Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In Oregon, weddings with marijuana bringing new meaning to wedded bliss

Aeee9086b49d8fc5046d8ff625450eb5Marijuana reforms often say they would like marijuana to be treated just like alcohol, and this new article from Oregon suggests that at least a one couple started their marriage in a manner that makes such treatment a reality in one celebratory setting in which alcohol is typically a given.   The article is headlined "Oregon wedding features marijuana bar, budtender," and here are the amusing details:

The legalization of pot in Oregon has couples considering weed bars at their weddings.

"We were shocked by how much people loved it," said groom John Elledge of his recent reception. "I'm still getting a couple of texts a day from guests who enjoyed the weed tent."

Elledge married Whitney Alexander this summer on a West Linn Christmas tree farm.

"On private property where no liquor license is involved, it is legal," said Mark Pettinger with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. However, he added, a caterer with a liquor license cannot legally serve alcohol at an event where marijuana is also being served to guests. "Caterers should be aware there cannot be bartenders and budtenders."

"We made sure we were legal," said Elledge,"We know the limit is 8 ounces so we had small amounts of 13 varieties with a budtender controlling consumption." The couple had a wedding planner from Lake Oswego's Bridal Bliss.

"This was our first request for a weed bar," said owner Nora Sheils, "We made sure everyone was safe and provided transportation. The couple provided the product and hired the budtender for the tent."

Elledge, who describes himself as a professional marijuana grower, seems pleased to be a pioneer. "Even an 81-year-old woman who hadn't smoked weed since the '60s came into the tent at our wedding," he said. "Though skeptical at first she ended up loving it."

August 25, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marijuana reform efforts in Ohio (finally) starting to generate lots of newsy buzz

Throughout much of this year, I had been intrigued (but not all that surprised) that efforts to reform marijuana laws through ballot initiative in Ohio had not received all that much attention even as one well-funded group, ResponsibleOhio, seemed well-position to give Ohio voters the chance to legalize fully marijuana.  But now that the efforts of ResponsibleOhio have officially brought the issue to the November 2015 ballot as Issue 3, there is much more marijuana reform news and activity afoot in the Buckeye State.  Here is a sample of just recent notable headlines and stories from various news sources:

August 25, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Marijuana Producers Gobble Up Warehouse Space in Denver Area"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Wall Street Journal article that highlights some of the economic development impacts of the marijuana legalization in Colorado.  Here are excerpts:

Since voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of the drug in 2012, growers and distributors have gobbled up most of the available warehouse space in the Denver area, a major logistics hub for companies moving goods between the Midwest and the West Coast.

The marijuana industry is poised to expand quickly. Legal sales in Colorado of medical and recreational cannabis totaled about $700 million in 2014, the first full year for which statistics are available, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Colorado tax data. The number of active licenses to grow the plant for retail consumption shot up to 397 from 204, according to Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The problem for Denver business owners: marijuana producers require lots of space to grow, package and store their products. In all, growers and distributors took up a third of all the warehouse space leased in Colorado over the past 18 months, according to Cresa Partners, a brokerage.

The warehouse crunch means many small businesses are struggling to find the space they need. Mr. Badgley, chief executive of Colorado Specialties Corp., a building-supply business, said his 7,500-square-foot warehouse and showroom is so crammed with bathroom fixtures and other materials that it is difficult to navigate. He would like to move to a building with triple the space, but can’t find anything affordable. “It’s all just getting snatched up by these marijuana people,” he said....

. Rents in the Colorado warehouse market rose 10% last year, to $5 a square foot, according to CBRE Inc., a real-estate services firm. The cost to buy warehouse space has doubled to $80 a square foot since the beginning of last year.

“It seems like every warehouse from 8,000 to 20,000 square feet is being turned into an indoor marijuana farm,” said Tom Glaspern, managing director in Denver for SEKO Logistics, a logistics-services provider. “We had opportunities [with customers] last year that we just had to turn down because we didn’t have the space.”...

Mr. Glaspern says the squeeze is especially tight in Denver because Colorado has relatively little industrial space outside the area. What’s more, because Colorado doesn’t border a state that has legalized recreational marijuana use, there isn’t much transport in or out — it is grown, processed and consumed right there....

Most growers use warehouse space as a combination indoor farm, packaging facility, storage space and distribution center. Employees clip buds from plants, cure them and ready them for shipment.

“It’s a factory that grows plants,” says Tim Cullen, owner of Colorado Harvest Co., a retailer that produced 3,600 pounds of pot last year and expects to produce 10,000 pounds this year. “It does not look like your friend’s basement in college.” Colorado Harvest owns 55,000 square feet of warehouse space to supply its five retail locations and is looking to lease 12,000 square feet more. Last year, after seeing warehouse rental prices increase, Mr. Cullen decided to build his own 35,000-square-foot facility in West Denver.

Growers are most interested in warehouses smaller than 80,000 square feet. Such spaces typically are used by modest manufacturing businesses. Converting them into cannabis-growing facilities often requires hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades to lighting, electrical and ventilation systems....

Mark Bowen, vice president in the Denver office of DCT Industrial Trust Inc., a real-estate investment trust that owns warehouses, said demand from marijuana growers has driven up the cost of warehouse space for users from the natural gas and tech industries by 60% or more, and increased lease renewal rates by 25% for DCT’s clients worried that if they don’t re-sign they will lose their space to the pot industry. “We’re happy about it,” Mr. Bowen said. Marijuana growers “are taking some of the space…that startups would maybe go to, and some of those businesses are having to come to buildings like ours.”

Over at Reason.com, Scott Shackford makes these interesting additional ponits in this follow-up post about this WSJ piece:

[I]f Colorado sees a clear boom in related logistics-focused commercial and industrial developments, then that’s going to be some great ammunition for other states pushing for legalization. Municipal governments absolutely love the logistics market, particularly in places where manufacturing is no longer (or never was) the source for blue-collar jobs. And of course, real estate professionals and developers have always been able to bend the ears of elected officials. Once the "right" people are also making money off legal marijuana, some resistance is likely to go up in smoke.

Among other thoughts, these pieces make me think it might be a real smart financial play to start buying up under-used wharehouse space in states like Arizona and California and Ohio and Michigan and Massachusetts and any other states likely be be voting on serious legalization initiatives in the next few years.  

August 25, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Extended examination on how marijuana reform might (or might not) be impacting black markets

This lengthy new Vice article, headlined "How America's Legal Weed Is Changing the Black Market and Influencing Mexican Cartels," provides an effective (though necessarily incomplete) account of how legal reform developments in the United States are impacting all sort of marijuana markets. The piece merits a full read, and here are excerpts:

And these are mostly happy days for the legal weed industry, whose sales revenues grew from an estimated $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion last year; one projection has them hitting $35 billion by 2020. All across Oregon, which legalized medical marijuana in 1998, people are attempting to carve out niches, hawking a dizzying array of weed sodas, candies, extracts, and other products. Oregonians overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative last year that sanctioned pot sales to recreational users, making the state the next frontier of the so-called "green rush" that began in Colorado and Washington in 2012....

That new day hasn't dawned entirely. The hodgepodge of pot laws nationwide — 23 states plus Washington, DC now allow some form of medical marijuana — has created a situation ripe for exploitation. One of the great promises of marijuana legalization has been the concurrent elimination of the black market for weed, putting local dealers out of business and sticking it to Mexican cartels by cutting into their bottom line.

But while that may happen eventually, the black market in the United States is still thriving. Growers, consumers, dealers, and others in the industry told VICE News about operators that undercut prices at state pot shops, and several sources described illicit operations that ship large quantities of weed across the country from states that have legalized pot to states that haven't. Mexican organized crime experts told us that cartels are still smuggling bricks of bud across the border, and are perhaps even improving the quality of their product to cater to the rising expectations of American stoners.

"You're not going to eliminate the black market overnight," Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, told VICE News. "It's going to take some time, because essentially when you look at prices in the black market, whether it's marijuana or meth or cocaine, you're compensating drug dealers and everyone in the supply chain for the risk of arrest and incarceration. That goes away with legalization."

Most experts agree with Kilmer, saying that in time, as more states repeal pot prohibition, the dynamics of the marijuana black market will begin to resemble those of America's tobacco and alcohol black markets. There are still people selling untaxed loose cigarettes and running moonshine even though the vast majority of consumers prefer going to the store to buy smokes and alcohol legally. Right now, it's extremely tempting for growers in legal states to export their product to prohibition states, where prices are far higher.

Sam Chapman, cofounder of New Economy Consulting, a firm that specializes in the marijuana industry, told VICE News it's widely known that a significant portion of the weed grown in Oregon and northern California gets exported to the East Coast. "We've been seeing that product end up in Florida, end up in New York — places that don't have cannabis decriminalization and have very harsh punishments," he said. "When you have prohibition in other states, it drives the price up [there] because it's not regulated… I'd guess 80 percent of all product in Oregon is, unfortunately, leaving the state."

August 25, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spotlighting a unique (and uniquely valuable?) aspect of proposed Massachusetts legalization initiative

Jacob Sullum has this new Forbes piece which effectively highlights a unique element in a marijuana legalization proposal making the rounds in Massachusetts.  The piece is headlined "By Allowing Pot Pubs, A Massachusetts Measure Would Treat Cannabis Consumers More Like Drinkers," and here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece: 

When the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts unveiled the text of its 2016 legalization initiative this month, the group highlighted several features of the measure but omitted the most interesting one.  The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow consumption of cannabis products on the premises of businesses that sell them, subject to regulation by the state and approval by local voters.

That’s a big deal, because until now no jurisdiction has satisfactorily addressed the obvious yet somehow touchy question of where people can consume the cannabis they are now allowed to buy.  The legalization initiatives approved by voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska all promised to treat marijuana like alcohol, which implies allowing venues similar to taverns where people can consume cannabis in a social setting.  Yet all four states say businesses that sell marijuana may not let customers use it on the premises.

Although a few “bring your own cannabis” (BYOC) clubs have popped up to accommodate people who want to use marijuana outside their homes from time to time, the legality of such establishments is a matter of dispute.  The result is that people can openly buy marijuana without fear, but they still have to consume it on the sly, just like in the bad old days.  The problem is especially acute for visitors from other states, since pot-friendly hotels are still pretty rare.

The Massachusetts initiative boldly addresses this consumption conundrum by allowing for something like Dutch-style cannabis cafés.  At the same time, it reassures people who don’t like the sound of that by permitting such businesses only in towns where a majority of voters have agreed to allow them.  Pot pubs also would be subject to restrictions imposed by state regulators, who might insist that they operate more discreetly than Amsterdam’s famous “coffee shops.”

The initiative says “no person shall consume marijuana in a public place or smoke marijuana where smoking tobacco is prohibited.”  But it adds that the rule “shall not apply to a person who consumes marijuana or marijuana products in a designated area of a marijuana establishment located in a city or town that has voted to allow consumption on the premises where sold.”  The question would be put on the local ballot in any city where supporters managed to get signatures from 10 percent of voters.

By contrast, the four states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use uniformly ban consumption in pot stores.  They also impose additional restrictions on consumption that are open to interpretation and leave people uncertain about where it’s OK to use marijuana....

Mason Tvert, who helped run the Amendment 64 campaign in Colorado and is now pushing the Campaign for Limited Social Use in Denver, takes a similar view. “Marijuana’s now a legal product for adults in Denver, and it’s really time that we give adults a place to use it legally and socially,” he told the Associated Press last month. “We shouldn’t be requiring that you sit at home if you choose to use marijuana as an adult.”

Tvert’s initiative, which is expected to be on the ballot in November, will give Denver voters a chance to decide whether they meant it when they said marijuana should be treated like alcohol.  But the big test will come next year, when voters in Massachusetts (and possibly in California as well) will decide whether to let pot smokers out of the basement.

August 22, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Is Marijuana Causing More Car Crashes in Washington?"

The question in the title of this post is the question which necessarily emerges from some recent public safety data released this week in Washington state, and it is also the headline of Jacob Sullum's new Reason column examining this data.  Here are excerpts from Sullum's analysis (with key links preserved):

Data released by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) this week indicate that the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes with active THC in their blood jumped from 38 in 2013 to 75 last year....

Contrary to comments by Staci Hoff, the WTSC's director of data and research, the presence of active THC does not necessarily indicate that a driver was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash, let alone that marijuana caused the accident. Noting that 85 percent of "cannabis-positive" drivers involved in fatal accidents had active THC (as opposed to an inactive THC metabolite) in their blood last year, Hoff concludes that "most of them were high." That is not a safe conclusion to draw, because (as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out) there is no reliable way to relate THC blood levels to impairment....

The picture is further complicated by the presence of other drugs.  The Times notes that "half the drivers with active THC in their blood also were under the influence of alcohol, and the majority of those were legally intoxicated."  Alcohol has a much more dramatic impact on driving ability than marijuana does, and the two together have a greater effect than either alone.  The Times adds that the WTSC's analysis "doesn't account for prescription drugs in the marijuana-positive drivers."

 Although marijuana's contribution to traffic accidents is hard to pin down, it is possible than an increase in cannabis consumption following legalization would lead to more stoned drivers on the road, resulting in more crashes.  Alternatively, if more pot smoking is accompanied by less drinking, the net result could be fewer crashes, since alcohol impairs drivers a lot more than marijuana does.  It is not clear yet whether either of those scenarios is materializing in Washington.

WTSC data show the total number of traffic fatalities rose by 6 percent last year (from 436 to 462) after falling the previous six years (including 2013, the first full year in which recreational use was legal, although state-licensed pot stores were not open yet). The number of fatalities from accidents in which the driver tested positive for marijuana (which does not necessarily mean he was impaired by marijuana) rose by 55 percent (from 64 to 99).  Meanwhile, the number of fatalities from accidents in which the driver was deemed to be impaired by alcohol fell by 13 percent (from 127 to 111). That number had declined or remained steady in the previous six years, except for a 14 percent increase in 2009.

The 6 percent increase in total fatalities is consistent with the idea that legalization raises the number of dangerously impaired drivers.   But that increase occurred entirely in the first half of 2014, before the pot shops started to open, which is a bit of a puzzle. By comparison, Colorado, where state-licensed marijuana merchants were open for business throughout 2014, saw only a 1.5 percent increase in total traffic fatalities that year.   To get a better idea of what is happening, we will need more years of data, plus comparisons to trends in other states that have not legalized marijuana.

UPDATE: Based on data from a local article about marijuana's impact in Washington, I did an additional post on this topic over at my sentencing law blog: "Could marijuana reform be making Washington roadways safer even if more drivers test positive for THC?"

August 21, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Does exact ballot language really matter much in Ohio 2015 vote for marijuana legalization?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by the latest legal battle brewing in Ohio now just a matter of weeks before voters will be voting on a controversial marijuana reform initiative.   This local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio to challenge marijuana legalization ballot language in court," sets out the recent development and basic terms of debate:

The marijuana legalization issue will appear as Issue 3 on Ohio ballots this November, but the group backing the issue plans to challenge the approved ballot language at the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Ballot Board, a five-member bipartisan panel led by Secretary of State Jon Husted, on Tuesday approved the language for that issue along party lines, with the two Democratic members voting against. "It's not balanced language and we believe that the language does not fairly inform the voters on what they're being asked to vote upon," Don McTigue, an attorney for ResponsibleOhio, said after the ballot board meeting.

McTigue said the language approved Tuesday is misleading and politically motivated, pointing to dozens of places where the language either adds or omits provisions of the proposed amendment.

For example, the approved language says "recreational use;" McTigue preferred "personal use." And one paragraph could be construed as allowing Ohioans to buy more than a half pound of marijuana (the limit is 1 ounce but Ohioans could possess up to 8 ounces of homegrown marijuana.)

ResponsibleOhio's proposed personal and medical marijuana amendment would legalize marijuana use and sales, with commercial cannabis grown only at 10 sites already promised to campaign investors. State lawmakers didn't like that aspect of the issue, so they drafted their own amendment to try to block ResponsibleOhio's marijuana issue.

Husted set the tone for Tuesday's meeting by welcoming everyone to "Monopoly Day in Ohio" -- whether to outlaw them or grant a new one.

Ohioans will vote on three statewide issues Nov. 3:

Issue 1: Redistricting reform amendment

Issue 2: Anti-monopoly amendment

Issue 3: Marijuana legalization amendment

All three require a majority "yes" vote to adopt the amendment. But if Issue 2 and Issue 3 both pass, the matter will likely be resolved at the Ohio Supreme Court.

Husted's office drafted ballot language for each issue after meeting with interested parties. Supporters and opponents were given an opportunity Tuesday to persuade the ballot board toward more favorable language, but the final decision rested with the board. Husted said groups would prefer to use language that polls well, but the ballot board aims to give voters the facts about the issues.

ResponsibleOhio plans to spend upwards of $20 million to win at the ballot box, aggressively advertising its plan and targeting supporters to register to vote and cast ballots.

Opponents of Issue 3 -- a coalition of physicians, law enforcement officials, and business groups -- will tell voters legalization will flood the state with marijuana, causing children to be harmed by ingesting it. The coalition, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, is banking on its broad and diverse network instead of campaign contributions to spread its message.

For a variety of reasons, I am disinclined to weigh in substantively on the (court-bound?) debate over the precise language that will appear on the ballot when Ohioans are to vote of the ResponsibleOhio proposal for marijuana reform. But, as the question in the title of this post highlights, the broader question is whether it really matters much, especially in an "off-off year" election, what the exact ballot language says about the basic marijuana reform issue voters will be considering.

Presumably, most voters showing up to vote in an "off-off year" election already have formed an opinion on the highest-profile initiative under consideration, and so I am not sure this squabble over ballot language will, in the end, matter all that much as the votes are to be cast.  I suppose we will know in just a few months just how all this shakes out.

August 19, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Representing Clients in the Marijuana Industry: Navigating State and Federal Rules"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper available via SSRN authored by Eli Wald, Eric Liebman and Amanda Bertrand.  Here is the abstract:

As the number of states legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana increases and marijuana emerges as a growing lawful industry, lawyers find themselves in an awkward position . In most states, lawyers who represent clients in the marijuana industry risk discipline for assisting clients in the commission of a (federal) crime. Even in jurisdictions like Colorado, where the rules of professional conduct have been amended to permit lawyers to assist clients who comply with marijuana state laws, lawyers who are admitted to practice in federal courts risk being disciplined by these tribunals for assisting clients in the commission of a crime pursuant to the courts’ local rules of conduct.  This short article explores the thorny issue of navigating state and federal rules of professional conduct while representing clients in the marijuana industry.

August 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"D.A.R.E. accidentally endorses marijuana legalization"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Washington Times article, which I find esepcially amusing because I did not think it was possible to "accidentally endorse" anything.  Impossibilities notwithstanding, here are the details:

The substance abuse prevention education program D.A.R.E. says it has not changed its stance against marijuana after it accidentally published a post supporting its legalization.

The post, titled “Purchasing marijuana puts kids at risk,” was a letter to the editor published in The Columbus Dispatch on Monday.  It argues that laws criminalizing marijuana make it more accessible to minors.  “I know from enforcing senseless marijuana laws that children only are being put in more danger when marijuana is kept illegal,” Carlis McDerment, a former deputy sheriff, argued in the letter.  “The goal of prohibiting marijuana was to eradicate its use, but in reality, the drug has become infinitely harder for law enforcement to control.”

D.A.R.E. has since removed the post from its website, but not before some outlets reported on the group’s apparent reversal in ideology, The Huffington Post reported. On Tuesday, the group told Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham that the post was a mistake and “we do not support legalization.”

Ron Brogan, D.A.R.E. regional director, told The Huffington Post on Friday that “a service we use put this post up in error” and “we have not changed our stance that we are opposed to marijuana legalization.”

August 1, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is Congress in the midst of a "summer fling with marijuana"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new Politico article, headline "Congress’ Summer Fling With Marijuana:How Congress turned on the DEA and embraced weed." Here is an excerpt from the first part of the article:

In May, the Senate made history by voting in favor of the first pro-marijuana measure ever offered in that chamber to allow the Veterans Administration to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. Then when June rolled around, it was time for the House to pass its appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science. That’s when things got interesting. The DEA got its budget cut by $23 million, had its marijuana eradication unit’s budget slashed in half and its bulk data collections program shut down. Ouch.

In short, April was a bad month for the DEA; May was historically bad; but June was arguably the DEA’s worst month since Colorado went legal 18 months ago — a turn of events that was easy to miss with the news crammed with tragic shootings, Confederate flags, Obamacare, gay marriage, a papal encyclical and the Greece-Euro drama. July hasn’t been any different, with the legalization movement only gaining steam in both chambers of Congress.

The string of setbacks, cuts and handcuffs for the DEA potentially signals a new era for the once untouchable law enforcement agency — a sign that the national reconsideration of drug policy might engulf and fundamentally alter DEA’s mission. “The DEA is no longer sacrosanct,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tells Politico.

The national tide is clearly not in the DEA’s favor. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January 2014, three additional states have followed suit with full legal weed; the District of Columbia’s fight to legalize continues; the number of medical marijuana states has grown to 23; 14 states have legalized nonpsychoactive CBD oil; and 13 states have legalized industrial hemp, spurring a rapidly expanding legal market for a plant long demonized by the DEA.

At the same time, a national debate about the high costs of sending millions of people — many of them young black and Hispanic men — to prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses has led to increasing questions about whether the zero-tolerance enforcement favored by DEA is the right way to proceed.

That marijuana reform is moving along in Congress at all is a sign of just how far — and fast — the landscape has shifted. Much of the recent uptick of reform voices are actually coming from Republicans, long tough-on-crime legislators who were stalwart opponents of marijuana. In a sign of just how far the sands have shifted, Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican candidate for president, tells Politico that he believes, “Medical marijuana holds promise.”

It’s no longer political suicide to be seen on Capitol Hill as backing drug reform. “There clearly is momentum, absolutely,” says Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a former Air Force JAG officer who replaced Henry Waxman as the congressman from Beverly Hills. “It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to show momentum in Congress,” Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project tells Politico.

The looming cuts has the Justice Department issuing dire warnings: “If enacted, the House budget would cause DEA to experience a significant shortfall in their FY16 budget that would severely inhibit their ability to carry out their mission of stopping the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs,” says Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for DOJ. But unlike such dire warnings in the past, when Congress could be assured of protecting funding for a law enforcement agency seen for decades as key to winning the War on Drugs, the shine has now clearly come off DEA — and that means the agency’s problems might just be beginning.

July 31, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

First Native American tribe in marijuana business expecting monthy sales of $2 million

Sioux-tribeThis new article, headlined "Indian tribes set to begin marijuana sales," reports on the plans and expectations of the first Native American tribe entering the marijuana industry. Here are the details:

Tourists soon may be able to go to a South Dakota Indian reservation, buy a cigarette-sized marijuana joint for $10 to $15 and try their luck at the nearby casino.  In December, the Flandreau Santee Sioux expect to become the first tribe in the nation to grow and sell pot for recreational use, cashing in on the Obama administration’s offer to let all 566 federally recognized tribes enter the marijuana industry.

“The fact that we are first doesn’t scare us,” said tribal president Anthony “Tony” Reider, 38, who’s led the tribe for nearly five years.  “The Department of Justice gave us the go-ahead, similar to what they did with the states, so we’re comfortable going with it.”   The tribe plans to sell 60 strains of marijuana.  Reider is hoping for a flock of visitors, predicting that sales could bring in as much as $2 million per month....

Other tribes have been much more hesitant. “Look at Washington state, where marijuana’s completely legal as a matter of state law everywhere, and you still have tribes adhering to their prohibition policies,” said Robert Odawi Porter, former president of the Seneca Nation of New York.

It comes as no surprise to Washington state Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who says he works on tribal issues every day.  “Not once has anybody ever brought up that they wanted to go down this track,” he said.  Heck speculated on one possible reason: “We’re all aware of the painful history of alcoholism in Indian Country.”

Tribes won the approval to sell pot in December, when the Justice Department said it would advise U.S. attorneys not to prosecute if tribes do a good job policing themselves and make sure that marijuana doesn’t leave tribal lands.  But federal prosecutors maintain the discretion to intervene, a worrisome prospect for many. “This administration is very pro-tribes, very supportive. What if the next one isn’t?” asked W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.

He said many of the state’s 29 tribes also want assurances from federal officials that they won’t lose millions of dollars in grants and contracts if they sell a drug banned by Congress. “We’re not getting definitive answers back,” Allen said.  “There’s a number of tribes that are very aggressively looking into it and trying to sort through all the legal issues.  The rest of us are just kind of on the sidelines watching.”

Many tribal officials took note earlier this month when federal authorities seized 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana on tribal land in Modoc County, Calif.  Federal authorities said they raided the operation because the tribes planned to sell the pot on non-reservation land.  “That’s a warning shot to Indian County that this isn’t carte blanche to do whatever you want, even in a place like California,” said Blake Trueblood, director of business development for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, based in Arizona.

Trueblood said marijuana could give tribes an economic boost, much like gaming. He said tribes will have the best opportunities in states such as Florida and New York, where demand for pot is high but the drug has not been legalized for recreational use by state voters. “Ultimately, I think you’ll see legal marijuana in every state,” Trueblood said. “I think that’s fairly inevitable, even in very conservative places like Florida.”

Reider said his tribe plans to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Minors will be allowed to consume pot if they have a recommendation from a doctor. Under a tribal ordinance passed in June, adults 21 and over will be able to buy one gram of marijuana at a time for recreational use, no more than twice a day. “We really don’t want the stuff getting out to the street,” Reider said. “So we’re going to have like a bar setting where they’ll be able to consume small amounts while on the property.”

Kevin Sabet, president of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the California raid shows that it’s still “an extremely risky venture” for any tribe to start selling marijuana. And he said pot sales would fuel more addiction. “If we think alcohol has had a negative effect on young people on tribal lands, we ain’t seen nothing yet,” Sabet said.

As part of his homework, Reider said, he traveled to Colorado, the first state to sell recreational pot last year. He said he does not smoke marijuana but has concluded that it’s safer than alcohol, citing the behavior he witnessed at the Cannabis Cup, a marijuana celebration held in Denver in April. “It was a peaceful environment,” he said. “Everybody was overly friendly, overly talkative to each other and respectful of each other. Where if you go to a concert where there’s a lot of alcohol, you typically see fights and arguments.”

Reider said the tribe plans to begin growing 6,000 marijuana plants in October and is renovating a bowling alley to house a new consumption lounge that will include four private rooms. He said the tribe may consider allowing marijuana consumption in its casino in the future. Reider acknowledged that it’s “kind of an awkward feeling” to start selling pot, but he figures the tribe is well-equipped.

“When we started looking into it, it’s comical at first, but then you realize it’s an amazing business,” he said. “It’s highly regulated, and we’re used to the regulation from operating our casino. We’ve got security and surveillance.” Reider said profits from pot sales will be used to help tribal members. He said that could include the construction of a facility for those addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs or methamphetamine.

July 30, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Sorting Through the Marijuana Mess in Ohio"

The title of this post is the headline of this new lengthy discussion of some of the notable (and notably distinct) marijuana reform developments in Ohio authored by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel.  Especially for anyone trying to keep track and assess what has been going on in the Buckeye State in recent months, I highly recommend the piece be read in full.  Here are some excerpts mostly from the start and end of the piece:

If anyone would have suggested a year ago that Ohio might be on the verge of legalizing marijuana in 2015, I would have laughed at the idea.

First, Ohio is a conservative Midwestern state that is seldom, if ever, on the cutting edge on social issues.  And second, 2015 is an off-year election, with no statewide or federal elections, meaning the voter turn-out would be lower and the likely voters would be older and less supportive than would be the case if the proposal were on the ballot in 2016, a presidential election year when younger voters turn out in far higher numbers.

But it turns out that Ohio voters may well be voting on marijuana legalization this November.  And the circumstances surrounding this development raise new issues that legalization activists are struggling to deal with.  The proposed constitutional amendment, called the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, sponsored by a group calling itself Responsible Ohio, would legalize both the medical and the recreational use of marijuana....

[W]hat is unique about this effort is that it is being funded by a few rich private investors who, under the terms of the proposed initiative, would then own the 10 specific cultivation centers around the state authorized to cultivate marijuana commercially.  In other words, those investors who provide the funding to gather the required number of signatures, and to run a professional statewide campaign, would be richly rewarded for their investment, assuming the initiative is approved by a majority of the voters....

Some activists have raised objections to the proposal because it would not permit average Ohioans to compete for the commercial cultivation licenses, although ordinary citizens would be entitled to apply for licenses for the more than 1,000 retail dispensaries that would be authorized, claiming it is undemocratic.  Some opponents have even argued it would be worse than the current prohibition — despite the fact that roughly 17,000 marijuana arrests occur each year in Ohio, and those arrests would largely be eliminated if this initiative were to pass....

At NORML, we recognize there are many inequities in the free market system, with an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us.  But NORML is not an organization established to deal with income inequality; we are a lobby for responsible marijuana smokers.   So we will leave other issues, including income inequality, to other organizations who focus on those issues, and we will continue to focus on legalizing marijuana.   

And if the investor driven legalization initiative in Ohio qualifies for the ballot, national NORML will almost certainly support it.  And we hope, so will a majority of the voters in Ohio.

July 27, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fascinating marijuana reform developments in Italy

Images (6)This lengthy International Busness Times article discusses the history and current status of marijuana policy in Italy.  The piece is headlined "Marijuana Legalization In Italy: 250 Italian Lawmakers Support Cannabis Decriminalization Proposal," and here are excerpts:

Italy may well be on its way to becoming the largest country in Europe to legalize marijuana. An Italian tracking group has found that more than 250 lawmakers from across the political spectrum have given their support to a proposal that would largely decriminalize production, distribution, sale and consumption of marijuana throughout the nation.

The leap may appear far-fetched for a country that just 10 years ago voted in a draconian anti-drug bill that removed any distinction between hard and soft drugs, increasing sentences for pot smokers and heroin addicts alike.

But the legalization movement recently gained momentum, with one of the world's most progressive legislative proposals on marijuana being submitted to the Italian parliament. Drafted by the Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, the legislation would allow anyone over the age of 18 to cultivate as many as five plants at home. Italians could also team up to form a "cannabis social club," with each having a maximum of 50 people growing as many as 250 plants.

In both cases, the product would have to be consumed or shared by the farmers, who would be banned from selling and profiting from it while notifying authorities about their activities. All other individuals would be allowed to store as many as 15 grams of marijuana at home and carry as many as 5 grams, with higher quantities being allowed for medical use. Meanwhile, people who do not follow the new rules would not be subject to criminal charges, but would instead face administrative sanctions. Smoking in public areas would remain strictly prohibited, as would advertising, exporting and importing all cannabis products.

Larger-scale production and sale would be controlled by a state monopoly, with the government regulating the sale of licenses. Retail sales would be restricted to dedicated stores, similar to the cannabis coffee shops in Netherlands.

Italy's pro-legalization movement began in the 1960s with the anti-establishment Radical Party, which, among other things, has distinguished itself for its successful campaigns to introduce abortion and divorce, and for getting the first porn star elected to parliament, Ilona Staller, aka Cicciolina. Its histrionic leader, Marco Pannella, 85, has been the face of Italian anti-prohibition for decades, routinely getting arrested for distributing marijuana as an act of civil disobedience.

However, the party has largely remained a fringe force, backed by the liberal intelligentsia but shunned by the masses. It has never won more than 4 percent of the vote, with the exception of the 1999 European elections, when it garnered 8.5 percent.

Despite the attempts made by Pannella and his colleagues, repression has long been Rome's favored response when it comes to drugs. Its tendency peaked in 2005, with the approval of the aforementioned law equating soft and hard drugs by the center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. (The legislation was declared unconstitutional in 2014.)...

So, how did cannabis all of a sudden become so popular in Italy's two chambers of parliament? Well, it didn't happen overnight, but the practical reasons in favor of legalization appear to have struck a chord with many MPs.

In Italy, the turning point came this year, when the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DNA), the authority in charge of fighting organized crime, indicated reforms to decriminalize cannabis-related crimes were needed. In its annual report, it said security forces could no longer afford diverting resources to the fight against cannabis as consumption was spreading despite security forces' "best efforts," noting that repressive action was to date "a total failure."

According to the report, as many as 3,000 tons of cannabis are illegally sold each year in Italy, enough for each citizen, children included, to smoke two to four joints a week. It estimated the total market value as much as $33 billion. And this appraisal is based on the amount of drugs seized by police, which is believed to be a small fraction of the total amount in commerce. From June 2013 to June 2014, the DNA said it intercepted close to 1,900 pounds of heroin, a little less than 10,000 pounds of cocaine and more than 32,000 pounds of cannabis, making marijuana by far the most popular -- and most seized -- drug in the southern European nation.

DNA recommendations on drug policies are not easily ignored in Italy, as this is the authority waging war in Europe against the largest drug cartel, the 'Ndrangheta, and other organized-crime groups that plague the country. The DNA also pulls considerable political weight. For example, Pietro Grasso, the current Senate president, the second highest office in the nation, is its former chief.

Critics say the post-2005 crackdown on drugs has exacerbated systemic problems, engulfing Italy's traditionally congested courts with a wave of low-profile cases that went on to strain the country's overcrowded jails.

Italy is currently struggling to get out of an economic crisis that has left the government desperate for cash. In May, its debt touched a record $2.4 trillion, 132 percent of gross domestic product, which is expected to grow 0.7 percent in 2015 after years of recession. Thus, the prospective of fresh income from taxation and licensing is quite alluring to the government....

According to a study published last year, new business generated by the law could result in an increase of GDP fluctuating between 1.20 percent and 2.34 percent. "Thousands of new jobs could be created," said Della Vedova, the chief promoter of the proposed cannabis legislation. "State income would be absolutely remarkable and quite higher than, for example, that granted by the controversial first-home tax, which today is worth about $3.7 million." Benefits could be even greater, as the figure doesn't take into account resources now allocated to fight cannabis-related crimes, which could be diverted elsewhere.

July 27, 2015 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

First primary state poll indicating considerable support for marijuana reform

This new article on some new polling, headlined "Poll Suggests Support For Marijuana Legalization In New Hampshire," suggests that Presidential candidates my face some perils if they fail to face up to the modern marijuana reform movement. Here is why:

Support for marijuana legalization and decriminalization in New Hampshire is rising, particularly among Democrats and undeclared voters, according to a poll released Thursday. The poll, by WMUR-TV in Manchester, revealed that 3 in 5 adults in the first-in-the-nation primary state favor marijuana legalization, while 72 percent support decriminalization.

The poll suggests a growing shift in support in New Hampshire for marijuana-related issues, with pot decriminalization receiving bipartisan support throughout the state. As in much of America, liberals, young adults and Democrats have the highest rates of approval for marijuana-related policy issues, while conservatives, older adults and regular churchgoers primarily oppose it.

"National polls have shown majority support for legalization for a few years now," wrote Tom Angell, the chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization advocacy group, in an email, "but this survey of voters in a key primary election state should be of particular interest to presidential candidates who are looking for issues that appeal to large constituencies."

The poll said that 73 percent of registered Democrats support legalization and 80 percent support decriminalization. Quinnipiac polls in the spring suggested that multiple swing states support medical and recreational marijuana, which advocates suggest will become a critical issue during the presidential election....

Angell said he expects the prevalence of support for legalization in key swing states will lead to an endorsement by a major presidential candidate in the 2016 election. "For too long, elected officials have viewed marijuana policy as a dangerous third-rail of politics," Angell wrote in a statement, "but the evidence is now clear that speaking out for ending prohibition will bring immense political benefits to those candidates who get in front of the issue before their rivals do."

July 26, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Seniors Are Seeking Out States Where Marijuana is Legal"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new Reuters article.  Here are excerpts:

When choosing retirement locales, a few factors pop to mind: climate, amenities, proximity to grandchildren, access to quality healthcare. Chris Cooper had something else to consider – marijuana laws.

The investment adviser from Toledo had long struggled with back pain due to a fractured vertebra and crushed disc from a fall. He hated powerful prescription drugs like Vicodin, but one thing did help ease the pain and spasms: marijuana.

So when Cooper, 57, was looking for a place to retire, he ended up in San Diego, since California allows medical marijuana. A growing number of retirees are also factoring in the legalization of pot when choosing where to spend their golden years. “Stores are packed with every type of person you can imagine,” said Cooper who takes marijuana once or twice a week, often orally. “There are old men in wheelchairs, or women whose hair is falling out from chemotherapy. You see literally everybody.”

Cooper, who figures he spends about $150 on the drug each month, is not alone in retiring to a marijuana-friendly state.... Figuring out how many people are retiring to states that let you smoke pot is challenging since retirees do not have to check off a box on a form saying why they chose a particular location to their final years.

But “there is anecdotal evidence that people with health conditions which medical marijuana could help treat, are relocating to states with legalized marijuana,” said Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy at University of California, Los Angeles who studies retiree migration trends.

He cited data from United Van Lines, which show the top U.S. moving destinations in 2014 was Oregon, where marijuana had been expected to be legalized for several years and finally passed a ballot initiative last November. Two-thirds of moves involving Oregon last year were inbound. That is a 5 percent jump over the previous year, as the state “continues to pull away from the pack,” the moving company said in a report.

The Mountain West – including Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2000, and recreational use in 2012 – boasted the highest percentage of people moving there to retire, United Van Lines said. One-third of movers to the region said they were going there specifically to retire....

Many of the health afflictions of older Americans push them to seek out dispensaries for relief. “A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the Denver-based National Cannabis Industry Association. “Chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite: All of those things are widespread among seniors.”

Since those in their 60s and 70s presumably have no desire to be skulking around on the criminal market in states where usage is outlawed, it makes sense they would gravitate to states where marijuana is legal. “In Colorado, since legalization, many dispensaries have seen the largest portion of sales going to baby boomers and people of retirement age,” West said.

July 22, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Interesting profile of interesting marijuana entrepenuers in Washington

The Seattle Times has this lengthy interesting profile of people who have been attracted to the marijuana industry in the pacific northwest.  The piece is headlined "Pot of gold: The new legal marijuana business has created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities." It gets started this way:

Welcome to the weird world of legalized marijuana, with a cast of characters as novel and interesting as the product they’re crazy enough to sell.

Entrepreneurs include a World War II veteran born in 1921 and a University of Washington student born in 1993, plus felons, dreamers and a cupcake queen. Then there’s this bizarre trio: a 79-year-old nationally ranked bird-watcher, a 36-year-old surfer, and former Seahawks star Marcus Trufant, who together own a pot shop in Lacey, one of the state’s more than 150 (and growing) recreational marijuana stores.

It’s always messy to build something from scratch. About half of small businesses fail within five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and few face as many complications as the marijuana industry.

Taxes are steep. Laws and rules for the strictly regulated business have been in flux since the state’s voters legalized pot in November 2012. Some cities and counties have banned businesses. Many can’t get access to banking. Although unlikely, if the federal government changes its mind on pot, it could shutter businesses and press felony charges.

But those bold enough to launch into this uncertain world see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where others balk at risk.

Les LeMieux, a felon convicted of selling drugs, seeks vindication. Pot nearly took everything away. Now, it could set up his family for good.

Evan Cox and his wife, Charity, both high-school and college dropouts, see pot as a means of upward mobility.

Jody Hall, the founder of Cupcake Royale, wants to reshape pot culture.

They’re all just getting started, but what a long, strange trip it’s already been.

July 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

With $70 million in state tax revenue, "Pot money changing hearts in Washington"

The title of this post is drawn from the headline of this new CNN article.  Here are excerpts from an article that does not quite match the headline but captures the important reality of modern changing sentiments:

This week marks the one-year anniversary since sales of marijuana for recreational use began in Washington state. In the first year, $70 million in tax revenue has been generated statewide from marijuana sales. The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which oversees the state's cannabis industry, reports that dispensaries sold more than $257 million worth of marijuana.

Chip Boyden, who owns a medical marijuana dispensary in Tucson, Arizona, jumped at the thought of expanding his marijuana business with family in Washington after the first dispensaries started to open in July 2014. Washington voters passed a law in 2012 to legalize marijuana for adults over 21. When Boyden first opened his shop in Tucson, he said the attitude from the surrounding community was less than supportive, although the state permits medical marijuana usage. "We had people come up and say they aren't against it, but they were unsure who was going to be the demographic for our business," he said.

But in Seattle, Boyden said he noticed a difference in attitude at Hashtag recreational cannabis, a pot shop that Boyden started in April with co-owner Logan Bowers and shop manager Michael Bowers. "We had great support. We didn't have anyone come in a get upset," Logan Bowers said.

Boyden said there's a cultural shift happening in Washington, Colorado and other states that have started to legalize marijuana use. "The recreational market allows people, those who were interested in trying cannabis, to be able to come in and sample different flavors," he explained. "It's more like going into the store and buying a bottle of wine."...

Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, which provides consulting and support for marijuana dispensaries across the United States, said that marijuana legalization and sales will start to become a larger political discussion. "I think 2016 is the year where this is actually an issue in presidential policy that candidates have to answer to," he said.

As for Washington state's first year of marijuana sales, Krane said $70 million in tax revenue actually seems a bit low. "It's important to know that number is not indicative of what we will see in year two or three." He is predicting that those numbers will increase, especially if the excise tax is lowered in the state.

But for dispensary owners and operators Logan Bowers and Michael Bowers, it's not the money that's drawing them into the business. Rather, it is the change in attitude they are seeing. "One thing that struck me most as a manager, is the wide variety of people who come in," Michael Bowers said. "We see older customers bring in their adult children. It's normal people using it. It's everyday people in your neighborhood."

July 11, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Terrific on-going coverage of marijuana reform issues via International Business Times

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at length to a terrific reporter covering marijuana reform issues for International Business Times, and I told the reporter that I was quite impressed with the extent and sophistication of IBT's on-going coverage of these issues.  Thereafter, it dawned on me that I have not consistently highlighted these realities on this blog space.  But here is just an abridged review of some of the great IBT pieces from various reporters in just the last few weeks:

"Rand Paul Courts Marijuana Investors, But Why Aren’t More Presidential Candidates Embracing Pot?"

"PTSD And Cannabis -- Can Researchers Cut Through The Politics To Find Out Whether Weed Works?"

"Oregon Hopes Legal Weed Will End Race-Based Arrests, But Advocates Wary"

"Marijuana Legalization No Longer ‘Political Suicide’ For Presidential Candidates"

"Chile’s Lower House Of Congress Approves Marijuana Bill"

Researchers Find That Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Recreational Marijuana Use Among Juveniles

Marijuana Legalization In Oregon: Portland Airport Allows Travelers To Bring Weed On In-State Flights

July 11, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Terrific RAND commentary spotlights "The 10 Ps of Marijuana Legalization"

1413386689065I just came across this terrific recent lengthy commentary piece at The RAND blog authored by Beau Kilmer.  The piece is titled "The 10 Ps of Marijuana Legalization," and it is a must-read for anyone thinking about modern marijuana reform. Here is how the piece gets started, along with the list of pot Ps:

Up and down the Western Hemisphere, marijuana policy is a growing topic of discussion, and laws are starting to change.

In 2014, retail marijuana stores opened in the states of Colorado and Washington, where anyone over 21 years old can purchase a wide variety of marijuana products: buds, baked goods, candies, drinks, lotions, e-cigarettes infused with hash-oil solutions, etc. Similar stores are expected to open in Oregon and Alaska in the upcoming year. While marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law, the Obama administration has decided not to block these efforts.

At the southern end of the hemisphere, Uruguay became the first country in the world to remove its prohibition on marijuana in late 2013. While the new law allows users to grow their own, join a cooperative, or purchase marijuana from a participating pharmacy — those who want to legally obtain marijuana must choose one of these options and register with the government — it remains unclear when the pharmacy option will be made available.

In addition, both Colombia and Costa Rica have bills in Congress that would make allowances for medical marijuana. In February, Jamaica passed a law to decriminalize personal possession and create a regulatory system for supplying marijuana for medical and religious purposes. In April, the Chilean congressional health committee approved a bill to legalize home marijuana production for medical and nonmedical purposes. The bill has now moved to the lower house of the Chilean Congress.

Legalizing marijuana for nonmedical purposes is especially controversial, with many arguments made by advocates on all sides of the debate. For example, those seeking to legalize marijuana hope to diminish the black market and the violent crime that can be associated with the trade, depending on the country. They also want less money going to criminal organizations and more to governments via taxation; however, the revenue aspect has been much more a topic of discussion in the United States than in Uruguay. Legalization proponents do not want people arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use, often saying that it does more harm than good and that it is an inefficient use of criminal justice resources. Finally, many advocates argue it is hypocritical to allow alcohol to be legally consumed but not marijuana.

Those on the other side of the debate worry that legalization will increase marijuana consumption — especially among youth — because of increased availability, reduced stigma, lower prices, and marketing (when it is allowed). Marijuana is not a harmless substance, and its consumption is correlated with adverse outcomes (e.g., high school drop-out, mental health disorders); however, it is often hard to prove that marijuana use causes those outcomes. There is, on the other hand, clear causal evidence linking marijuana use to accidents, cognitive impairment during intoxication, and anxiety and panic attacks that sometimes lead to emergency-room visits. Persistent heavy users run the risk of becoming dependent and also suffering from bronchitis. There is also strong evidence linking heavy marijuana use with psychotic symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and testicular cancer. We know very little about the health consequences — both harms and benefits — of the new marijuana products that are proliferating in places that have legalized.

Since no jurisdictions had removed the prohibition and legalized production before these experiments (not even the Netherlands goes this far), it is difficult to project the consequences. Further, legalization is not a binary choice; several decisions need to be made that will ultimately shape whether legalized marijuana ends up being good or bad for society.

Based on insights obtained from a series of research collaborations and through consulting with various government entities, I have identified 10 important choices confronting jurisdictions that legalize. Conveniently, they all begin with the letter “P.”...The 10 Ps 1. Production.... 2. Profit motive.... 3. Promotion.... 4. Prevention.... 5. Policing and enforcement.... 6. Penalties.... 7. Potency.... 8. Purity.... 9. Price.... 10. Permanency....

July 7, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ohio marijuana reform story getting even more dynamic and constitutionally complex

Ohio_constitution-592x394Regular readers know that I have been flagging Ohio as a state to watch closely in for the distinctive and dynamic marijuana reform discussions and debates taking place in the Buckeye State.   This new report from Time with the latest news on the latest developments highlights why I now have a front-row seat for watching novel issues unfold in the months ahead.   The headline of the piece is "Ohio Legislature Strikes Back Against Marijuana Legalization Bid," and here are excerpts:

A campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio took a step closer to making November’s ballot Tuesday, after its promoters turned in more than twice the required number of signatures.

But the measure will face competition at the polls.  Ohio legislators also approved their own ballot measure on Tuesday to undermine the pot plan, which lawmakers worried would amount to a “marijuana monopoly” because of its provision that only 10 growers would control the wholesale pot market.  The lawmakers’ measure would block other measures that benefit select economic interest groups.

The marijuana ballot measure campaign, dubbed Responsible Ohio, is just one of many ballot measures in recent history that are designed to benefit their backers.  The companies funding the Responsible Ohio campaign would control — and likely profit from — the marijuana growth sites should the measure pass.

As detailed by the Center for Public Integrity, the campaign’s director, Democratic activist Ian James, came up with the idea and is planning to pay his own firm $5.6 million to push the ballot initiative.

Ohio Rep. Mike Curtin, a Democrat, said he sponsored the anti-monopoly measure because he opposes the way Responsible Ohio is using the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, not because he opposes pot legalization.  “Are we going to allow a small group of investors, who have literally no background in drug policy… to carve themselves a special niche in our state’s founding document?” he said.  “To me it’s galling. It’s nauseating.”

But James said voters should have the right to decide the issue.  “Some statehouse politicians believe the voters are smart enough to elect them, but they aren’t smart enough to decide ballot issues like marijuana legalization,” he said in an earlier statement....

If voters approve both of the conflicting measures, Ohio law says whichever gets the most votes would win.  But Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, recently said that if both passed, the legislatively referred anti-monopoly measure would block Responsible Ohio’s plan because citizen-initiated measures take 30 days to go into effect.

The issue could end up before a judge.  If both pass, “we have a very interesting court fight on our hands,” Curtin said.

Some prior related posts:

July 1, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)