Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, February 27, 2015

Learning so much already even in first few hours of first Tribal Marijuana Conference

ImagesI feel extraordinarily fortunate to have been invited to participate the nation’s first ever Tribal Marijuana Conference taking place as I write this post from a huge ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino, just North of Seattle.   This post from Canna Law Blog discusses the basics, and this agenda highlights all the informed speakers in the mix who are already making this an amazing event in which I am learning so much.  

For example, right now on the podium now are Thomas Carr, the Boulder City Attorney, and Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, are providing an extraordinary set of insights about local enforcement of local laws in the first two recreational marijuana states. Carr also reported that, because Dunkin' Donuts does not have a store in Boulder, it is easier to get marijuana (and munchies) in Boulder than Dunkin' Donuts (and Munchkins) in some parts of Colorado. Of course, that should not worry public health advocates too much, given that there is good reason to believe Munchkins are perhaps much more addictive and harmful than marijuana.

1403002903506This local article, headlined "Indian tribes looks to marijuana as new moneymaker," highlights some reasons why there are hundreds of persons at this event:

After making hundreds of billions of dollars running casinos, American Indian tribes are getting a good whiff of another potential moneymaker: marijuana.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference is set for Friday on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state as Indian Country gets ready to capitalize on the nation’s expanding pot industry. Organizers said representatives from more than 50 tribes in at least 20 states have registered, with total attendance expected to surpass 300....

Robert Odawi Porter, one of the conference organizers and the former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, said tribes have “a tremendous economic diversification opportunity to consider” with marijuana commerce. He said the event would bring together “trailblazers” in the industry who will help tribal leaders understand the complex issues involved.

While it’s unknown how many tribes ultimately will seek to take advantage of the change, one analyst warned that any tribe expecting to hit the jackpot might be in for a surprise, particularly as the supply of legal pot in the U.S. increases. “People keep forgetting it’s a competitive market,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. “And it’s cheap to grow.”

In Washington state, where retail pot stores opened in July, Kleiman said pot growers who sold their product for $21 a gram only a few months ago are now getting $4 a gram. “The price of marijuana is the price of illegality,” he said.

But the issue is generating plenty of buzz among tribal leaders. On Monday, tribal officials at the National Congress of American Indians winter meeting in Washington, D.C., attended a closed breakout session with two U.S. attorneys to discuss the implications of legalized marijuana....

Even though the talks are in the early stages, many tribal officials are pleased that the Obama administration is giving them the power to proceed. “The position of the administration is a strong indication of their commitment and acknowledgment of tribes’ sovereignty, jurisdiction and governmental authority,” said W. Ron Allen, chairman and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.

Marijuana is a divisive issue among tribes, with many tribal officials worried about high rates of drug addiction among American Indians. Last year, the Yakama Nation decided to ban marijuana from its reservation in south central Washington state. The Tulalip Tribe, located just north of Seattle, voted to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Justice to try to legalize medical marijuana.

Legalization opponents fear that more tribes will want to begin selling marijuana without understanding the risks. “I worry about this being a big expansion and I worry that the potential consequences – health, safety and legal – have not been properly communicated to them,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group.

Regardless of what tribes decide to do, he warned that the situation could change with the election of a new president in 2016. “I don’t see this ending well for anyone, especially if a new administration decides to enforce federal law,” Sabet said. “The thing people should remember is that marijuana is still illegal – on tribal lands and otherwise – even if the law isn’t being equally enforced.”

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, another of the planned speakers at Friday’s conference, said allowing tribes to legalize marijuana will move pot sales “into the light of day.” And he predicted there would be little change in the amount of pot sold on reservations. “Here’s the worst-case scenario: that a tribe just decides they want to be the epicenter of marijuana production, they want to undercut the state system, they want to be a mecca, if you will,” Holmes said. “I’ve heard no tribe say that. . . . We seem to be able to co-exist quite nicely.”

Kleiman said the tax issue would be one of the toughest to sort out as tribes ponder whether to join the industry. “It’s a big deal for people who are trying to make sense of marijuana policy, because if the tribes are exempt from state law, then the states can’t actually tax and regulate,” Kleiman said. “That would be catastrophic. It’s not a big deal for the tribes because there’s no money in it.”

February 27, 2015 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)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poll shows, after a few years of experience, Colorado citizens still strongly support legalization

As reported in this Politico piece, headlined "Poll: Colorado residents still back legal marijuana," a new poll suggests significant experience with a marijuana legalization regime has strengthened in-state support for this major marijuana reforms. Here are the details:

More than two years after Coloradans voted to allow recreational marijuana use, the state’s residents continue to stand firmly behind keeping the drug legal, a new poll found.  The survey, commissioned by Quinnipiac University, found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while only 38 percent are against it.

The result featured significant gender and age disparities.  Voters ages 18 to 34 favored it overwhelmingly, 82-16 percent, while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older were against it, with only 46 percent in support.  Likewise, men supported the measure by a margin of 63-33, while women only favored it 53-44....

Thus far, the Obama administration has decided not to intervene in states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, despite federal regulations outlawing the drug. Colorado’s marijuana legalization is currently being challenged in federal court by neighboring states that claim a legal pot industry next door has rendered them unable to enforce their drug laws at home.

The Quinnipiac survey was taken between Feb. 5-15 among 1,049 Colorado voters. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

February 25, 2015 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spotlighting the diverse nature (and job-growth impact) of modern marijuana entrepreneurs

One of many reasons I find the emerging marijuana industry so interesting is due to the diverse and unpredictable nature and background of those interested in marijuana businesses. This reality is well covered today in this notable local New York story headlined "From Wall Street to moms, business of marijuana attracting diverse set of entrepreneurs." Here are highlights:

Rachel Jones, 24, is a stay-at-home mother from Syosset, Long Island who quit her six-figure job and started her own business hoping to ride the marijuana wave. “I see myself as an entrepreneur,” Jones said.

Her business experiment Juana Box launches in just a few weeks, shipping boxes of smoking accessories – glass pipes, rolling papers, vaping pens – across the nation. However, the one key ingredient missing is marijuana.

This new mom currently markets tobacco use only to those over 19, but she’s poised to blow her business, partnering with marijuana growers and dispensaries, anticipating recreational pot will soon be sold in New York and across the U.S. “In a few years this could be a factory and I could be hiring other stay-at-home mothers,” Jones said.

From one woman entrepreneurs to well-funded multi-million dollar businesses, marijuana is no longer just a pipe dream. From growers to CEO’s, this business, estimated to be at $46 billion by 2016, is expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years.... Bethanny Frankel of Real Housewives fame, plans to use her Skinny girl cocktail fame to launch a Skinny Girl marijuana – guaranteed not to give you munchies. Even Wall Street wants in....

Leslie Bocksor started a hedge fund company dedicated to pot. He expects it will soon cap out and he’ll need to open another and says business opportunities are mind-blowing. “They are incredibly excited to be investing in it,” Bocksor said. “We haven’t seen an opportunity like this that even compares since the birth of the internet back to the mind to late 90’s.”

“People are spending money on cannabis–hundreds of millions of dollars,” Bocksor said. “They’re probably spending three times as much as that on flight, on rental cars, on hotels and restaurants and on shopping. The economic impact is extraordinary.”

And all those businesses need workers.

February 23, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Awesome (law student) commentary at new Drug Law & Policy blog

In this recent post highlighting a commentary by Professor David Ball, I briefly noted his new Drug Law & Policy blog.  Though I always enjoyed checking out all of David's occasional posts on that blog as he got it up-and-running last month, this past week the blog became a daily must-read as his students began to post content about many of the dynamic and diverse legal issues raised by modern marijuana reform.  

Here is a run-down of recent student posts at Drug Law & Policy, all of which merit attention:

February 21, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Marijuana's Pauline Sabin?: "85-year-old Houston woman fighting to legalize marijuana"

I just got finished watching the last segment of the wonderful PBS Prohibition documentary, which stresses the role of  Pauline Sabin, the first woman to sit on the Republican National Committee and the founder of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, who helped drive the movement to repeal the 18th amendment.  With that history fresh in mind, I found especially interesting this news report from Texas which has the headline quoted in the title of this post.  Here are excerpts:

"I've always been pretty outspoken," said Ann Lee. At 85 years old, Ann Lee looks like anyone's grandmother. "I don't know whether it's my age, the white hair, what is it, but it does seem to strike a chord," said Lee.

But don't let the white hair fool you. She's a fiery Republican who believes you have the right to use marijuana. "It's just me, I believe in this," said Lee.

For Lee, it's personal. She wasn't always a supporter of weed. That changed when her son was bound to a wheelchair, and needed it to treat his condition. "We realized marijuana wasn't the weed of the devil which I had been known to say," said Lee.

She and her husband Bob fought to legalize weed since then. Bob died last week. Now it's her job to finish what they started together. "This is heady stuff for this lady," said Lee. "I've been an activist for many years, but I've never had the response that I'm now getting."

She knows more about weed than someone half her age, and even has the occasional edible. Activists call her the perfect weapon in the marijuana reform movement. "It's not Republican to support prohibition," said Lee.

Some prior related posts:

February 20, 2015 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

California AG expresses openness to full legalization

As reported in this local article, headlined "Kamala Harris not opposed to legalizing marijuana," the top law enforcement offices in the largest US state is expressing an openness to the idea of full marijuana legalization.  Here are the details:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the state’s top cop and Democratic front-runner in the race for a U.S. Senate seat next year, said Wednesday that she has “no moral objection” to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but cautioned that special care will be required to assess the impacts on children and public safety. “It’s easy to stand up and make a grand gesture, but we really do have to work out the details,” said Harris, who told The Chronicle that she believes “it is an inevitability” that recreational use of marijuana will be legalized in the state.

Harris’ comments were her first in-depth remarks since announcing that she would run in 2016 to fill the seat of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who announced last month that she would not run for re-election, and the first time as a Senate candidate that she has addressed marijuana legalization.  “But to be very clear,” she said of legalization, “it’s not a passive position,” adding that as the state’s senior law enforcement official, she has already been studying the impacts in Colorado and Washington state, where recreational use is legal. It becomes legal in Oregon later this year.

“I’m actually in constant communication with Washington and Oregon to watch what they are doing and to explore all of the options, to make sure we do this in a way that takes advantage of learning from their mistakes,” she said.

California will need to “figure out the important issues” related to legalization, especially “as it relates to children, as it relates to schools and advertising and the quantities ... and issues like safe driving and enforcement of our rules around that,” as well as about the impacts of edible marijuana, she said. “That’s where I’m focused, on all the details of that.”

Her personal views on the drug: “I don’t have any moral opposition to legalization,” she said. “But I do feel a very strong sense of responsibility as a top cop to pay attention to the details ... to make sure that if it were legalized ... that vulnerable people are safe,” she said.

February 19, 2015 in Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Serious talk about full marijuana legalization in two Northeastern states

Today's news about marijuana reform includes these two stories about serious efforts to bring major marijuana reform to two states in the Northeast:

From New Jersey, "Prosecutors, ACLU and NAACP join to legalize marijuana":

Representatives of diverse organizations on Wednesday plan to launch a consortium aimed at legalizing marijuana in New Jersey....

A news conference is planned in Newark to announce the consortium. Among the groups to be represented at the news conference are the New Jersey Municipal Prosecutor's Association, which last year came out in favor of legalizing marijuana, and the New Jersey chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A media advisory said the various groups are joining forces "in a broad-based campaign to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, ending thousands of arrests per year in New Jersey."

From Vermont, "Marijuana Legalization Bills to Be Introduced in Vt. Legislature":

A pair of bills expected to be introduced this week in the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier would legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana, and pave the way for authorized stores and lounges to sell pot.

The Senate bill, to be introduced by Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden County, would permit Vermont residents 21-years-old and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants, seven immature plants, and marijuana produced by those plants in a secure, indoor facility. An essentially identical bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington....

Key players at the Statehouse expect to take their time. Zuckerman acknowledged there are no plans to hold hearings this legislative session on legalizing marijuana. He said he wants to submit the bill this week so that the pieces can be put in place to really make serious progress on the issue starting in January of 2016.

February 17, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does sensible marijuana legalization require allowing on-site consumption?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new commentary by Professor David Ball appearing in USA Today.  Here are excerpts:

In Colorado and Alaska, when the states legalized recreational marijuana use, voters were sold on the idea that we weren't simply legalizing the drug; we were regulating it like alcohol. That selling point is likely to be part of 2016 campaigns to do the same in states from California to Maine.

But there is one way in which marijuana regulations have, so far, not modeled themselves on alcohol regulations. They do not allow on-premises consumption in commercial establishments such as bars and restaurants. This is a mistake. The best way to limit diversion from the legal market to teens would be to shift all marijuana use, or at least as much as possible, to on-premises consumption.

Consider the alcohol market: We know that underage drinkers primarily get alcohol three ways, stealing from parents, at parties, and from asking older people to buy for them. Kids get alcohol from someone who bought it "to go" from a store. We could slash youth drinking by eliminating off-site consumption. If there were no liquor stores, no beer and wine in supermarkets, there would be a lot less diversion to teens. Only those with a license to serve alcohol could sell it, and consumption would take place in those establishments. Bars and restaurants risk losing liquor licenses and face criminal and civil penalties when they sell illegally.

Of course, it would be hard to ban to-go sales of alcohol now that millions of Americans are used to it. But marijuana is different. We are just now creating the pattern for legal marijuana use.

The most powerful objection to regulated recreational marijuana is the danger of teenagers getting access. This is of paramount importance — and not just because I'm a father of two. The prohibition we have now has proved to be a lousy way to keep marijuana out of anyone's hands.

In a regulated market where all marijuana is purchased to go, we'll have the same problems that we have with alcohol. But what if you could buy marijuana only for immediate consumption? Businesses that sold it would check ID and only the buyer could use it, just as bars avoid serving underage patrons today....

There are technical issues to be worked out. It is unclear whether states would need to change smoking laws or whether states would allow only vaporizers, drinks or edibles. Regardless, as states seek to regulate marijuana like alcohol, they need to learn the lessons of alcohol as well. Allowing off-site consumption of marijuana, as is the rule today, maximizes the potential for diversion to unauthorized users. It's the one alcohol regulation we shouldn't be copying.

David has some additional points to make on this topic in this post at his Drug Law & Policy blog.

February 12, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are hundreds of tribal communities going to enter the marijuana business?

Images (1)The question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent Huffington Post piece headlined "More Than 100 Native American Tribes Consider Growing Marijuana." Here are excerpts:

More than 100 Native American tribes have reached out to FoxBarry Farms, a management firm building the nation's first marijuana facility on tribal land, over the past month to express interest in the cannabis industry.

FoxBarry CEO Barry Brautman, whose company also works with tribes to build and operate casinos, told The Huffington Post there has been a surge of interest since the Department of Justice's announcement late last year that tribes are free to grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they adhere to specific guidelines. "I really underestimated," Brautman said. "So many tribes are wanting to do this right now."

Brautman, along with the Denver-based United Cannabis Corp., recently inked a contract to build a giant medical marijuana growing operation on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation's ranch in Northern California. The $10 million, 2.5-acre facility will include spaces for cultivating, processing and selling products under the United Cannabis brand. Brautman said the operation plans to hire 50 to 100 employees, with preference to tribe members.

As more states legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, the burgeoning industry may provide an economic boon for tribes across the country, Brautman explained. He's currently in talks with three other California-based tribes, as well as groups in seven other states. He said he hopes to finalize new deals every few weeks in the coming months.

"Tribes want what any government wants for its people, and that's financial independence," Brautman said. "They want to earn their own money, provide education, health care and housing. This new industry allows them to be more economically independent."

A U.S. Department of Justice memo issued in December states that Native Americans are free to grow and sell marijuana as long as they adhere to the same federal guidelines that govern state-legal operations. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, 23 states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, and four states and the District of Columbia have laws that permit recreational use....

Following the Justice Department memo, some speculated that tribes would be reluctant to pursue marijuana-related business ventures. "Henceforward, Indian nations are exempt from the federal government’s rules on marijuana," reads a Daily Beast article from December titled, "Tribes to U.S. Government: Take Your Weed and Shove It" It continues: "But the feds missed an important point when they failed to consult with the 568 recognized tribes in America: they didn’t want to be."

Tribes that express hesitance argue that the federal memo's vague wording may leave them vulnerable to prosecution. "It’s like the medical marijuana clinics here in California," Ron Andrade, director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, told LA Weekly, referring to the hundreds of medical marijuana operations that have been targeted by federal prosecutors throughout the state. “Yeah, you can have one, but we’ll still arrest you.”

FoxBarry, however, isn't the only company being contacted by tribes eager to pursue opportunities in marijuana. Chad Ruby, the CEO of United Cannabis, told HuffPost that "dozens" of tribes have reached out to him as well. "This is just the start of our business model," he said. "It is absolutely our plan to team up with tribes all over the country."

Brautman said that for now, he will only enter cannabis-related projects with tribes whose land lies within states that already permit medical or recreational use, even though tribes from non-marijuana states have contacted him. "If an individual visits a reservation, purchases a product, then leaves, they're now in possession of a controlled substance," he said. "Although [tribes] still have the ability to do this legally, I don't think it makes sense from a business perspective."...

Troy Dayton, the CEO of marijuana research firm ArcView, told HuffPost that the Pomo Nation operation likely marks a much bigger trend. "It makes a lot of sense," he said. "It's the right move that Native American lands have been opened up to the same freedoms that states have -- my hunch is that this is the beginning of something larger."

February 7, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Is marijuana making too much money for Colorado?"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article in the Christian Science Monitor.  Here are excerpts:

Recreational marijuana use has been legal for more than 13 months in Colorado.  In that time, sales have raised over $50 million for the state, according to Complex.com. Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state stipulated the first $40 million would be set aside to for schools.

However, according to Rolling Stone, the surplus tax revenue from the sale of marijuana is roughly $30 million.  Under state law this means that adult Coloradans are now entitled to a refund, which will be in the form of a check for a whopping $7.63.

The state of Colorado has a law on the books titled the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, which was a voter-sponsored amendment that passed back in 1992, according to the state's treasurer's office.  The law mandates that the state treasurer's office must return excess tax revenue to the taxpayers if the amount exceeds a figure that is calculated with a formula that accounts for inflation and population growth.   The law has returned some $2.2 billion to the people of Colorado, according to the Associated Press.

Rolling Stone reports that state lawmakers are now left grasping for ways to put the excess tax revenue genie back in the bottle. This would include introducing a bill that would leave marijuana revenue exempt from taxpayer refunds. Back in 1992, few in the state would have expected Colorado would lead America’s pot revolution and therefore lawmakers left so-called sin tax revenue in the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights....

Colorado’s windfall hasn't gone unnoticed by other states. After Colorado and Washington state, Oregon and Alaska became the next two states to legalize marijuana with ballot measures succeeding back on November 4, of last year. In Alaska the law goes into effect on February 24 and Oregonians can buy legal pot on July 15, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Oregon stands to earn $50 to $100 million in annual tax revenue and Alaska could bring in up to $20 million, according to NerdWallet, who calculated what each state could potentially earn if they were to legalize marijuana.

February 6, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Was Jeb Bush a significant marijuana dealer in high school?

The question in the title of this post is my first reaction to a section of this lengthy Boston Globe piece about Jeb Bush’s “troubled” high school years at Phillips Academy in Andover in the late 1960s. Here are some excerpts from the piece that prompt the query above:

In the fall of 1967, when a 14-year-old Texan named John Ellis Bush arrived on the bucolic campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, great expectations preceded him. Jeb, as he was known, should have been an easy fit in that elite and ivied world. His much-accomplished father and his older brother had both gone to Andover; no one was surprised that Jeb had followed suit.

But this Bush almost ran aground in those first, formative prep school days. He bore little resemblance to his father, a star on many fronts at Andover, and might have been an even worse student than brother George. Classmates said he smoked a notable amount of pot — as many did — and sometimes bullied smaller students....

Jeb Bush, in an interview for this story, recalled it as one of the most difficult times of his life, while acknowledging that he made it harder by initially breaking a series of rules. “I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” Bush said, both of which could have led to expulsion. “It was pretty common.” He said he had no recollection of bullying and said he was surprised to be perceived that way by some....

One of those who did get to know Bush in these early days was Peter Tibbetts. The connection, he said, was pot. The first time Tibbetts smoked marijuana, he said, was with Bush and a few other classmates in the woods near Pemberton Cottage. Then, a few weeks later, Tibbetts said he smoked hashish — a cannabis product typically stronger than pot — in Jeb’s dormitory room.

“The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.” As the rock group’s signature song, “Magic Carpet Ride,’’ blared from the speakers, Tibbetts said he smoked hash with Bush.

He said he once bought hashish from Bush but stressed, in a follow-up e-mail, “Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash. It wasn’t as if he was a dealer, though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that first joint.”

Bush previously has acknowledged what he called his “stupid” and “wrong” use of marijuana. In the years since, he has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.

I tend to presume that most persons who were teenagers in the late 1960s had some history as a marijuana user, and thus I was not at all surprised when I first saw headlines making much of Jeb Bush's history as a pot consumer. But I think the fact that at least one person reports having bought hashish from Jeb Bush back then make this story at least a bit more significant and leads me to wonder just how much product Jeb might have been in the habit of moving back then.

February 4, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Medical or Recreational Marijuana and Drugged Driving"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new article by Paul Larkin now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Beginning in the 1920s and lasting for seventy years, state and federal law treated marijuana as a dangerous drug and as contraband, forbidding its cultivation, distribution, possession, and use.  Over the last two decades, however, numerous states have enacted laws permitting marijuana to be used for medical treatment.  Some also permit its recreational use.  Those laws have raised a host of novel legal and public policy issues.  Most of the discussion, and almost all of the litigation, has involved the respective roles of the states and federal government and how each one may and should deal with this very controversial subject.

One issue that has received little attention in the legal community is the risk that medical and recreational marijuana laws will pose to highway safety.  Will those laws increase, decrease, or leave untouched the rate of accidents and fatalities on our nation’s roadways?  How should the criminal justice system — in particular, its law enforcement officers — address the problem of “drugged driving” in general and in states with medical marijuana laws?

This Article addresses those issues.  Some of the possible solutions do not involve changing the law.  Training law enforcement officers to better spot drugged drivers, developing safe, reliable, portable, and inoffensive devices to test drivers for marijuana use on a highway shoulder, identifying a particular concentration of marijuana in the blood or some other bodily fluid that can be used to establish impairment — those and other steps can be taken without changing the legal framework for addressing the problems that occur when people drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance.  But it also may be necessary to modify the laws governing alcohol in order to reduce the crashes caused by marijuana use.  People often take those drugs in combination, and a marijuana-alcohol cocktail is more debilitating that either drug consumed alone.  States therefore may need to lower their thresholds for drunken driving in order to dissuade people who use marijuana and alcohol together from getting behind the wheel.

January 29, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

"DeWine: Marijuana legalization a 'stupid idea'"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article from Ohio.  Here are excerpts:

Ohio's top cop was blunt about his opinion on legalizing marijuana in Ohio: "I think it's a stupid idea."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told a group at the Newark Rotary Club on Tuesday that efforts to legalize marijuana in the state would lead to increased use of the drug, more accidents and less healthy residents.  "The law is a teacher, and when the law says, 'Well, this is OK for adults,' people are going to use it," DeWine said.

DeWine also had few kind words for the recent proposal to legalize the drug.  "The proposal, by the way, that I saw is just a ludicrous proposal.  It's basically legalizing a monopoly in the state of Ohio among a few individuals or a few companies who will be able to make all the money from the sale of marijuana," he said.

ResponsibleOhio, a group that supports medical and personal use of marijuana, proposed legalizing marijuana for anyone older than 21 who can pass a criminal background check and taxing the drug at 15 percent.  The proposed ballot initiative would create a seven-member Marijuana Control Commission to oversee and regulate the manufacture and sale of marijuana....

"Even if you think selling marijuana is a great idea, I don't know why anyone would think just giving a few people who are going to put the money up to pass it on the ballot is a good idea to let them have that monopoly," DeWine said.

I sometimes think the seriousness and importance of any legal reform proposal can be gauged by the seriousness and importance of the individuals and groups that are quick to criticize the proposal.  By this metric, the fact that Ohio's Attorney General is already assailing marijuana reform proposals in Ohio shows that these proposals are already pretty serious and important.

January 29, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

AG nominee Loretta Lynch says she does not support marijuana legalization

This NPR report provides details on the brief discussion of federal marijuana law and policy during her first day of confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch:

[S]he was asked about marijuana, and whether she supports legalizing it. "Senator, I do not," Lynch told Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., when he asked if she supported making pot legal.

The moment stood in contrast to other exchanges between Lynch and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as she defended Obama's right to take executive action on immigration rules and aligned herself with the president's view on U.S. interrogation programs, saying, "Waterboarding is torture."

Sessions asked Lynch about marijuana during the afternoon portion of her hearing. And he noted that the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency also disagrees with the idea of legalizing marijuana.

The senator then read aloud a quote from President Obama from last January, in which he told The New Yorker, "I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

When Sessions asked Lynch if she agreed with that assessment, she said, "Well senator, I certainly don't hold that view, and don't agree with that view of marijuana as a substance.  I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion – neither of which I am able to share."

She added, "Not only do I not support legalization of marijuana – it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently, to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general."

January 29, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Can and should recent Rand report for Vermont inform all reform debates in all states?

As highlighted in this prior post, earlier this month the RAND Drug Policy Research Center released this big policy/research report on marijuana reform titled "Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions."  This report was produced in response to specific Vermont legislation and expressly "aims to inform the debate in Vermont."  Nevertheless, the report's summary ends by asserting that the report's "general themes should be useful to any jurisdiction considering alternatives to marijuana prohibition."  

I am certain policy-makers and advocates for and against reform will find this RAND report "useful" in various ways, and I have already required students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar to review the RAND report with an eye on how its analysis might impact consideration of various marijuana reform proposals emerging in Ohio.  But I continue to wonder if (and worry that) there is ultimately a strong disaffinity among most marijuana advocates to seriously engage with the kind of "wonkish" cost/benefit analysis that the RAND report represents.

 I sense that supporters of marijuana reform are often eager to deny that there are any significant costs likely to result from reform, and likewise that opponents of marijuana reform are often eager to deny that there are any significant benefits likely to result from reform.  Consequently, I suspect (and fear) that the most ardent participants in policy debates on both sides may not want something like the RAND report at the center of reform discussions because it presents a more nuanced account of costs and benefits than advocates may want to acknowledge.

January 26, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

RAND produces big new policy report: "Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions"

Vermont275As reported in this local AP piece, headlined "RAND study: Marijuana legalization could be big bucks from sales, tourism," the RAND Drug Policy Research Center has just released a big new report on marijuana reform with a focus on Vermont.   The AP piece provides an effective summary of the basics of the RAND report and local political recaction in Vermont:

Vermont could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue if it were to legalize marijuana, but only if nearby states didn't also jump on the bandwagon, according to a study released Friday.

The study comes as states across the country increasingly explore the potential budget boost from taxing an underground industry, even while the nascent legal pot business in Colorado and Washington experiences growing pains.

In Vermont, the Rand Corporation found that revenue from marijuana consumers could generate between $20 million and $75 million a year for the state.  The larger figure could be reached through what the report calls "marijuana tourism and illicit exports."  It also found that nearly 40 times as many marijuana consumers live within 200 miles of Vermont than live in the state.

The preface to the report, which doesn't make a recommendation about whether the state should legalize marijuana, says it's meant to "inform the debate." While it was prepared for Vermont, it says its conclusions could be useful to other states considering marijuana legalization.

Such high revenue is by no means assured, the report said. "If the federal government intervened to stop such cross-border traffic or if another state in the Northeast decided to legalize marijuana and set lower tax rates, these potential revenues might not materialize," it said.

Vermont allows the use of medical marijuana, and the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he believes the state will follow Washington and Colorado in legalizing it, but he wants to see how it plays out in other states before easing laws. "I continue to support moves to legalize marijuana in Vermont but have always said that we have to proceed with rigorous research and preparation before deciding whether to act," Shumlin said. "This report will help us do that."

The price of marijuana in Washington has plunged since the sky-high prices when pot shops opened six months ago, and now growers complain the state isn't properly regulating supply. Regulators in Colorado have capped production to deter weed from spilling into nearby states, but that has meant more demand than supply.

Last spring, the Vermont Legislature passed a law requiring Shumlin's administration to produce a report about the consequences of legalizing marijuana. No proposals to legalize marijuana have been introduced in the Legislature. After the Friday presentation by the report's authors, portions of it were recounted during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee. "It seems to me the big question is do we go forward with this," said Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, D-Calais. She said the question on how to tax it is complicated.

The report provided few hard answers. It said that many questions can't be answered in advance, such as whether easing marijuana laws would increase abuse and how to keep it from minors and out of other states. "There is no recipe for marijuana legalization," the report said, "nor are there working models of established fully legal marijuana markets."

Here are links to the full report and materials that RAND released with this report:

January 17, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"What Good Is A Pot-Sniffing Dog When Pot Is Legal?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new Jacob Sullum commentary at Forbes. Here are excerpts:

Drug dogs typically are trained to detect marijuana and several other substances. When they smell one of those drugs, they are supposed to alert their handlers with a signal such as barking, scratching, or sitting down. But the dogs cannot indicate which drug they have smelled, let alone distinguish different quantities—a crucial issue in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, where adults 21 or older are allowed (or soon will be allowed) to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public.

Until recently, those canine limitations did not matter, because any quantity of marijuana was unambiguously illegal throughout the country. But the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition is undermining the legal assumptions that have made drug-detecting dogs such a handy law enforcement tool, one that can be deployed at will to justify searches that would otherwise be unconstitutional.

According to the Supreme Court, letting a police dog sniff a suitcase or a car is not a search, so it does not require probable cause. At the same time, an alert by that dog provides probable cause for a search. Those conclusions, which have always been questionable because they are based on a grossly exaggerated sense of the average police dog’s accuracy, look even shakier in light of marijuana legalization....

Washington State Patrol and the Seattle Police Department [have] decided to phase out the use of marijuana-trained dogs, gradually replacing them with animals that alert only to heroin, methamphetamine, crack, and cocaine powder. Police in some Oregon jurisdictions, including Clackamas County and Medford, also are moving away from marijuana-trained dogs....

The Tacoma Police Department is sticking with conventionally trained dogs, and so are police in several Colorado cities, including Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs. New dogs are expensive (about $15,000 each if fully trained, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette), and these departments say the old ones are still useful in certain situations, such as school searches, or in conjunction with other sources of evidence.

Some cops say they are waiting for guidance from state courts. “There are so many unanswered questions,” the officer in charge of K-9 training at the Colorado Springs Police Department told Bloomberg News. “There have not been any test cases to say yes or no, we do not have the right to do this.”

Other departments are being more proactive. The Gazette reports that Loveland, a city about 50 miles north of Denver, is phasing out its marijuana-detecting dogs based on advice from the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office. “It basically goes back to the Fourth Amendment prohibition on illegal searches,” a police spokesman told the paper. “We want to make sure we aren’t infringing on people’s rights.”

January 15, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Latest sign of the apocalypse: "weed-infused sex lube for ladies"?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this notable news story from The Cannabist about a notable new cannabis product, headlined "That weed-infused sex lube for ladies? It’ll be on Colorado shelves this month." Here are the details:

Remember when we first wrote about THC-infused sex lube Foria and its quite singular user instructions in June 2014? “Apply 4-8 sprays directly onto the clitoris, inner and outer labia and inside the vagina.”

That interview with Los Angeles-based Foria founder Mathew Gerson helped introduce the unique product to the masses, and now Gerson — who originally hails from Boulder — is debuting his special, non-psychoactive lube outside of California for the very first time. Foria will make its Colorado debut at the Native Roots location in Aspen during the Winter X-Games on Jan. 21-25.

“I came out to L.A. from Colorado, and I’ve been trying to get back ever since,” Gerson told The Cannabist. “I’m super-excited to be bringing it to Colorado, and Native Roots is a good alignment for us.”

Need a reminder on what Foria is? Per Gerson, from my June interview with him: “It’s a sensual enhancement oil designed for female pleasure — a therapeutic aphrodisiac. Women have described it as relaxing, and they’ve said it’s heightened their sensations. They’ve associated it with warming and tingling, localized in the sexual region.”...

And how have the last six months been for Foria in California? “We never could have imagined the impact it’s having on the patient community in California and how it’s spanned the spectrum of users — from younger women who are looking to deepen the level of intimacy of their own bodies to older women who are experiencing a reawakening of their own sexuality,” Gerson said. “There are a large number of women who could benefit from cannabis but who aren’t interested in the psychoactive component.”

The product’s expansion into Colorado is only the beginning; Gerson estimates Foria will be available in Washington state pot stores in the next few months.

January 13, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Federalism issues and tensions with modern MJ reform becoming even harder for Congress and Prez to avoid in 2015

Download (2)This lengthy new Politico piece, headlined "The new clash over cannabis: Rising tensions between states over pot put pressure on Obama to act," spotlights just some of the new challenges facing federal officials and policymakers as marijuana reform continues to heat up in the new year. Here are excerpts:

The Obama administration and many congressional Republicans have been loath to go anywhere near the experiment with marijuana legalization in Colorado and other states. But pressure is mounting on Washington to take a stand on pot, and perhaps soon.

In a lawsuit filed last month with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that Colorado’s marijuana initiative is spilling over into their neighboring, more conservative states. Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are up over the past year, they say, straining law enforcement budgets as more overtime is paid to handle the uptick in activity. And drugged driving is a growing problem, they contend.

But the neighbor states are also taking aim at a federal government that seems highly reluctant to tackle the issue. And with several more states considering legalizing recreational marijuana, the Justice Department and Congress may be forced to clarify what’s OK or not when it comes to marijuana, experts say....

The issue is emerging as a major test for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, who will have to decide whether to embrace the hands-off approach to marijuana in the states that the Justice Department has adopted under Eric Holder — or take more decisive action to regulate it.

Experts and advocates floated a range of options if Congress or DOJ were to act, some more far-reaching or politically feasible than others. Anti-legalization advocates want an about-face from the administration: Enforce the existing federal marijuana ban and crack down on legalization regimes in Colorado and elsewhere. That’s a pipe dream for the current White House but not inconceivable if a Republican is elected president in 2016.

Pro-legalization advocates want Congress or the Obama administration to reclassify marijuana under sentencing laws so that it would carry lesser or no criminal penalties. Marijuana is currently considered a “Schedule I” drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD. Even cocaine is deemed less dangerous than pot under federal law.

Other experts say Congress should pass legislation that would deem marijuana federally legal in states that enact legal cannabis laws, thus removing ambiguity in those states. And still others want the administration to establish a standardized regulatory framework throughout the states, as the federal government does with other “vice industries.”

The urgency is expected to grow as five states are preparing recreational pot initiatives for the 2016 ballot: Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. A trio of other states — Missouri, Montana and Florida — are considering similar ballot measures. Currently, recreational pot is legal in Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and Oregon; an initiative approved by Washington, D.C., voters in November is currently being challenged by some Republicans in Congress....

In many regards, Oklahoma and Nebraska’s lawsuit demonstrates a last-resort tactic for states that don’t see a willing partner in the federal government, but want to try to blunt the rising tide of legal marijuana in the U.S. But analysts are far from confident that a gridlocked Congress will summon the will to find common ground on such a divisive issue. Though some Republicans and much of the GOP base oppose legalization and would like to see the federal government step up its enforcement, others say more federal action would run counter to the party’s support of states’ rights....

Congress sent something of a mixed signal on marijuana in the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed last month. Anti-legalization hardliners, led by GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, earned a potential victory by including language that might invalidate D.C.’s Initiative 71. But the bill also included language to prohibit federal agents from raiding medical marijuana facilities in states where pot is legal, codifying the Obama administration’s de facto policy.

Without action from Congress or further clarification from DOJ, friction between the states will only increase, experts say. “[I]t is a useful reminder that the Constitution recognizes that having states go their own ways is not necessarily an unalloyed good,” said Brannon Denning, a law professor at Samford University. “In some cases, we want there to be a single, national rule governing conduct in all 50 states.”

January 12, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rolling Stone details how marijuana reform is "leading a dramatic de-escalation in the War on Drugs"

DownloadThis astute, lengthy Rolling Stone article, headlined "The War on Drugs Is Burning Out," give special and justified attention to how modern marijuana reform is changing dramatically the modern drug was landscape. The full piece is a must-read, and here are excerpts:

The conservative wave of 2014 featured an unlikely, progressive undercurrent: In two states, plus the nation's capital, Americans voted convincingly to pull the plug on marijuana prohibition. Even more striking were the results in California, where voters overwhelmingly passed one of the broadest sentencing reforms in the nation, de-felonizing possession of hard drugs. One week later, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD announced an end to arrests for marijuana possession. It's all part of the most significant story in American drug policy since the passage of the 21st Amendment legalized alcohol in 1933: The people of this country are leading a dramatic de-escalation in the War on Drugs.

November's election results have teed up pot prohibition as a potent campaign issue for 2016. Notwithstanding the House GOP's contested effort to preserve pot prohibition in D.C., the flowering of the marijuana-legalization movement is creating space for a more rational and humane approach to adjudicating users of harder drugs, both on the state level and federally. "The door is open to reconsidering all of our drug laws," says Alison Holcomb, who led the pot-legalization push in Washington state in 2012, and has been tapped to direct the ACLU's new campaign against mass incarceration.

On the federal stage, the Justice Department continues to provide what Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, calls "a discreet form of leadership" on state experiments in drug reform – giving tax-and-regulate marijuana laws broad latitude, and even declaring that Native American tribal governments can also experiment with marijuana law, opening a path for recreational pot on reservations in, potentially, dozens of states. Congress, in the same legislation that sought to derail D.C. legalization, carved out historic protections from federal prosecution for state-legal medical-marijuana operations....

Top drug reformers had been wary about putting marijuana initiatives on midterm election ballots – worried that younger, pot-friendly voters might stay home, dealing the anti-Drug War movement a costly setback. "The midterm electorate in 2014 represented a wave of anti-progressive, pro-conservative voters," says the ACLU's Holcomb. Voters under 30 comprised just 12 percent of the national electorate, while voters over 60 – seniors are the one demographic that strongly opposes legalization – made up a whopping 37 percent. Nonetheless, each legalization measure passed, easily. In red-state Alaska, 53 percent endorsed legal pot. In Oregon, the tally was 56 percent – 35,000 more votes than any statewide elected official received. In Washington, D.C., legalization romped with 65 percent of the vote, carrying 142 out of the city's 143 precincts....

The issue of pot could prove more complicated on the presidential stage in 2016, where the big question, says Holcomb, is: "Will Democrats grab the issue as strongly as Rand Paul?"

Among likely 2016 contenders, of either party, the Kentucky senator is the most progressive on marijuana. He's sponsored legislation to make medical marijuana fully legal in states that have adopted it. In the last election, Paul championed the right of D.C. voters to decide on legalization for themselves. Paul has also been a vocal advocate for decriminalization, decrying the practice of booking kids for cannabis. "I don't want to encourage people to do it," he has said. "I think even marijuana is a bad thing to do. But I also don't want to put people in jail who make a mistake."

If Paul were to face off in a contest with Hillary Clinton, pot could emerge as an unlikely wedge issue for the Republican – particularly in libertarian-leaning swing states like Arizona and Nevada, where legalization initiatives are expected. That's because Clinton has continued to talk like a 1990s drug warrior, recently fretting over the dangers of marijuana edibles to children in Colorado, and even declaring that "the feds should be attuned to the way that marijuana is still used as a gateway drug."...

Regardless of the final presidential matchup, pot initiatives in battleground states will make it impossible for the 2016 candidates to ignore, or to simply laugh off, the marijuana issue as they've done so often in the past, says Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority. "The road to the White House," he says, "travels through legal-marijuana territory."

January 8, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)