake of marijuana liberalizations.

September 12, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Spotlighting concerns over increases in heavy marijuana use

In this recent post, I noted that last week the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released here some key data from its 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  The SAMSHA data showing decreases in teen marijuana use garnered considerable attention, and rightly so because so many are concerned about when marijuana reforms might mean for marijuana activity by those with still developing brains.  

The SAMSHA data covers a lot more than teen usage, and Christopher Ingraham has this new Washington Post piece about a trend in the data concerning adult marijuana use.  His piece is headlined "Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about," and here are excerpts:

[NSDUH has data on] the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

In 2016, nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year.  That figure's up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

Again, this on its own is not necessarily cause for concern. It's possible to smoke marijuana moderately on a daily basis — half a joint to wind down after a day of work, akin to the ubiquitous glass of wine with dinner, for instance. But the comparison with alcohol is instructive here. According to the federal survey data, marijuana users are far more likely to use daily than drinkers are to drink daily.... In a given year, lots of people drink — but relatively few of them drink every day. That's not true for marijuana. Marijuana users are nearly three times as likely as drinkers to consume their drug of choice daily.

Some of that daily marijuana use is probably inherently moderate and nothing to be concerned about. But public health researchers worry that much of it is a result of problematic use — drug dependency. "While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure, marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users," as Carnegie Mellon University researcher Jonathan Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.

The question, then, becomes how best to address the risks of chronic, heavy marijuana use. Keeping pot illegal is not likely to solve things — after all, the charts above show that daily marijuana use was rising well before the first states legalized the drug in 2014. Legalization advocates say that bringing the drug out in the open and regulating it is the best way to go. They point to tobacco as an example: Tobacco use, including heavy use, has fallen precipitously in the past two decades as a result of public health campaigns and greater stigma around use of the drug — all of which was accomplished without throwing people in jail for using it.

Public-health experts, meanwhile, are increasingly calling for a balance between the extremes of prohibition and commercialization — "grudging toleration," as New York University professor Mark Kleiman puts it. As a Rand Corp. report outlined last year, there are a whole host of options for dealing with the marijuana market, from allowing people to grow marijuana but not sell it, to giving the government a monopoly in marijuana sales, to more esoteric options like allowing nonprofit co-ops to control the supply of the drug.

The good news is that as laws relax around marijuana use, we're running real-world experiments in how some of those options actually work. In the United States, we have a handful of fully commercial markets, like the ones in Colorado and Washington. We also have noncommercial legalization for homegrown marijuana in the District. In Canada, meanwhile, it appears that the province of Ontario will experiment with implementing a government monopoly on the drug starting in July of next year.

September 11, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)