Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New survey data on police perspectives indicates strong majority oppose blanket marijuana prohibition

ImrsToday the fine folks at the Pew Research Center released the results of a huge national survey conducted by the National Police Research Platform (basics here, full report here). The survey covered a lot of ground, including police views on marijuana, and Christopher Ingraham has this Wonkblog posting on this topic under the headline "Survey: Two-thirds of cops say marijuana laws should be relaxed." Here are the details there reported:

A Pew Research Center survey of nearly 8,000 police officers finds that more than two-thirds of them say that marijuana use should be legal for either personal or medical use.

The nationally representative survey of law enforcement, one of the largest of its kind, found that 32 percent of police officers said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 37 percent said it should be legal for medical use only.  An additional 30 percent said that marijuana should not be legal at all.

Police are more conservative than the general public on the issue.  Among all Americans, Pew found that 49 percent supported recreational marijuana, 35 percent supported medical marijuana only, and 15 percent said the drug should not be legal.

Pew also found a generational divide among cops on the marijuana issue, although not as large as the one that exists among the general public.  Officers under age 35 were more likely to support recreational marijuana (37 percent) than those between the ages of 50 and 60 (27 percent).  Among the general public, those numbers stand at 67 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Law enforcement groups have often been among the staunchest opponents of marijuana legalization measures.  In 2016, such groups made small but significant contributions to oppose legalization measures in California and Arizona, citing concerns over issues such as underage use and intoxicated driving.  “You hear people say it’s not as bad as alcohol,” George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, told the Orange County Register last year.  “But if you smoke marijuana and drive, it does impair you.”

But as the Pew survey indicates, there's considerable variation in views on marijuana use among the rank-and-file. The group LEAP — Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — was founded in 2002 for active-duty and retired police officers to speak out “about the failures of our existing drug policies.”  The group has been particularly active in campaigns to legalize recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington and elsewhere.

Diane Goldstein, a retired Lieutenant Commander for the Redondo Beach Police Department and LEAP board member, said she's not surprised to see that police officers have more conservative attitudes than the public on marijuana legalization.  “Law enforcement continues to represent an outlier view on this issue because police are trained with outdated, unscientific, drug-war-oriented materials.”  But she added that “the poll reflects a positive attitude shift when you see that it’s only 1 in 3 police officers who believe marijuana should remain illegal.”

January 11, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Free marijuana to be handed out Inauguration Day"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article that reports that the "DC Cannabis Coalition says it plans to hand out thousands of joints of marijuana on Inauguration Day — for free — to urge federal legalization of pot." Here is more:

The group plans to start handing out joints at 8 a.m. Jan. 20 on the west side of Dupont Circle in the nation's capital, where recreational marijuana is legal.  Then, marchers will walk to the National Mall where the real protest will begin.

"The main message is it’s time to legalize cannabis at the federal level," said Adam Eidinger, the founder of DCMJ, a group of D.C. residents who introduced and helped get Initiative 71 passed in the District.  Initiative 71 made it legal to possess 2 ounces or less or marijuana, to grow it, and to give it away, but it is not legal to sell it.

Eidinger is worried, though, that all this progress will be lost with the incoming administration, specifically, with President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. "We are looking at a guy who as recently as April said that they are going to enforce federal law on marijuana all over the country. He said marijuana is dangerous," Eidinger said.

The great marijuana giveaway is legal, as long as it's done on D.C. land. "We don't want any money exchanged whatsoever.  This is really a gift for people who come to Washington, D.C.," he said.

There will 4,200 gifts, to be exact.  Then, at 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump's speech (420 is the internationally known code for weed), protesters are encouraged to light up.  That part, is most definitely illegal.  "We are going to tell them that if they smoke on federal property, they are risking arrest. But, that's a form of civil disobedience," said Eidinger. "I think it's a good protest. If someone wants to do it, they are risking arrest, but it's a protest and you know what, the National Mall is a place for protest."

Eidinger said this is not an anti-Trump event, or even an attempt at disrupting the ceremony. Everyone is welcome....  Eidinger said the DC Cannabis Coalition is hopeful the new administration will not be a problem, but they are preparing for the worst.

January 4, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New batch of states to watch for possible major marijuana reform developments in 2017

ImagesIt seems unlikely that any year will end up rivaling 2016 when it comes to state-level marijuana reform.  In addition to the eight marijuana reform ballot initiatives that passed in November (four involving recreational reform, four involving medical reform), two big rust-belt states enacted significant medical marijuana reforms as well (Ohio and Pennsylvania). How these new reforms get implemented throughout 2017 arguably is a more important story for marijuana reforms to follow than what might happen (or not happen) in a bunch of new states.

These 2016 realities not withstanding,  this new Weed News article does a very effective job spotlighting the states and issues within that seem likely to keep state-level marijuana stories quite dynamic in the year to come.  The article if headlined "7 States To Watch In 2017 For Marijuana Legalization," and here are excerpts meant to provide a mini-summary:

Delaware

The recreational legalization of cannabis is expected to be discussed by the state’s officials in early 2017. Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, during a Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee meeting in October 2016, said: “It’s time to certainly look at it.” The state lawmaker has pledged to introduce a bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis, and a recent University of Delaware poll shows that 61 percent of residents surveyed support legalization, according to recent reports from the Delaware State News and The Wilmington News Journal....

Rhode Island

After neighboring state Massachusetts fully legalized cannabis for adults over 21, Rhode Island is expecting cannabis legalization in 2017. “We’re looking at it,” said Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo, Providence Journal reported on Oct. 29. “If I could get myself comfortable that we, the state, could legalize in a way that keeps people safe, keeps children safe, folks aren’t getting sick, then I would be in favor.”...

New Jersey

Despite Gov. Chris Christie being opposed to cannabis legalization, lawmakers are ready to explore the possibility. Bills to tax and regulate marijuana were introduced in the New Jersey Assembly by both Democrat (Reed Gusciora) and Republican (Michael Patrick Carroll) lawmakers in 2016. In addition, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have travelled to Colorado to learn more about legalization there and were excited by what they learned. Stephen Sweeney, the Senate President, said: “I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It’s safe, it’s well managed.” He also declared that lawmakers “intend to move quickly” to pass a bill as soon as Gov. Chris Christie leaves office; his promised veto seems to be the only remaining impediment to progress in New Jersey....

Texas

Texas is making decriminalization a priority on its 2017 lawmaking agenda. State officials will consider reducing charges for possession by adopting a model that fines people $250 without giving them a criminal record. Five cannabis related items are on the table for the 85th Session. State Senator José Rodríguez and state Representatives Moody, Dutton and White have all sponsored legislation this session making it easier to use cannabis and lessen penalties if a person is caught.

Last year, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, which was intended to allow access to low-THC cannabis for those with intractable epilepsy. This year for 2017, Senator Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill. Sen. Menéndez’s bill will make several improvements, including fixing a fatal flaw in the bill, allowing cannabis with any amount of THC, and expanding the law to include other qualifying conditions. As Senator Menéndez says, “Compassion should not be exclusive. Twenty-eight states have recognized the medical benefit of cannabis, including conservative states like Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota … It is time Texas steps up to the plate on behalf of our sickest patients.”

Kentucky

“The time of laughing and snickering about marijuana and marijuana cigarettes is over. We’ve got serious businessmen who have approached me on this now and say they are taking it to the governor,” Sen. Perry Clark told The Courier-Journal last year. Almost one year after filing the Cannabis Freedom Act, Kentucky State Senator Perry Clark has pre-filed a bill for the 2017 legislative season that pertains to legalizing cannabis in the state. Filed in December 2016 for the January, 2017, legislative season, the new bill is called the Cannabis Compassion Act and is filed as BR 409. Nevertheless, little has changed between the wording of the proposed laws of 2015, 2016, and the new 2017 Cannabis Freedom Act....

New Mexico

Rep. Bill McCamley has suggested the state could use cannabis legalization as a way to resolve New Mexico’s $600 million deficit and, according to a poll conducted by the Albuquerque Journal in October, 61 percent of New Mexico’s voters would support the recreational use of cannabis. With the newly-elected Democratic majority in both the New Mexico House and Senate, proponents of recreational cannabis predict several proposed bills will be discussed on the floor in the legislature at the next general session in early 2017....

Vermont

Bernie Sanders home state of Vermont almost passed adult-use legalization in 2016 and is expected to take up the issue again in 2017. In February 2016, the Vermont Senate voted 17-12 to pass S.B. 241, which would have allowed adults ages 21 and older to use cannabis and regulated a tax system for cannabis-based products. The measure failed in the House, but according to the Marijuana Policy Project, Vermont will reconsider legislation in 2017, encouraged by neighboring states that are just a short drive away, such as Massachusetts and Maine passing cannabis legalization measures in 2016. This could convince new Republican governor Phil Scott to support legalization this year, as researchers found the state could potentially rake in up to $75 million annually in taxes by regulating cannabis. Vermont’s next legislative session is scheduled to open in January 2017, there will be a new House speaker and a new Senate leader.

Missouri

Two lawmakers in Missouri have filed proposals for the upcoming 2017 legislation to legalize medical cannabis and create a comprehensive statewide medical cannabis program.The two bills, Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Jason Holsman (D), and Senate Bill 153, sponsored by Rob Schaaf (R), were pre-filed earlier in December 2016. With Republicans holding a super-majority in the state Senate, SB 153 could have the upper hand, however. Passage of either of these bills could finally bring a true medical cannabis program to Missouri. In 2014, Missouri lawmakers passed a limited medical cannabis bill to allow some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts with THC amounts below 0.3%.

Voters in Missouri narrowly missed out on a chance to vote on a comprehensive medical cannabis bill in the November elections when thousands of signatures collected by proponents were invalidated in court, leaving the measure off the ballot. Polling results released in June found that 62% of Missouri voters supported the referendum, with only 27% opposed, making it highly likely that it would have been approved by voters had they gotten the chance to do so. Senate Bill 56 is very similar to the proposal that would have appeared on the November ballot.

January 3, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Contact High: The External Effects of Retail Marijuana Establishments on House Prices"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper available via SSRN authored by James Neil Conklin, Moussa Diop and Herman Li. here is the abstract:

Using publicly available data from the city of Denver and the state of Colorado, this study examines the effects of retail conversions (conversions from medical marijuana to retail marijuana stores) on neighboring house values in Denver, Colorado for the years 2013 and 2014. The time period was chosen to reflect a time before (2013) and after (2014) retail marijuana sales became legal in Colorado. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we compare houses that were in close proximity to a conversion (within 0.1 miles) to those that are farther away from a conversion.

We find that after the law went into effect, single family residences close to a retail conversion increased in value by approximately 9% relative to houses that are located slightly farther away. We perform a battery of robustness checks and falsification tests to provide additional support for this finding. To our knowledge this is the first study to examine at a micro-level the highly localized effect of retail marijuana establishments on house prices and hope that it can contribute to the debate on retail marijuana laws.

December 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"The Growing Movement for Marijuana Amnesty"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Shouldn't Colorado be spending EVEN MORE money researching impact of marijuana reform?

Colorado_Funds_Marijuana_ResearchThe question in the title of this post is my reaction to this recent Denver Post article headlined "Colorado researchers receive $2.35M to study marijuana use on driving, other impacts of legalization." Here are details:

In a groundbreaking effort to better understand what, exactly, happened after voters legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, the state’s Health Department on Tuesday announced $2.35 million in grants to researchers who will help answer that question.

Most of the money — $1.68 million — will go toward two studies that look at the impacts of marijuana use on driving. The first will compare driving impairment for heavy marijuana consumers versus occasional consumers. The other will study dabbing — the smoking of highly potent marijuana extracts — to determine its effects on driving and cognitive functioning.

Other studies receiving grant funding will look at how long marijuana stays in the breast milk of nursing mothers, the adverse effects of edible cannabis products, the cardiovascular risks of marijuana use in people with heart problems, the impact of marijuana use on older adults and, lastly, an “analysis of data from before and after implementation of recreational marijuana in Colorado,” by a psychology professor specializing in addiction counseling at Colorado State University.

“This research will be invaluable in Colorado and across the country,” Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement. “The findings will inform our public education efforts and give people additional information they need to make decisions about marijuana use.”

The Health Department previously spent $9 million as part of a historic effort to fund the study of medical marijuana by a state government.  Those research projects are still ongoing.  Earlier this year, the state legislature approved funding for the new grants to study recreational marijuana.  The Health Department received 58 preliminary applications, which were winnowed to a pool of 16 from which the final seven recipients were selected.

I am pleased to see that Colorado continues to invest substantial amounts into medical and recreational marijuana research, and the roughly $11.5 million spent to date is nothing to scoff at. Nevertheless, this article reports that Colorado "collected more than $135 million in marijuana taxes and fees in 2015," and increased sales data in 2016 would suggest that the state is on pace to collect at least another $165 million or more this year. Consequently, the tax monies raised in Colorado from marijuana reform in Colorado being "reinvested" in needed research is only about 4%.

Though my biases as a researcher is showing through, I think reinvesting only 4% of tax revenues into needed research is woefully inadequate given all the important and unanswered questions raised by marijuana reforms in Colorado. Though picking out numbers here, I think at this still-very-early stage of state-level marijuana reforms that states ought to be seriously considering putting 10% or more of revenues raised back into public health and public policy research on the impact of state-level reforms.

December 17, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Nutmeg state gearing up for northern neighbor bringing some cannabis spice

This local article, headlined "Connecticut prepares for consequences of Massachusetts marijuana legalization," provides still more evidence for the reality that marijuana legalization in Massachusetts really means marijuana reform for much of New England. Here are excerpts from the article:

Police Chief Ricky Hayes of Putnam, Connecticut, is not too worried about Massachusetts legalizing marijuana -- yet. "I don't think we're that concerned right now," Hayes said. "Once they get into the dispensing and selling, we may have a lot of people traveling from Connecticut into Massachusetts to try to do some purchasing."

Recreational marijuana became legal in Massachusetts on Thursday, the result of a ballot vote in November. Residents can now grow a limited quantity of marijuana plants at home and can possess marijuana legally. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and transporting marijuana across state lines is a federal crime. But a state like neighboring Connecticut could still see an increase in people bringing marijuana across the border.

After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, attorneys general in neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the law because their states were seeing an influx of marijuana coming from Colorado. The Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit. Some Connecticut law enforcement officials say the bigger impact of Massachusetts' legalization is likely to hit a year from now. Although marijuana was legal to possess as of Thursday, legal retail sales are not expected to be up and running for at least another year, since the state must develop regulations and a licensing process. So there is still no legal method for buying the drug in Massachusetts....

Some Connecticut lawmakers have been pushing for a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in that state. Although the bill did not pass in 2016, the Legislature is expected to consider it again, and it is possible Massachusetts' legalization could boost that effort....

Another question is what impact Massachusetts' legal marijuana will have on Connecticut's medical marijuana program. It is illegal under state law for a Connecticut medical marijuana patient to buy marijuana in Massachusetts or anywhere other than in a licensed dispensary in Connecticut. But that does not mean some patients, or potential patients, will not find it easier to bypass Connecticut's medical system and buy marijuana across the border.

Lora Rae Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the medical marijuana program, said she hopes patients have been satisfied enough with the medical marijuana system not to buy their marijuana in Massachusetts. "We want patients to have an experience that is medical, supported by doctors, that helps remedy their severe debilitating condition and is compliant with state law," Anderson said.

A medical marijuana patient in Connecticut must be certified by a doctor, then discuss their needs with a dispensary pharmacist. "We have a very highly regulated and specific medical model to our program here, so people here have a very different experience going to a dispensary facility, which is regulated like a pharmacy, than you would going into a store where you purchase medical marijuana," Anderson said. She added that the types of marijuana that are sold in dispensaries are different products from what a person would buy in a retail store. "It's a medication, not a drug," Anderson said.

December 16, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Canadian Task Force releases "A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada"

Framework-cadre-pdf-engA task force appointed by the Canadian government to study the legalization of marijuana released its big final report, and this press release reports on the basics:

The report contains more than 80 recommendations to governments on how to better promote and protect public health and safety, particularly among young Canadians. It recommends establishing a minimum age of access and restrictions on advertising and promotion. The report recommends well-regulated production, manufacturing and distribution that can displace the illegal market, and provides appropriate safeguards, such as testing, packaging and labelling. It also recommends that Governments educate Canadians about the new system to improve the public’s understanding of cannabis, including risks such as impaired driving.

The full report is available at this link, and here is the first part of the report's Executive Summary:

On June 30, 2016, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Minister of Health announced the creation of a nine-member Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation ("the Task Force"). Our mandate was to consult and provide advice on the design of a new legislative and regulatory framework for legal access to cannabis, consistent with the Government's commitment to "legalize, regulate, and restrict access."

To fulfill our mandate, we engaged with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, experts, patients, advocates, Indigenous governments and representative organizations, employers and industry. We heard from many other Canadians as well, including many young people, who participated in an online public consultation that generated nearly 30,000 submissions from individuals and organizations. The Task Force looked internationally (e.g., Colorado, Washington State, Uruguay) to learn from jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for non-medical purposes, and we drew lessons from the way governments in Canada have regulated tobacco and alcohol, and cannabis for medical purposes.

A Discussion Paper prepared by the Government, entitled "Toward the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana," informed the Task Force's work and helped to focus the input of many of the people from whom we heard. The Discussion Paper identified nine public policy objectives. Chief among these are keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth and keeping profits out of the hands of organized crime. The Task Force set out guiding principles as the foundation of our advice to Ministers: protection of public health and safety, compassion, fairness, collaboration, a commitment to evidence-informed policy and flexibility....

In taking a public health approach to the regulation of cannabis, the Task Force proposes measures that will maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use.

This approach considers the risks associated with cannabis use, including the risks of developmental harms to youth; the risks associated with patterns of consumption, including frequent use and co-use of cannabis with alcohol and tobacco; the risks to vulnerable populations; and the risks related to interactions with the illicit market. In addition to considering scientific evidence and input from stakeholders, the Task Force examined how other jurisdictions have attempted to minimize harms of use. We examined a range of protective measures, including a minimum age of use, promotion and advertising restrictions, and packaging and labelling requirements for cannabis products.

December 13, 2016 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colorado sets still more records for marijuana sales and tax revenues collected

As this local article details, during "the first 10 months of 2016, Colorado marijuana shops reached a significant milestone they had barely missed in all of 2015: $1 billion in legal, regulated cannabis sales." Here is more:

When 2015’s year-end marijuana tax data was finally released in February, Cannabist calculations showed $996,184,788 in sales at Colorado marijuana shops that year — spurring a leading industry attorney to tell us at the time, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”

That same lawyer, Vicente Sederberg partner Christian Sederberg, celebrated the billion-dollar news on Monday by also pointing to the Colorado cannabis industry’s increasing economic impact and skyrocketing tax revenues for the state as well as numerous cities and counties throughout Colorado.

“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” said Sederberg, “and so the economic impact of this industry — if we’re using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Group’s recent report, which is totally reasonable — it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.”

Nearly $82.8 million of retail cannabis and more than $35 million of medical pot was peddled at Colorado shops in October 2016; The totals are down from September 2016, when marijuana sales hit an all-time high in Colorado — but October’s sales are cumulatively up year over year by more than 46 percent.

Sederberg and his colleague Andrew Livingston, the law firm’s director of economics and research, also estimate that 2016’s overall tax totals will amount to more than 2014 and 2015 tax totals combined, “and that’s a conservative estimate,” Sederberg added.

Depending on November and December’s forthcoming pot tax totals, that scenario is possible. Not accounting for licensing fees imposed on cannabis businesses, $63.4 million in marijuana taxes were collected by the state in 2014 along with another $120.6 million in 2015. Since 2016 taxes through October sit at $151.4 million, each of the year’s final two months would have to top $16.3 million apiece to best the two previous years’ totals combined. Either way, it’s going to be close.

There are three different taxes on Colorado’s recreational cannabis — the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax, a special 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers, which is earmarked for school construction projects. The $6 million collected in October excise tax brings the yearly total to $49.7 million — already well over the $40 million mark, which was a point of discussion in 2012’s Amendment 64 campaign. While the first $40 million will go toward school construction projects, any additional tax revenues from the excise tax will go directly to the state’s public school fund.

December 13, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Are Rhode Island and other New England states now sure to follow Massachusetts on the path the marijuana legalization?

Massachusetts-Cities-Map.mediumthumb

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "R.I., Mass. marijuana markets intertwined: It's one reason legalization in Rhode Island is seen as inevitable." Here are excerpts:

If you want a sense of the connections between the Massachusetts and Rhode Island marijuana markets and the growth that entrepreneurs imagine, look no further than Rhode Island's first approved marijuana cultivator.

Medici Products and Solutions Inc., of Warwick, hopes to have a final license in hand by the end of the year.  Its owners, John M. Rogue and Christopher E. Roy, have been selling marijuana to the state's three medical dispensaries as caregivers in a joint grow for two years.

Roy, a retired Woonsocket police officer, has been involved even longer, selling through a separate company, Grow Smart Solutions.  With the state shutting down caregiver sales to dispensaries on Jan. 1 and converting to a licensed commercial-grower system, the pair needed a license to keep doing business.  State startup fees for a 10,000-square-foot facility, the smallest category: $25,000.

But that's a drop in the bucket compared to their plans in Massachusetts.  Rogue and Roy have three medical dispensary and cultivation applications pending in the Bay State under the name Hope Heal Health Inc.  They've already received provisional approval for a flagship site on West Street in Fall River. The investment they'll need to make in the building they hope to open next year: $4 million to $7 million, according to Rogue.

Massachusetts documents show the company's projected revenues for the first year at $5.3 million, with $3.1 million in expenses.  They expect to sell 952 pounds of medical marijuana at $350 an ounce. "I saw this as an opportunity where we could provide to patients the medicine they need," said Rogue, 65, of Warren. "... My wife passed away from cancer. My partner's mother passed away from cancer. We're just trying to give back."

On Thursday, the pair will be at a North Attleboro selectmen's meeting, seeking town approval for a second cultivation site.  They're eyeing Berkley for a third site, said Rogue, whose career before marijuana ranged from technology company management to real estate development. In all matters in Massachusetts, the pair are represented by former Fall River Mayor William Flanagan.

And with Massachusetts voting to legalize marijuana last month, Rogue said the company is interested in moving into the recreational market as well.  He acknowledged there are many unknowns, but the ballot question appears to give those who have opened or applied for medical dispensaries preference when recreational sales begin, possibly by 2018.

Massachusetts, which has roughly double Rhode Island's population of marijuana patients, at 33,000, currently has nine medical dispensaries. Another 67 applications for dispensaries, cultivation and processing sites, including Hope Heal Health in Fall River, have received provisional approval....

As for Medici's future in Rhode Island, Rogue — like so many others — says legalization here is inevitable.  If not this year, then the next, was his guess.  At a Publick Occurrences forum co-hosted by The Journal last Monday, 84 percent of the audience members polled said it was just a matter a time before the state legalizes marijuana.

In an interview last month, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello noted that, given Massachusetts' legalization, soon Rhode Island will have "a lot of the concerns that marijuana creates" and "none of the revenues to help us address that."  Asked if Rogue will be up on Smith Hill pushing for movement this year, he said he'll leave that to the membership. "It's going to happen," he said.

December 11, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"7 Reasons President Trump Is Unlikely to Fight Legal Marijuana"

America_We_DeserveThe title of this post is the headline of this effective new Time magazine article.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some key excerpts and major headings:

With Donald Trump nominating Cabinet members who have spoken out against legal marijuana, some are arguing that the war on drugs may make a comeback. But while there’s reason for anxiety among those selling recreational marijuana legally in states like Colorado and Washington, an all-out war remains unlikely.

Experts say that trying to undo legalization at this point would come with serious economic and political hurdles. “It’s certainly come so far,” says Sam Kamin, a marijuana law expert at the University of Denver, “that it can’t be undone without a heavy cost.” Others are even more skeptical. Says Mike Vitiello, a marijuana law expert at the University of the Pacific, “It’s kind of like illegal immigration: You can’t build a wall high enough.”

Here are seven reasons that it would be hard to stop what the states have started.

Waging a war on pot would go against the will of many voters.

“It would be a very blatant finger to the voters,” says the Drug Policy Alliance’s Amanda Reiman. In November, voters in eight states cast their ballots for some form of marijuana legalization. That means that medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and recreational marijuana is legal in eight, including the nation’s most populous: California. With that powerhouse on board, a total of about one quarter of the population lives in a place where voters have decided that adults should be able to consume cannabis much the same way they consume alcohol. And all but six other states have legalized a non-psychoactive form of cannabis known as CBD, which people use to treat conditions like juvenile epilepsy.

Public opinion on marijuana is going in the opposite direction. ...

Trump himself has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize. ...

It does not seem high on his list of priorities. ...

Waging a war costs money. ...

There’s a lot of money in marijuana these days and the prospect of much more in the future.

If legal marijuana markets didn’t exist tomorrow, that would mean the shuttering of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. It would buoy the black market. And it would also make for a lot of unhappy investors. The market for legal marijuana in America is already worth an estimated $7 billion and, according to market research firm ArcView, it will be worth more than $20 billion by 2020. While many bigwig venture capitalists and corporations are still wary of writing checks because of prohibition, others are proving eager to cash in on the “green rush.” Among them is even a member of Trump’s transition team, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. “There’s a huge amount of capital formation,” says Vitiello. “There are literally billions of dollars of investment in these gray market establishments.”

The extent of federal government’s authority over these matters is unclear. 

December 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, 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, December 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bring it, Jeff: why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive

Lead_960The title of this post is my (foolish?) reaction to this notable new Politico magazine article headlined "Jeff Sessions’ Coming War on Legal Marijuana: There’s little to stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Here are excerpts from the start of the article which I follow with a (too brief) explanation for my blunt "bring it" bravado:

By nominating Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for attorney general, President-elect Donald J. Trump is about to put into the nation’s top law enforcement job a man with a long and antagonistic attitude toward marijuana. As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions said he thought the KKK "were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” In April, he said, “Good people don't smoke marijuana,” and that it was a "very real danger" that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions, who turns 70 on Christmas Eve, has called marijuana reform a "tragic mistake" and criticized FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing a the federal prohibition that President Obama has called “untenable over the long term.”  In a floor speech earlier this year, Senator Sessions said: "You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”

Sessions has not shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, but if he chooses, he will be able to act decisively and quickly — more so perhaps than with any other of his top agenda items such as re-doubling efforts to combat illegal immigration and relaxing oversight of local police forces and federal civil rights laws. With little more than the stroke of his own pen, the new attorney general will be able to arrest growers, retailers and users, defying the will of more than half the nation’s voters, including those in his own state who approved the use of CBD. Aggressive enforcement could cause chaos in a $6.7 billion industry that is already attracting major investment from Wall Street hedge funds and expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020.

And so far, Congress has shown no interest in trying to stop the Sessions nomination, at least on this issue. Even members who are in favor of protecting states from federal interference on the marijuana issue have said they support Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general: “I strongly support Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,” said Representative Tom McClintock, Republican from California. “He is a strict constitutionalist who believes in the rule of law. I would expect that he will respect the prerogative of individual states to determine their own laws involving strictly intra-state commerce.”

There are dozens of reasons I think it would be quite foolish as a matter of constitutional law and sound federal policing priorities for future Attorney General Jeff Sessions to start his tenure by using broad federal police powers to criminally prosecute tens of thousands of players in a growing recreational marijuana industry.  This industry is already well-established and producing thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues in Colorado, Oregon and Washington; it is now gearing up for growth in Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Nevada and maybe Maine.

In the most simple of terms, it would be foolish for the Trump/Sessions Administration to try to "Make America Great Again" via tough federal pot prohibition enforcement because it would show to all who care to pay attention that the GOP's purported affinity for personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights is a huge bunch of hooey.  But I genuinely believe that most younger GOP Senators — e.g., folks like Ted Cruz, my wish pick for AG, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott— have always voiced a genuine commitment to personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights.  Consequently, I do not think these important GOP voices are going to be quick to bless any efforts by future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat.

Moreover, and completely missing from the facile analysis in this superficial Politico article, even if future AG Jeff Sessions were eager to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat for the emerging recreational marijuana industry, there will still be the bigger and stronger and much more consequential medical marijuana industry chugging along — especially in so many swing/red states that were critical to the election of Donald J. Trump circa 2016.  I am thinking here specifically of now-red states like Arizona and Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Those now-red states alone add up to nearly 100 electoral votes that a whole bunch of Dems would love to win back in 2018 and 2020; and they are all states that, I think, could easily go back into the Dem column if/when establishment Dems finally figure out that medical marijuana reform in a winning issue worth promoting forcefully.  (I have blogged here an explanation for my claim in a post at my other blog that Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform.)

Importantly, in this post I have only outlined some obvious political/policy reasons for why I think it would be foolish (and ultimately unlikely) for future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal pot Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat.  In a future post, assuming readers are interested, I can explain all the reasons I think the other two branches of the federal government — Congress and the federal judiciary — can and would and should find an array of means to "stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters."  Given that Congress and federal judges over the last eight years have done a whole lot to preclude the Obama Administration from doing too much by executive fiat,  everyone concerned about criminal justice and marijuana policy in the Trumpian future much keep in mind that the Framers gave us a wonderful federal system of check-and-balances that has been pretty effective at keeping the big bad federal government from doing too many stupid things that are obviously against the considered will of the people.

Just sayin'

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Reform

December 5, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?

In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).

I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)

I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.

This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.

 

 

November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Will Prez-Elect Donald Trump make it legal and easier for veterans to have access to medical marijuana?

Veterans-day-20131The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new AP article headlined "For Colorado Veterans, Marijuana A Controversial Treatment." Here are excerpts:

Tom couldn’t sleep. After six years in the U.S. Navy, he found himself in the civilian world unable to readjust from his time on a ship, when a commanding officer would often wake up the sailors every few hours.  He tried prescription sleep aids, but nothing really worked until he smoked some weed ... “I tried it very sparingly and slept the whole night for the first time in like months,” Tom said.

For members of the U.S. military, admitting to using marijuana could result in an investigation and in most cases, punishment or separation from the military. Because of this, many of the veterans who use marijuana chose not to reveal their last names...

Attorney Will M. Helixon, an expert in military law, said the military still considers marijuana a controlled substance. Someone in active duty caught using the drug could be punished and in most cases, processed for separation from the military. For someone who is not on active duty, it could still result in a discharge, which could close the door for future benefits and career options.

Helixon said it makes no difference to the military if marijuana is legal in some states, such as Colorado. “There are many instances where otherwise lawful conduct is prohibited by the military, marijuana being one of them,” Helixon said. “To not be efficient in your job or to be derelict in your duties is not a crime in the civilian world, but it is in the military.”...

Tom said he much prefers marijuana over drinking, even though branches of the military are no strangers to alcohol consumption. “The Navy has, I don’t want to say a tradition, but we’re known for being heavy drinkers. There’s that saying ‘drunk as a sailor,'” Tom said. “It’s like a big frat because at every port there’s ‘Let’s go out and get as drunk as possible.’ I thought it was so odd that the Navy was so gung ho about drinking and so against marijuana. I consider them on the same level.”

Juan, who is 50 and was in the U.S. Marine Corps, expressed the same sentiment. Juan broke his collarbone from injuries not related to the military, he said. “I just drank all the time to numb the pain but marijuana works much better and for sleep as well,” Juan said. Marijuana “doesn’t really get rid of the pain. It changes it to something more manageable if that makes sense … it like feels good to get it moving, like a massage.”

Juan said he has a couple friends recently who died from heavy drinking. He said the drinking culture in the Marines is similar to what Tom described in the Navy. “Oh yeah, it’s just like college — put enough young people together and they’re going to want to party and drink. In the Marine Corps everyone drank and pretty excessively too,” Juan said.

Juan said he is distrustful of prescription opiates as well. “I think the amount of opiates being prescribed to people is a little reckless. I don’t take aspirin because I don’t like the idea of drugs,” Juan said. “An opiate can actually kill you if you overdose. With marijuana, that can’t happen. You’re not going to smoke yourself to death.”... Juan conceded that it is possible to get hooked on marijuana, like anything else. “To be honest, I’m kind of addicted to not hurting all the time. You can be psychologically dependent on it,” Juan said. “If it gets to a point where you’re smoking before work or something then you’ve got a problem. I have friends who smoke it pretty heavily and they are well-paid with families to take care of. They’re not the stereotypical stoner on the couch.” ‘A Band-Aid’ Sam House, a spokesman for the U. S. Department Veterans Affairs for northern Colorado and Cheyenne, said that while marijuana may seem beneficial, it’s masking the real problem.... House said the VA follows the Federal Drug Administration, which has not found a medical use for cannabis. The Drug Enforcement Administration still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Because of the federal policy, House said a veteran who uses marijuana won’t be able to get certain prescriptions at the VA medical office. For instance, veterans are routinely blood-tested every time they go in for a VA appointment, House said. So if a veteran tweaks his or her back in a way for which a doctor would prescribe prescription painkillers, when the bloodwork comes back positive for marijuana, the VA doctor can no longer prescribe the painkillers.

House is a veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD. He said it’s important for veterans to treat the root cause of the side effects with therapy, instead of self-medicating with marijuana. “The goal of every veteran should be to be normal and to seek out that new normal,” House said. “If someone is on an antidepressant, they may need that for the rest of their lives. Why complicate that with self-medication, which could or could not contribute to that depression?”...

Curt Bean, 31 of Lakewood, was diagnosed with PTSD after tours in Iraq with the U.S Army. Bean said he knows a fellow veteran who went from taking 14 medications for PTSD to three medications after starting marijuana. “The three biggest things for me — anxiety is really tough and then there’s depression and sleeplessness,” Bean said. “I’m able to have something to mitigate that in a healthy and positive way with zero negative side effects.”

Bean said he is heavily involved in the Colorado veterans community and he has seen other veterans switch from opiates to marijuana with positive effects. “They were just being zombies. And the marijuana allowed them to be a successful part of their families and their communities,” Bean said. “It allowed them to be part of their communities rather than isolating them in their room.”...

Bean said he knows many veterans are afraid to come out and say they use marijuana, but he is trying to raise more awareness about the issue. Bean has smoked marijuana on a few local news stations. “I understand the ramifications of doing that, but it takes people to stand up and say, ‘It’s silly,’ for this to become less of an issue,” Bean said.

Bean said he wished the VA would come around and see his perspective on marijuana use for PTSD. “It’s a matter of time. The longer they wait and drag their feet, the lower the quality of life for veterans and there is some loss of life,” Bean said. “That’s the most upsetting thing — that I’m on this expedition to be able to say that this is a valuable option for the guys and they should be able to use it because it does save lives.” 

Notably, this two-page document entitled "Donald Trump's Contract with the American Voter," describes a part of a planned initiative to include "provid[ing] veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice." If that becomes a reality, it could make it much easier to veterans to have access to medical marijuana through the private health care system (although this would not alone solve problems for active military members).  

November 13, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform

Cw1RUvqWgAATypwAs various folks continue to try to figure out just what happened on Election Day 2016, I am seeing a lot of people noting that Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote than did Donald Trump.  But Trump is now Prez-Elect because he squeaked out state-by-state victories in a majority of the swing states.  As the title of this post trumpets, I think simple math suggests the most of the swing states would have swung the other way if HRC had been a vocal and consistent advocate for major marijuana reform.  Here is the basis for my thinking:

1. Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both advocated for full marijuana legalization, and I think it fair to imagine that some (significant?) percentage of their voters would have voted for HRC instead if she championed major marijuana reform.

If only half of voters who picked Johnson/Stein would have instead voted for HRC had she championed marijuana reform, HRC would have won, instead of lost, the states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states add up to 75 electoral votes and would have given HRC the presidency with more than 300 electoral votes. Given that younger persons disproportionately support full marijuana legalization (nearly 80%) and that younger voters disproportionately voted for Johnson/Stein, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to secure many of these third-party voters in 2016.

2.  In addition to securing more of those who showed up to vote for a third party, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to motivate many more traditional democrats to turn out to vote. This UPROXX article, headlined "It Appears As Though Hillary Clinton Was Ultimately Done In By Low Democratic Voter Turnout," details why lower turn out among democratic voters was fundamental to her surprising loss.  (Given that HRC mostly made arguments about who to vote against (Trump) rather than arguments about why to come out to vote for her (what did she promise to do exactly?), it is not hard to understand why she struggled to encourage her traditional base to show up and vote.

If HRC advocacy for major marijuana reforms motivate just another 10% of traditional democratic voters to show up to vote for her, she now wins Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin big AND now also wins Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and maybe even makes Ohio and Texas(!) remarkably close.  With just the first additional three of these states added to her column, and HRC has now more than 350 electoral votes; throw in Ohio and Texas and she is way over 400.

Now I realize, of course, that one probably needs to be smoking something to really believe that potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms would have turned the US deep blue and led to a landslide outcome not seen since the Reagan era. But throughout the election season and now in this period of post-mortems, I keep returning the my own feeling that HRC really provided no tangible reason for me to vote for her rather than just against the other guy. Potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms, I suspect, would have given a lot of people other than me a real reason to vote for HRC.

November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Previewing and tracking the 2016 marijuana initiative election results throughout the evening

American-pot-flagThis new Huffington Post article, headlined "9 States Are Voting On Marijuana On Election Day. Here’s Where They Stand Right Now," provides a relatively efficient and effective overview of all states to be watching for those concerning about state-by-state marijuana reform initiative developments. Arguments can be made that all five states voting on full recreation legalization are most important as a metric for the future of national reform, though I strongly believe the votes in all four medical marijuana states today should not be overlooked. Here is how the HuffPo piece sets up its state-by-state review:

Millions of voters across the United States are considering measures to roll back longstanding restrictions on marijuana this Election Day. By the end of Tuesday night, five more states could fully legalize weed, which would put nearly one-quarter of the nation’s population in areas that have rejected prohibition and decided to tax and regulate the plant. An additional four states are voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use. If approved, pot would become legal in some form in 29 states and Washington D.C.

Marijuana policy reformers say this could be a watershed moment for their movement. “Nov. 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017.  But on the other hand, huge losses could interrupt the momentum we’ve been building for the last several years.”

I would be surprised if there is a consistent voting outcome throughout all the states, though I think is a near certainty that by the end the day a much larger number of Americans will be voting in favor of significant marijuana reforms today than at any other time in US history.   That reality alone, even if reform proposals end up losing in a number of states, ought to help propel the national marijuana reform movement forward.

Drilling down into state-by-state outcomes and their impact on the national reform conversation, I have lately come to think the pace of national/federal marijuana reform might ultimately be influenced even more by the vote today in (swing state) Florida concerning medical marijuana than by any of the five recreational state votes.  Then again, the recreational initiatives in California (as the biggest US state) and in Massachusetts (the biggest New England state) also are obviously very big deals for the likely future direction and structure of federal reforms.  And none of the votes in any of the other states are without national significance and consequence, especially when each vote can help increasing significantly the number of US Senators who are from states in which voters or local representatives have called for some form of marijuana legalization.

 Going through the states here by closing times (ET) provides one way to organize and track what reformers can follow most closely throughout the night:

Florida polls close at 7pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Amendment 2

Florida Results webpage

 

Maine polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 1

Maine Results webpage

 

Massachusetts polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 4

Massachusetts Results webpage

 

North Dakota polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Measure 5

North Dakota Results webpage

 

Arkansas polls close at 8:30pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Issue 6

Arkansas Results webpage

 

Arizona polls close at 9pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known a Proposition 205

Arizona Results webpage

 

Montana polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Initiative 182

Montana Results webpage 

 

Nevada polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 2

Nevada Results webpage

 

California polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Proposition 64

California Results webpage

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

"The Economic Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"

The title of this post is the title of this recent report produced by the Marijuana Policy Group, which describes itself as a "non-affiliated entity dedicated to new market policy and analysis [seeking] to apply research methods rooted in economic theory and statistical applications to inform regulatory policy decisions in the rapidly growing legal medical and recreational marijuana markets." Here is part of the report's synopsis:

The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) has constructed a new model that accurately integrates the legal marijuana industry into Colorado’s overall economy. It is called the “Marijuana Impact Model.”  

Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015.  Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries....

Legal marijuana demand is projected to grow by 11.3 percent per year through 2020.  This growth is driven by a demand shift away from the black market and by cannabis-specific visitor demand. By 2020, the regulated market in Colorado will become saturated.  Total sales value will peak near $1.52 billion dollars, and state demand will be 215.7 metric tons of flower equivalents by 2020. Market values are diminished somewhat by declining prices and “low-cost, high-THC” products.

In 2015, marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source, with $121 million in combined sales and excise tax revenues.  Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol, and 14 percent larger than casino revenues. The MPG projects marijuana tax revenues will eclipse cigarette revenues by 2020, as cigarette sales continue to decline.  Marijuana tax revenues will likely continue increasing as more consumer demand shifts into the taxed adult-use market.

As a first-mover in legal marijuana, the Front Range has witnessed significant business formation and industry agglomeration in marijuana technology (cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and testing).  This has inspired a moniker for Colorado’s Front Range as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.”  Secondary marijuana industry activities quantified for the first time in this report include: warehousing, cash-management, security, testing, legal services, and climate engineering for indoor cultivations.

November 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Highlighting the "knowledge gap" as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace

Via email, I received news of this effective new "Policy Brief" released recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC.  The title of this short document is "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion," and I especially appreciated its final section under the heading "Closing the Knowledge Gap." Here are excerpts from that section of this helpful document: 

Legalizing recreational marijuana is a far-reaching policy change. There is little research available on its potential effects on usage rates or public health and safety. This section highlights what government—state and federal— should do to close the knowledge gap.

The first priority is for data collection, performance monitoring, and analysis. States' regulatory structures should incorporate a feedback mechanism to track key performance metrics and conduct descriptive analyses of the operations of the market and its regulatory oversight system.

The second priority is for a sophisticated research agenda to explore the impact of legalization, including a focus on intended and unintended results of policy. The legal marijuana industry is new and a broad understanding of its functional dynamics are mostly unknown.

Research can provide state policy and program managers the answer to a number of questions, such as:

  • What model regulations should states adopt?...

  • How does marijuana use relate to other drug use—e.g., is it a substitute or complement to alcohol use? Opioid use?...

  • What is the environmental impact of legalization?

  • How do we test for marijuana use and what constitutes impairment?

  • How does marijuana use affect driving, workplace performance, and academic achievement?

  • How do new marijuana delivery systems (e.g., vaping) affect health and do they have other damaging consequences? What are the health effects of second hand smoke?

  • What is the impact of legalized marijuana on illegal markets? What is the impact on grey markets, where legal home grows of marijuana leak or are diverted into illegal markets?

  • What is the impact of the new marijuana industry on states’ gross domestic products?

  • How does the legalization of marijuana affect the social cost of illicit drug use?

November 3, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"It's Black And White: The Social Justice Case For Legalizing Marijuana"

Shutterstock_273028715-702x336The title of this post is the headline of this notable new local commentary authored by Carol Rose, who executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. Here are excerpts:

When thinking about how to cast your ballot on Question 4, to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, consider the social justice implications of your vote.

Don’t buy the argument that "no one gets arrested for possession of marijuana” anymore. That’s simply not true. More than 600 people are still arrested for marijuana possession annually in Massachusetts. It matters a lot to them and their families that using pot is still not legal. Arrests generate criminal records, which create barriers to housing, employment, education, adoption and more.

Moreover, criminalizing marijuana disproportionately hurts poor people and folks of color. Black people are more than three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of marijuana use are the same across race. Recent data from the Boston Police Department show that hundreds of people in Boston’s neighborhoods of color are disproportionately stopped by the police for marijuana, while their white suburban neighbors who consume at the same rate do so without concern. Indeed, since voters approved decriminalization of an ounce or less in 2008, racial disparities in marijuana arrests have increased in Massachusetts. Legalization will reduce those disparities.

Unnecessary drug raids are another part of the problem. Last month, after spotting one marijuana plant from a helicopter, state police stormed the property of an 81-year-old grandmother and medical marijuana patient in Amherst in order to tear up the single plant. Last July, Massachusetts National Guard personnel and state police stormed the property of Martha’s Vineyard resident Paul Jackson, an 81-year-old former cancer patient who grows the plant for medicinal tea. They confiscated four plants. Question 4 would put an end to such outrageous waste of criminal justice resources....

The marijuana business already exists, it’s just in the shadows where exploitation takes place. It is time to bring the underground economy into the light, where we can regulate it and address it as a public health matter, with education and controls. Remember the "Let's make smoking history" education campaign? That did far more than prohibition to make once-ubiquitous cigarettes uncool.

We can’t wait for the Legislature to fix the law. They have had multiple opportunities to do so and failed to act. Despite widespread calls for public health approaches to substance abuse, most politicians still fear being labeled “soft on crime” at reelection time. Criminalizing marijuana has failed, because criminal law is too blunt a cudgel for an issue that calls for a public health education approach. A yes vote on Question 4 is a vote for public health and social justice.

November 2, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)