Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Latest polling data in Colorado and Washington continue to show strong support for legalization

As reported in this new Huffington Post piece, headlined "Pioneer Pot States Did The Right Thing, Polls Show," recent polling in the two states to lead the modern marijuana legalization movement indicates that three years of experience with legalization has not diminished support for these reforms.  Here are the basic details:

Support for legalized marijuana seems to be growing in Colorado and Washington state, which became the first U.S. states to regulate the weed for recreational use two years ago.

A survey released Wednesday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling shows that 56 percent of voters in Washington state approve of their state's recreational marijuana laws, while 37 percent are opposed. The opposition is lower than that in the 2012 vote to approve legalization, in which 56 percent supported the measure, and 44 percent disapproved. Moreover, a majority of Washington voters -- 77 percent -- say the marijuana laws have either had a positive effect or no effect on their lives, according to the poll.

A Qunnipiac poll last month tells a similar story in Colorado. Sixty-two percent of Colorado voters support reformed marijuana laws, the poll shows. That's an increase of 7 percentage points over the margin of support when voters approved Colorado's legalization in 2012....

Colorado became the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, quickly followed by Washington. The first retail shops opened in 2014. By the end of last year, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved recreational marijuana legalization measures. By 2016, as many as 10 additional states are likely to consider reforming marijuana laws.

May 21, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Congrats to Prof. Sam Kamin for becoming the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy

I was pleased on Monday to receive an e-mail press release titled "Denver-Based Vicente Sederberg LLC, One of the Nation’s Leading Marijuana Law Firms, Establishes Professorship for Marijuana Law and Policy at University of Denver Sturm College of Law." I was even more pleased to see from the first paragraph of this release that on of the occasional co-bloggers in this space was to be the first to fill this first- (but not last?) of-its-kind Professorship: 

Today, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law proudly announced that it has received a $45,000 commitment from Denver-based law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC to enable one faculty member to serve as the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy. The purpose of this three-year professorship is to allow a Sturm College of Law faculty member to dedicate time and resources toward the development of intelligent marijuana law and policy and engage students in this important work. To be held initially by Professor Sam Kamin, it is believe to be the first professorship of its kind in the world.

Sturm College of Law Dean Martin J. Katz celebrated the groundbreaking nature of this professorship, while praising the work of the firm supporting it. “Our state and our school are poised to take a leadership position in this important new area of law and policy,” said Dean Katz. “The rest of the country is watching. We need to do this right.”

“We are extremely proud of the pioneering work done by our graduates at Vicente Sederberg,” Dean Katz continued, “And we are honored to name a professorship for them, which will be held by Professor Sam Kamin, the nation’s foremost authority in this field.”

Brian Vicente, a founding partner at Vicente Sederberg and Sturm College of Law graduate, lauded the institution for its commitment to advancing this new area of the law. “As the marijuana industry expands in Colorado and around the nation and the world, there is a growing need for attorneys qualified to represent business owners,” said Vicente. “With the launch of this professorship, Sturm College of Law will be taking the lead in providing law students the training they need to enter this new field. We are proud to be able to support their efforts in this area.”

I have also been pleased to see from this post at TaxProf Blog that this news is getting a lot of (justified and sometimes jokey) attention.

May 20, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"How D.C. pot legalization has become ‘the dealer-protection act of 2015’"

The title of this post is the headline of this fascinating recent Washington Post article.  Here are excerpts:

Not long ago, a man who had covertly dealt pot in the nation’s capital for three decades approached a young political operative at a birthday party in a downtown Washington steakhouse. He was about to test a fresh marketing strategy to take advantage of the District’s peculiar new marijuana law, which allows people to possess and privately consume the drug but provides them no way to legally buy it for recreational use. Those contradictions have created a surge in demand and new opportunities for illicit pot purveyors.

“Do you like cannabis?” asked the dealer. “Yes,” answered the man, who had recently left his job as a Republican Senate staffer.

So, the dealer recalled, he handed his new acquaintance a tiny plastic bag that contained half a gram of “Blue Dream,” a sweet and fruity strain of marijuana. With the bag he also presented a business card and an offer: If you like what you try, call me. Within days, the man — now a lobbyist — picked up the phone.

The dealer — who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because what they do remains illegal — said he has used that same in-plain-sight sales pitch at similarly upscale D.C. settings, collecting three new buyers and a pair of new suppliers. The new business is all thanks to the quirks of the District’s legalization, which has boosted the appetite for marijuana as more people become comfortable acquiring it through the black market. “It’s the dealer-protection act of 2015,” he said. “This was a license for me to print money.”

Who is responsible for this unintended consequence depends on whom you ask. In November, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that made it legal to possess and grow marijuana, but the following month, Congress enacted a spending prohibition that barred the city from creating a system through which pot could be lawfully bought, sold and taxed.

That means there are only three ways for people in the District to legally obtain marijuana. Someone can give it to them, though the donors, of course, must find their own original source. Residents can each grow as many as three plants to maturity at one time, though that process is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. And with a doctor’s approval, people can get medical-marijuana cards, though supply remains dismal.

“The black market is the obvious choice,” said a 24-year-old government contractor who deals part time. “It’s awesome.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who has led Congress’s charge to thwart the legalization, blamed city leaders, insisting that they should have forbidden possession when he and other lawmakers prevented Washington from creating a controlled marketplace. “There’s no question that demand will go up, and there’s no legal source of supply,” he said. “Clearly, this was not thought out rationally by the city government, which chose to go forward with legalization without regulation.”

John Falcicchio, chief of staff for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), sharply countered that assertion. “In D.C., it shouldn’t be called the black market. It should be called the Harris market,” he said. “If there’s any uptick in the black market, it’s thanks to Harris.”...

That boost in demand, supporters of legalization say, helps explain why lawful use in the District must be paired with lawful sales.   “If you’re going to legalize marijuana, you also have to legalize the supply because you want to get rid of the black market or at least limit the black market,” said Keith Stroup, founder of NORML.  “Right now, they’ve done the exact opposite.”

Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, said a regulated market would have “pulled the teeth out of the illegal drug trade” and eventually wiped out the violence associated with it.

Jeffrey Miron, an economics teacher at Harvard University, compared marijuana’s potential evolution to that of alcohol after prohibition ended in 1933.   “People seem to prefer going to a legal supplier rather than making beer in their basement,” said Miron, director of economic studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, which supports the legalization of all drugs.

He and others who have studied the topic don’t suggest that illicit sales would disappear overnight, but after several years — even a decade — they argue that the black market could not compete with a controlled market.

Rep. Andy Harris rejected those arguments.  “I think there’s value in keeping the supply chain illegal at this point,” he said, maintaining that it provides “a check on the system.”

The longtime District dealer who now markets his product at chic D.C. gatherings has already considered what he would do if the city regulated pot sales.  He and his friends, he said, would open their own dispensary.  They’d go legit.

May 19, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pot politics stirring Ohio's political pot as 2015 ballot proposal marches forward

Ohio_marijuana_leaf_20130517213951_640_480One of many reasons I am a huge fan of ballot initiatives proposing marijuana reform (and really of all direct democracy movements) is because these kind of single-issue initiatives enable and often require political figures to take a concrete stand on specific issues that matter to voters.  That reality is on full display this morning in my own Columbus Dispatch, which has two notable new articles about marijuana reform reporting notable new comments and efforts by notable Ohio political figures:

Headline: "P.G. Sittenfeld supports marijuana legalization proposal"

Excerpt:  

Sittenfeld [a 30-year-old Cincinnati City Council member in the race for US Senator]  made ... news by announcing his support for the ResponsibleOhio’s for-profit plan to legalize marijuana and amend Ohio’s constitution to allow 10 investor-owned marijuana-growing sites across the state. The group is well on its way to gathering enough petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

Sittenfeld said he has long advocated “getting rid of old and broken laws” that allow billions of dollars to flow to “brutal drug dealers and cartels” when it could be used for building roads and bridges. He favors “decriminalization, legalization and tight regulation” of marijuana.

His stance places him at odds with both Strickland — the former governor who backs legalizing only medicinal marijuana — and Portman, who opposes full legalization.

“What I support is a whole different approach with regard to drug use, and that is spending less money on the prosecution and incarceration side and more money on prevention and education, which I know works,” Portman said on Thursday on his weekly media call.

Headline: "Dave Yost wants to make it harder for special interests to amend constitution"

Excerpt:

As state officials realize that marijuana legalization is likely to appear on the fall ballot, state Auditor Dave Yost is urging lawmakers to make it harder for “special interest” issues to make it into the Ohio Constitution.  Yost unveiled his idea Thursday at a meeting of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.

May 15, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Notable Ohio county prosecutor calls pot prohibition a "disastrous waste of public funds"

Images (9)As reported in this Cincinnati Enquirer article, headlined "Prosecutor Deters OK with legalizing pot," a high-profile prosecutor in Ohio is now publicly getting involved with efforts to reform the state's marijuana laws. Here are the details:

The campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio found an unlikely friend Monday in Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Deters, a life-long Republican and law-and-order prosecutor, said he agreed to lead a task force on the potential impact of legalization in part because he's been unhappy for years with the state's marijuana laws. He said they waste taxpayer dollars and target people who typically are not much of a threat to society.

"I think they're outdated and ludicrous," Deters said of marijuana laws. "I don't use marijuana, but I know people who do use marijuana, and I'd rather deal with someone who smoked a joint than someone who drank a bottle of vodka any day of the week."

When asked if he favors legalization, Deters told The Enquirer: "I don't have any problem with it at all."

ResponsibleOhio, the group of wealthy investors campaigning for legalization, asked Deters to lead the task force. Deters said he's not being paid for his work on the task force and agreed to do it because he's interested in the issue and the potential impact on law enforcement.

He said finding an affordable and efficient way to test drivers who are suspected of being impaired by marijuana use is one of his concerns. "There is a public safety element to this," Deters said. His goal is to produce a report on the impact of legalization within a few months....

Deters said he doesn't buy the argument that prisons are filled with low-level drug offenders, but he does think the time and money devoted to marijuana enforcement could be better spent elsewhere. "It's been a disastrous waste of public funds," Deters said....

Deters said he's not taking a position on ResponsibleOhio's proposed business model, but he said it makes sense for the state to regulate and tax marijuana. "You can walk outside your building and buy marijuana in 10 minutes," Deters said. "The question is, do we want schools and local governments getting the money or the bad guys?"

He said it's also wise for the state to prepare for legalization, whether or not ResponsibleOhio succeeds, because voters seem more willing to support it and other states are adopting similar measures. "The days of 'reefer madness' are gone, because that's not the reality," Deters said, referring to the 1950s-era movies that vilified marijuana and those who used it.

He said he's reaching out now to academics, elected officials and law enforcement to participate in the task force.

I have long known and respected the work of Joe Deters, even though we have sometimes disagreed on various professional matters through our work on the Ohio Death Penalty Task Force and in other settings.  I had heard from various folks involved with the ResponsibleOhio campaign that they were seeking to have a prominent, knowledgeable person running a task force to examine these important marijuana reform topics, and I am especially pleased to see that Joe Deters is now officially and publicly at the helm.

May 11, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Notable new analysis of marijuana reform proposal and Ohio employment law

This new local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization issue wouldn't trump employers' drug policies, legal analysis finds," reports on an interesting legal memo commissioned by the well-financed group seeking to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye state via voter initiative in 2015. Here are the basics:

An analysis of the marijuana legalization issue that ResponsibleOhio hopes to have on the November ballot found that if approved, it would have little to no impact on an employer's ability to control employee use of marijuana.

The analysis, commissioned by ResponsibleOhio, found that language in the issue itself retains significant control for the employer. Beyond that, federal case law also provides further protections, the analysis said.

ResponsibleOhio is trying to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize sale, possession and personal use of marijuana in the state for people at least 21 years old. The group's proposed amendment to the state constitution would establish a legal marijuana industry in which Ohioans could purchase marijuana and marijuana products from licensed retail outlets for recreational and medical uses. They also would be able to grow marijuana in their homes.

But as the group has collected signatures needed to reach the ballot and sought to raise awareness around the state, it also heard questions from employers who wondered how the amendment would affect their businesses. Would they have to change their companies' internal drug policies? Would they still be able to bar their employees from using the drug?

Greater Cleveland Partnership has heard some of those same questions, said Marty McGann, senior vice president for government advocacy. GCP, with more than 10,000 members, is one of the largest metropolitan chambers of commerce in the country. "At this point, I think it's curiosity (from the businesses)," McGann said. "I haven't heard forceful positions on this. I think it's more realization that this likely to be on the ballot."

GCP is preparing an in-house forum with people from all sides of the issue for its members. The organization hasn't taken a position on the constitutional amendment yet. "We've been known to take positions on different issues," McGann said. "It's not even on the ballot yet. We're just sort of beginning the discussions to understand it."

The questions prompted Responsible Ohio to request an analysis from Dickinson Wright, a Detroit-based firm that specializes in business and financial law that has offices in Columbus. "We wanted to be sure we were being consistent with reality when we said we would not force employers to change their policies," said Lydia Bolander, a spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio.

The research looked at the language within the amendment as well as existing case law, said Jonathan Secrest, the lawyer who conducted the analysis. "It is our opinion that the legal precedent is on the side of the employer," Secrest said in an email. "ResponsibleOhio's proposal will not compel an employer to loosen their standards on drug testing or consumption in the workplace."

Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law. That has led multiple courts to dismiss employee claims of discrimination and wrongful termination, the analysis found....

Beyond the case law, the analysis found that the amendment itself offers employers some built-in protection. It specifically says "nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display or transportation of medical marijuana, marijuana, homegrown marijuana, marijuana-infused products or marijuana accessories in the workplace or to affect employers' ability to restrict the use of such products by employees."

The amendment language provides that employers have no duty to accommodate use of marijuana in the workplace, the analysis said, and treats medical marijuana like any other prescription drug. For that reason, employers likely will want to review their policies to evaluate how they treat employee use of prescription drugs, the analysis said.

May 8, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Why Washington state is extinguishing medical marijuana" ... while the black market endures

The title of this post adds to the headline of this notable Mashable piece discussing notable marketplace developments in one of the first two states that legalized recreational marijuana via initiative votes in 2012.   Here are excerpts:

For the past 10 months, three marijuana markets have been operating simultaneously in Washington state: the street market, the medical market and the recreational market. In the future, however, there will only be two. And contrary to some people’s expectations about legal recreational pot making drug dealers obsolete, it’s the medical dispensaries that will disappear first.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill in April that will overhaul medical marijuana and reconcile the two legal markets into one. Medical marijuana dispensaries as they exist now will either close or seek licenses in the regulated industry. In the future, medical customers will have to look to “medically endorsed” recreational marijuana stores for their supply.

Washington's medical marijuana market has always been "looser than anywhere in the country,” says Rick Garza, head of the state Liquor Control Board, the agency that oversees the marijuana industry.

"With I-502 (the recreational market), you have a tightly regulated business that has to make a big investment and pay taxes and fees," says Garza. And while medical marijuana is legal, it has become somewhat of a "gray area" because the "vast majority" of users served by the dispensaries are truly recreational users anyway, says Garza. "You have this unregulated and untaxed [medical] dispensary that's competing directly with the regulated market." "You have this unregulated and untaxed [medical] dispensary that's competing directly with the regulated market."

It's hard to measure the size of each of these markets, but to get a general idea I talked to a budtender and an illegal street dealer to get their perspectives on the state of Washington pot. Regardless where the lines of legality are drawn (and redrawn), there's a lot of pot floating around the Evergreen state. A study by the RAND Corporation found that marijuana consumption in Washington during 2013 was between 135 and 225 metric tons (that’s 297,624 to 464,040 pounds).

Garza guesses the recreational stores have so far only captured 3-5% of the total marketplace. And seeing as how the recreational market has generated $168 million in sales in the 10 months it has been operational in Washington, that gives you an idea of the size and potential of the industry as a whole.

A male pot dealer in his early twenties, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has been selling weed in the state for the past couple of years while finishing a degree. He sells primarily to college kids, so he didn’t expect business to change, but says he doesn’t see a drop in sales for dealers who sell to older demographics either. “People don't realize just how big the street market is,” he says....

The Liquor Control Board guesses the medical industry has captured 40-50% of the market, but it’s impossible to say how big the medical marijuana population is because Washington has never required a patient registry or ID cards like other states with medical systems do.

Since the state’s first recreational stores opened in July 2014, about 134 retail locations have opened alongside some 1,100 medical dispensaries in the state. However, the Liquor Control Board calls the estimated number of dispensaries “conservative.”

Pricing at medical dispensaries has remained cheaper than that of recreational stores because they aren't subject to the same high taxes. A gram of weed at a dispensary generally costs around $10-12 versus $12-16 on average at recreational stores. Weed on the street, however, remains at a pretty steady $8-10.

"The street can always offer prices that are below that of the stores," says the dealer I spoke with. And while street products may lack the variety of brick and mortar stores, they have added convenience because dealers can move around. "The street can more effectively distribute, because people don't have to come to you."

For some people illegal pot sales are more simple (and familiar). Text your dealer, meet up, trade cash for whatever weed they have and part ways. At recreational stores, customers have to be 21, visit at set hours and locations, and sort through a dizzying array of products. Some people find it more complex to buy legal marijuana.

May 7, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

SCOTUS asks for views from US Solicitor General on original lawsuit between states over marijuana reform

Via this order list, the US Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General in the original case of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado.  That is the case, as readers may recall from posts here and here back in December, in which two states filed suit directly in the Supreme Court seeking "a declaratory judgment stating that Sections 16(4) and (5) of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution [legalizing and regulating marijuana sales] are preempted by federal law, and therefore unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution."

I am not sure what the usual timelines tend to be for submission of CVSG briefs during this time of year, but I would think this request from the Justices will just now further slow the resolution of a suit that was filled five months ago and will remain in limbo now until the Solicitor General weighs in.

Prior related posts:

May 4, 2015 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?

1233543378925322670The question in the title of this post is prompted by this intriguing new article headlined "How The Tesla Battery Will Benefit Marijuana Growers."  Here is why this story has me thinking today about the nexus between marijuana reform and energy innovation:

A medium-sized commercial weed grow with around 50 lights stands to save about $13,500 in electricity costs a year with the use of two Tesla Batteries.  Those will also protect the plants in case of power outages while making the operation less visible to law enforcement. Elon Musk just made growing weed easier.

Unveiled [recently], the Tesla Battery gives home owners and businesses an easy, slick, affordable way to store electricity at home. The 10kWh battery costs just $3,500 and can be “stacked” in sets of up to nine units. Larger capacity batteries of infinitely-scaleable capacity will be available to large businesses and governments. There’s three general use cases for the battery: storing electricity purchased during cheaper, off-peak hours for use during high-demand periods; storing electricity generated by solar power or other renewable sources for use around the clock; and as a backup power source for when the grid goes down.

Know who uses an awful lot of electricity? Weed growers.... We’ve all heard stories about growers being outed by the energy intensive nature of their work. Roofs over grow rooms free of snow during winters or insanely high electricity bills have all, in those stories at least, tipped off the cops....

One of the other touted benefits of the Battery is its ability to facilitate off-grid living. By hooking it up to solar panels, the Battery can store energy during the day, then keep your house powered throughout the night. Or your off-grid grow, maybe?...

Our commercial energy consumption management expert sat down and ran the numbers assuming a medium-sized, 50-light commercial operation running its A/C during the day. These numbers are based on commercial electricity rates here in California, where the company is paying a premium during high-demand hours. With two 10kWh Tesla Batteries giving this commercial grow the ability to shift some of its load to off-peak hours, savings in demand charges alone would total $8,000 a year, while use charges would lower by $5,500, for a total savings of $13,500.

Of course, even just at 50 lights, we’re talking about a multi-million dollar operation, making this sound like relative chump change. Worthwhile — the batteries would be paid for in just over 6 months of savings — but hardly revolutionary. “Where these batteries might start to make sense for small growers is when LEDs are optimized for herb,” says our grower. He’s skeptical of the light quality produced by current LED grow lights, but sees that technology being optimized for marijuana in the near future. When it is, it could drastically lower the energy consumption of growing, reducing electricity used by the lights alone by 60 percent or more. Lower outright energy consumption will reduce the cost of growing, of course, but it also shifts the amount of consumption into a range that could be more easily handled by Tesla Batteries.

Given the current pace of marijuana legalization, the need for clandestine home grows may largely be eliminated by the time dipping energy consumption and increasing battery capacity meet in a home solar power sweet zone, but as a massive electricity consumer, it does look like the marjiuana industry is going to profit from the same Tesla Battery benefits everyone else will — reduced peak demand and increased stability during outages.

Though this article is focused on how the new Tesla Battery could be great for indoor marijuana growers, it also helps highlight that the growth and profitability of a significant legal marijuana industry could prompt and fund innovation in a number of significant new technological spaces. Famously, as this article highlights, a lot of visual/media technologies owe their origins or development to the porn industry. It is interesting to speculate about how another notable new vice industry might be a spur to valuable modern innovations in other arenas.

May 3, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Colorado Gov acknowledges benefits of voters legalizing marijuana in state

This notable new FoxNews piece, headlined "Colorado gov now says legalizing marijuana helps state's fiscal health," highlights that the top official in the leading marijuana legalization state has come to see that significant medical marijuana reform may well have more benefits than costs. Here are the details:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper seems to be softening his anti-pot stance. The Democratic governor recently told Fox Business Network that the issue is “not as vexing” as he feared it would be, and partly ties Colorado’s strong fiscal health to the popularity and economic opportunities connected with the legal pot industry.

“It’s all those young people coming and they look at marijuana and say, ‘hey, we can drink whiskey, why can’t we have a legalized system with marijuana?’” he said on FBN. He added, “If you look back, it has turned out to be not as vexing as some of the people like myself” initially anticipated it would be.

Hickenlooper had spoken out against legalizing the drug in the past and said “Colorado is known for many great things – marijuana should not be one of them.” Now, though, he seems to have come around. He told FBN the state has been busy “building a regulatory system, making sure we keep it out of the hands of kids, making sure we keep our streets and roads safe.”

May 1, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stressing jobs, Ohio union groups come out in support of marijuana legalization effort

This new local article, headlined "Union groups say OK to marijuana legalization," reinforces my belief that the job-creation potential of a legalized marijuana industry ma be quite appealing to certain groups. Here are excerpts from the piece:

The three largest Ohio branches of the union representing nearly 70,000 retail workers, endorsed Wednesday the ResponsibleOhio initiative to legalize marijuana. "The executive board of these locals, which are made up of rank-and-file members, made a decision to support this proposal because we want to make sure that we have good jobs in the new legal marijuana industry," said Laurie Couch, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers.

The majority of the local members work in retail stores, Couch said, including Kroger, Meijer and CVS, as well as in food packing and processing. Locals 75, 880 and 1059 issued the endorsement. Local 75 represents 30,000 members in the Greater Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo areas. Local 880 represents 21,000 in and around Cleveland, and Local 1059 has 18,500 members in Columbus.

Couch said that while it's too early to push the proposed industry on wages, "We're committed to working to make sure they do pay a living wage, good benefits, and that people have the hours that they need." The other important factor for the UFCW, Couch said, is that "The communities where our members live and work really need better public services."

The endorsement follows Monday's nod from Dr. O'Dell Owens, the president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

April 29, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reviewing recent Brookings' FixGov series on marijuana reform

Fox News poll latest to show majority support for marijuana legalization

DownloadThis new Fox News report provides yet another notable sign of the marijuana reform times:

For the first time, the Fox News poll finds more than half (51 percent) favor legalizing marijuana, while 44 percent oppose it.  That’s little changed from last year when it was 50-43 percent (January 2014).  

More voters were opposed than in favor as recently as 2013:  46 percent in favor vs. 49 percent opposed.

By a 15 percentage-point margin, voters under 35 (54 percent) are more likely than those 65+ (39 percent) to favor legalizing marijuana.   And by a 10-point margin, men (56 percent) are more likely than women (46 percent) to favor it.

Majorities of Democrats (62 percent) and independents (53 percent) support legalizing marijuana, while a majority of Republicans opposes it (59 percent).  

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,012 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 19-21, 2015. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

April 28, 2015 in Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 20, 2015

New Brookings series starts by identifying "12 key people to watch in marijuana policy"

Regular readers already know that The Brookings Institution has been committed to doing thoughtful and cutting-edge research, reports and blogging on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform.   Today, the front-page of the Brookings website has this announcement and link:

In the past few years, marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics. In this post — the first in the FixGov blog's 4/20 blog series — John Hudak lays out 12 people to watch in the future of marijuana policy.

I very much like John's list of a dozen key marijuana reform players, and here I will note how he introduces his list and a few of its first four notable names:

Marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics, particularly over the past few years. The issue is being debated at local, state, and federal levels, and has captured the attention of media organizations and research institutions nationwide and around the world.

Navigating the policy terrain and understanding what is happening in this fast-paced, dynamic, and changing arena is often tough.  Knowing who is influential can be even more difficult. Because of the expansive nature of the policy conversation there are hundreds of key players making a difference — on both sides of this issue — and that list is seemingly ever growing.

In this post, I list 12 people who each bring something interesting to the table and may play an important role in the future of this policy area.  They may not be the most important, though surely some of the people on this list could be considered so. Nor is this list ranked in order of importance or impact. Instead, it offers a brief overview of how these 12 individuals may help shape the future of cannabis policy....

1. Hillary Clinton, 2016 Presidential Candidate

2. Rand Paul, U.S. Senator & 2016 Presidential Candidate

3. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General

4. Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney General designee

April 20, 2015 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)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What is the "right" price for marijuana (especially to combat a black market)?

The question in the title of this post is the focal point for discussion by a student this week in my marijuana law seminar. Here are some key materials that provide background professional normal on this interesting issue:

2010 Rand Working Paper, "Estimated Cost of Production for Legalized Cannabis"

2005 MPP/Miron Report, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition"

The Price of Weed website/resource

April 15, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Toledo Blade looks deeply into issues and debate surrounding Ohio marijuana reform

Friday, April 10, 2015

Taking stock of modern marijuana markets and state tax realities

This notable new New York Times article about Colorado's tax revenues and marijuana markets details some important fiscal lessons from the first few years of marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts:

Colorado’s marijuana tax collections are not as high as expected. In February 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office projected Colorado would take in $118 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in its first full year after legalization. With seven months of revenue data in, his office has cut that projection and believes it will collect just $69 million through the end of the fiscal year in June, a miss of 42 percent.

That figure is consequential in two ways. First, it’s a wide miss. Second, compared with Colorado’s all-funds budget of $27 billion, neither $69 million nor $118 million is a large number. “It’s a distraction,” Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, says of the tax issue. And despite the marijuana tax miss, overall state revenues are exceeding projections, which may force the state to rebate some marijuana tax receipts to taxpayers.

In the political debate over marijuana policy, fiscal benefits — bringing marijuana into the legal economy and taxing it — have loomed large. The summary of the marijuana legalization question put before voters in 2012 stipulated the first $40 million raised by one of the three taxes on recreational marijuana would be put toward school construction each year. In practice, Colorado is likely to receive just $20 million from that tax this year.

But it’s not just Colorado. When Scott Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal call-in show to discuss state finances in December, callers repeatedly suggested that legal marijuana could fix budget gaps in other states. One asserted, incorrectly, that legal marijuana had increased Colorado’s tax revenues by a billion dollars.

Colorado’s marijuana taxes are part of a broader trend in recent years: States, looking for ways to close budget shortfalls without raising broad-based taxes, have leaned on “sin” revenues: higher taxes on cigarettes, higher fees and fines and higher revenue from gambling. And as they have sought to squeeze more revenue from these sources, they have often been disappointed....

In the case of marijuana, Colorado’s revenue has disappointed because legal recreational marijuana sales have been lower than expected. State officials thought many customers of medical marijuana dispensaries would migrate to the recreational market. But this process has been slow, in part because there is a financial disincentive to switch: Medical marijuana is subject only to general sales tax, while a 15 percent tax is imposed on recreational marijuana at wholesale and a further 10 percent at retail, in additional to the general sales tax.

But Mr. Freedman says the biggest drag on revenue is that so much of Colorado’s marijuana market remains unregulated. A 2014 report commissioned by the state’s Department of Revenue estimated 130 metric tons of marijuana was consumed in the state that year, while just 77 metric tons was sold through medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana retailers. The rest was untaxed: a combination of home growing, production by untaxed medical “caregivers” whose lightly regulated status is protected in the state constitution and plain old black-market production and trafficking....

But even if Colorado got all this right, improved revenues would not be among the most important effects that marijuana legalization has on the state. “Tax revenue is nice to have, but in most states is not going to be enough to change the budget picture significantly,” Mr. Kleiman says. “The stakes in reducing criminal activity and incarceration and protecting public health are way higher than the stakes in generating revenue.”

April 10, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Attention 2016 Prez candidates: swing states swinging toward full legalization of marijuana

As reported in this notable new Time article, "majority of voters in three key swing states support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll."  Here are the basic details: 

The Quinnipiac survey out Monday shows that 55% of voters in Florida, 52% in Ohio and 51% in Pennsylvania support allowing adults to “legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Legalizing medical marijuana is even more acceptable to swing state voters, with 84% of Floridians, 84% of Ohioans, and 88% of Pennsylvanians supporting medical pot.

Florida and Pennsylvania have pending bills to legalize marijuana this year, and it legalization could become a wedge issue in he 2016 presidential race.

The poll included more than 1,000 voters in each state.

April 6, 2015 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Comparing successful state recreational marijuana initiatives and Ohio proposals

In addition to having a notable guest speaking in my marijuana law school seminar this week (basics here), and having one student do a presentation on drugged driving (basics here), another student this week is giving a presentation on textual and substantive similarities between the adult-use recreational marijuana initiatives/regimes that have been enacted in four states to date (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington)  and Ohio's three recreational marijuana proposals.  Links to basic legal information about the four legalization states can be found via this NORML webpage, and the basic text or a summary of the Ohio proposals are here:

 
 
 
 
 
 

March 26, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"2016 Will Be the Marijuana Election"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy Newsweek commentary authored by John Hudak of The Brookings Institute.  Here are excerpts:

In some ways marijuana policy is the perfect issue for a presidential campaign. It has far reaching consequences that both parties have reason to engage. Not to mention, it’s an edgy topic that media just can’t resist....

The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations have responded to state marijuana policies in a variety of ways—from legal challenges to laissez-faire enforcement—but regardless, marijuana has garnered presidential attention. The issue will only become more pressing as more states decide to loosen their laws through decriminalization, medical expansion or outright legalization. Because marijuana is an issue that no president will be able to ignore, it is an issue no presidential candidate will be able to avoid....

Views diverge among Republicans. Some candidates, like Rand Paul, have come closer to embracing legalization—at least those efforts at the state level—in an effort to connect to younger and libertarian voters. Others have been far more open-minded about medical marijuana, either endorsing such systems or appearing comfortable with a hands off approach. Still others, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have taken a more hardline, war-on-drugs approach to the topic.

This diversity is a magnificent thing for Republicans and Republican voters. Among (prospective) candidates who, at times, seem to be policy clones, marijuana offers voters the ability to distinguish positions. As a result, candidates must have positions on the topic....

Marijuana policy will likely play a noticeable role in the general election, too. The issue has implications for states that truly matter in presidential campaigns. Recreational legalization is a reality in swing states like Colorado. Other marijuana measures may appear on ballots in which presidential candidates frequently look for votes (Florida, Maine) or campaign money (California).

In addition, medical marijuana policy — now the law in many places — means that swing state voters will be interested in what their next president will have to say on the topic. The issue engages a variety of issues that reach beyond marijuana itself, posing serious leadership questions for any prospective chief executive. It involves issues of law and regulatory enforcement, federal research policy, medical and pharmaceutical policy, state-federal relations, criminal justice, privacy, agriculture, commerce, small business policy and banking and financial regulations.

March 24, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)