Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Is Big Marijuana Inevitable?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable New Republic piece authored by lawprof Ryan Stoa, which answers the questionwith a "no" and gets started this way (with links from the original):

In November, voters in as many as 12 states will see a marijuana legalization initiative on their ballots. Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. Another 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. The era of marijuana prohibition is rapidly coming to a close.

Unfortunately, lawmakers lack easy answers to tough questions facing the marijuana industry.  Legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, taxation, consumption, security and public health.

In a recent article, I argue that the agricultural sector of the marijuana industry also presents a number of challenges.  One paramount question looms over the rest: Will marijuana agriculture become consolidated, with “Big Marijuana” companies producing vast quantities of indistinct marijuana?  Or, will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and local marijuana strains?

My research shows that Big Marijuana is not inevitable.  On the contrary, a local, sustainable, small-scale farming future is entirely within reach.

 

August 20, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Timely new report on benefits of marijuana reform from West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy

This local article, headlined "Could legalizing marijuana be West Virginia's pot of gold?," reports on this interesting new policy brief released by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy suggests. The article summarizes the themes of the report, which is titled "Modernizing West Virginia's Marijuana Laws: Potential Benefits of Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana and Legalization." This summary comes directly from the first two pages of the full 27-page report:

Over the last two decades, states across the country have modernized their marijuana laws to reflect the growing evidence that doing so will help reduce criminal justice costs, help treat some medical conditions, and boost tax revenues and their state’s economy. As of 2016, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, 25 states (and DC) allow for marijuana to be used for medical purposes, and 21 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. With several states considering ballot measures this November and public support for legalization rapidly growing (53% of Americans support legalization) among all age groups, the number of states taking action to undo restrictions on marijuana is likely to grow.

While most states have taken at least one step toward modernizing their marijuana laws, West Virginia has not. However, bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in West Virginia over the last several years to legalize medical marijuana and tax marijuana for retail sales to adults. A 2013 poll found that a majority of West Virginians supports decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medical use, while 46 percent supported regulating it like alcohol.

As West Virginia continues to be plagued by large budget deficits (a projected $300 million for FY 2018), an undiversified economy with a fading coal industry, and poor health outcomes, modernizing the state’s marijuana laws could be a step in addressing these problems and could help save the state money in the long run.

This report provides an overview of the states that have modernized their marijuana laws in recent years– including decriminalization, medical marijuana, and recreational use – and the implications for West Virginia if it decided to pursue a similar path. It provides an overview of federal and state marijuana laws (Section 1), an estimation of the potential tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana in West Virginia (Section 2), an evaluation of some potential benefits from modernizing West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 3), and recommendations on reforming West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 4).

KEY FINDINGS

  • If marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation. If 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, the state could collect an estimated $194 million.

  • In 2010, it is estimated that West Virginia spent more than $17 million enforcing the state’s marijuana laws. Legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in West Virginia could reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests, especially among African Americans, which in turn, could reduce criminal-justice-related costs.

  • The marijuana industry has the potential to add jobs both directly and indirectly. As of September 2015, Colorado had 25,311 people licensed to work in its marijuana industry and over 1,000 retail marijuana businesses. If marijuana were legal in West Virginia it could also have the effect of increasing tourism to the state, particularly in regions with outdoor recreational activities.

  • Marijuana may potentially have a positive impact on West Virginia’s opioid-based painkiller and heroin epidemic by offering another, less-addictive alternative to individuals who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions.

August 19, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Highlighting why some (many?) of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016 are not certain to pass

Election-2016-Legalization-MeasuresThis new Vice article, headlined "Why Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Could Fail in 2016," reinforces my sense that the results of all the marijuana reform ballot initiatives on so many states this election cycle remain quite uncertain. Here are excerpts:

This was supposed to be the year of Pot-Palooza, when five states are set to hold ballot initiatives that would make marijuana legal for recreational users.  If all passed, it would bring the number of states offering pot for sale to nine, following similar measures that passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014.

Legalization advocates saw it as another potential leap in their march to slow the decades-long war on drugs: The rest of the country would see that the nine legalized states were awash in tax revenues, and that fears of stoned drivers flooding the roads in search of late-night Mallomars had been overblown.  Other states, they imagined, would quickly follow suit, bringing the country ever-closer to its marijuana tipping point, when the federal government would finally be forced to step in and end pot prohibition once and for all.

But as the legalization movement heads into the 2016 election, with the marijuana issue on the ballot in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — the fantasy of a New Green Rush is coming up against unexpected resistance, its momentum slowed by a lack of funding that advocates were not prepared for.   Advocates with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group helping to spearhead the ballot initiatives, say that fundraising is down 25 percent from what they need to compete on Election Day.  "We are polling well in all of the states we are working in,"said Rob Kampia, the group's executive director. "But we know that without advertising on our side, the level of support is going to drop between now and Election Day. The money reminds people why they support this in the first place."

Kampia cited a bill to pass medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010, which had support from nearly two-thirds of voters in early polls.  Without funding or an active campaign to support the measure, though, the initiative ended up passing with just a hair over 50 percent of the vote, and only after write-in and provisional ballots were counted in the days after the election.

Past legalization campaigns — including the statewide ballot initiatives that passed in 2012 and 2014 — were funded in large part by a handful of wealthy philanthropists,including George Soros, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, Men's Wearhouse magnate George Zimmer, and John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix.

In recent years, though, both Lewis and Sperling have passed away, Soros has pulled back on his pot-based philanthropy, and Zimmer finds himself with a diminished fortune after being fired from the company he founded in 2013.  And so advocates, who expect campaigns for the five legalization initiatives and four other medical marijuana ballot measures to cost in the $40-50 million range, are counting on the $7 billion legal marijuana industry to fill the fundraising void. But so far, the industry has mostly taken a pass. "There has been a bit of a free rider problem with this thing,"said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which still receives funding from Soros and other wealthy donors.

"People are making a shitload of money on this stuff without them spending any more to get where we are,"Nadelmann told an audience at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, a bi-annual trade association event, this May.  "They are using the opportunity of legalization to make a fortune without doing anything to create that opportunity. The marijuana reform movement is spread incredibly thin right now.  And the question for 2016 is whether the industry will be there or not."

And so far, they haven't been. At a recent cannabis industry investor summit sponsored by the ArcView Group, which connects investors with entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry, executives boasted that they had helped raise $70 million for marijuana-related start-ups; but the same slide showed that the investor network had contributed less than $1 million for legalization efforts — a discrepancy that activists in the room were quick to point out. "That is 1.4 percent,"Ben Pollara, a Florida political operative, told the assembled investors. "That is just pathetic."

[A]dvocates and political operatives seethe that the businesses and individuals who have directly benefited from their efforts are not contributing to the cause. And in interviews with a dozen marijuana industry leaders about the 2016 legalization campaigns, nearly all of them told VICE that they supported the measures, but had not yet given money to any of the state ballot campaigns. "I support all of these measures morally and emotionally," said Randy Shipley, the CEO of CannaFundr.com. "But most of the people that are doing these campaigns, I am not sure that the money is being spent in the right way. I would like to see more transparency."

Industry leaders gave a variety of other reasons for not donating to legalization efforts: they hadn't budgeted for political spending; that state regulations for legal pot businesses were proving more financially burdensome than expected; they believed the measures were going to pass anyway. Some said that they just didn't want to get involved in politics....

Some industry players seem to prefer the status quo: More states coming on line means more business entering the market; and while most of these are currently smaller startups, large corporations are sure to follow, swallowing those who have been operating in their niche of the market. "People are concerned about what legalization is going to look like for them,"said Michael Bronstein, a consultant for the American Trade Association for Cannabis. "You would think they would say, 'let's get this federal prohibition out of the way.'But they want stability. So many of them have dealt with instability for so long."

Tensions between the burgeoning cannabis industry and legalization advocates are not new. In 2015, for example, an industry-backed legalization measure in Ohio was defeated, after many political activists backed away from supporting it, arguing that the measure unfairly favored a few connected players at the expense of consumers. "I love psychoanalyzing the marijuana industry,"said Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project.  "In one bucket you have people who say they are too poor to donate. In another bucket you have people who just hope someone is going to save them from themselves.  But any business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal."...

If a handful of measures go down to defeat this November, it could also embolden the federal government to end its hands-off approach to marijuana businesses in the four states that have legalized the drug. Since federal law trumps state law, any president at any time could shut down the farms, dispensaries and thousands of businesses that have cropped up in the wake of legalization. "Think about what would happen if Oregon and Alaska went down in 2014 because there wasn't enough money in these campaigns,"Nadelmann of DPA, told the conference and cannabis entrepreneurs. "All of the momentum, all of the ways in which people are thinking legalization is inevitable and the way of the future, imagine what would have happened if we had lost. Colorado and Washington would be seen as flukes. The net value of this industry would be fifty percent of what it is today." "And if California, goes down,"he added. "It sets us back a decade. I don't want to say you are fucked, but..."

August 19, 2016 in 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)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poll suggests California marijuana legalization initiative on path to win pretty big

Prop64This press release from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which is titled "IGS Poll Finds Support for Gun Control, Marijuana Legalization," suggests that the ballot initiative in California to legalize marijuana could pass by a substantial margin.  Here are some of the particulars:

California voters overwhelmingly support a sweeping gun control measure on the November ballot, including strong majorities of both parties and independent voters, according to a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. On another hot-button social issue that will be on the ballot in the fall, voters also strongly support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the survey found.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey 3,020 respondents from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters, and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age....

Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana use, with regulation by specified government agencies.  Almost two in three respondents (63.8 percent) supported that idea, a level of support extremely similar to last year, when the IGS Poll asked the identical question.  Support included 73.8 percent of Democrats and 62.2 percent of independents.  Republicans opposed legalization, 53 percent to 47 percent, but this was less GOP opposition than was registered by the same question last year.  Last year Republicans opposed legalization by 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.

Support for legalization was highest among African-Americans (71.9 percent) and Latinos (69.3 percent) and lowest among Asian-Americans (57.7 percent).  Support for legalization was also highest among 18- to 24-year-olds, and lowest among those over 65.

The reported movement in these poll numbers for Republicans is an interesting and possibly very important development, and I also found interesting from the reported results that there was not a significant gender gap in support for legalization. If these poll numbers hold up and California's legalization initiative win by a huge margin, I think that fact will just further add evidence that the winds of public opinion aregrowing ever more strongly for the repeal of blanket marijuana prohibition throughout the United States.

August 18, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Marijuana Appellations: The Case for Cannabicultural Designations of Origin"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Ryan Boudin Stoa and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

As the era of marijuana prohibition draws to a close, one can’t help but wonder how the legal marijuana industry will take shape.  The legalization movement is largely driven by ballot initiatives at the state level, and state regulators and lawmakers often lack easy answers to tough questions facing the industry.  Marijuana legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, financing and taxation, consumption, security, and public health.

The agricultural dimension of the marijuana industry presents a number of regulatory challenges as well, with important questions that have not been answered.  One of these questions is paramount: will marijuana agriculture become consolidated and commoditized, producing vast quantities of indistinct marijuana, or will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and localized marijuana?

This Article presents the case for American Cannabicultural Areas (ACAs). Adopting a system of appellations (in which designations of origin are legally protected) offers several benefits to farmers, consumers, and regulators.  Appellations protect state and local economies and farming communities, create a market for unique agricultural products, and allow regulatory bodies to establish minimum standards for cultivation to ensure that marijuana agriculture is safe and sustainable.  Challenges to this model are significant but not intractable.  The legal marijuana industry is still in its infancy, but ACAs represent a promising regulatory model for marijuana agriculture.

August 16, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics may have one big problem: Weed"

I have be enthralled by the Rio 2016 Olympics, but I have not had a chance to link the quadrennial fascination with quirky sports to my persistent obsession with marijuana law, policy and reform. Until I saw this Mashable article, which shares a headline with the title of this post. Here is how the article gets started:

Getting blazed and athletic prowess may seem like an unlikely combination, except in the world of competitive skateboarding. Skateboarding is one of five new sports set to make their debut at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — like your uncle who wants to get down with the youth — may not be ready for the anti-establishment nature of skate culture.

Australia's Tas Pappas, one of the world's top skateboarders in the '90s, has suggested the use of marijuana in skateboarding might dissuade athletes from wanting to compete at the Olympics. "I'm wondering how it's going to work as far as the drug testing is concerned, because some guys skate really well on weed and if they have to stop smoking for one competition (the Olympics) it might really affect their performance," Pappas told ABC News.

It's no secret weed and professional sport haven't been the best of friends. Since the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) inception in 1999, cannabinoids have been on the organisation's annual list of in-competition prohibited substances. Australian sporting codes tried to lobby WADA to remove the cannabinoid prohibition in 2012, suggesting the drug wasn't performance enhancing. In response, WADA raised the cannabinoid threshold to 150 nanograms per millilitre in 2013, 10 times its previous limit.

While the relaxed measure reflects changing attitudes to marijuana globally, the current situation means if Olympic skateboarders get caught with a cannabinoid concentration above WADA's threshold, they could be stripped of medals or banned from competition.

August 15, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rounding up reactions to DEA's modest marijuana moves

As reported in prior posts here and here, the Drug Enforcement Agency this past week made only a modest change to federal marijuana policies.  Not surprisingly, the failure of DEA being willing to do a lot more has generated criticisms and various expressions of concern and analytical perspectives.  Here are some of these reactions from various traditional and non-traditional media sources:

  • From Business Insider here, "Here's what the DEA's big decision on marijuana means for users and 'potrepreneurs'"

  • From Forbes here, "DEA's Hypocritical Marijuana Decision Ignores The Evidence"

  • From Marijuana.com here, "DEA No, Clinton Yes: As POTUS, Hillary Would Reschedule Marijuana"

  • From the New York Times here, "Stop Treating Marijuana Like Heroin"

  • From Quartz here, "The DEA's sop to pot advocates won't boost marijuana research very much at all"

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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Following all the new private monies and mojo in the marijuana marketplace

Break-into-private-equityOne reason I have started to consider repeal of blanket marijuana prohibition inevitable is because there are now ever so many monied interests and individuals eager to profit from repeal and now ever fewer such interests and individuals who profit from prohibition.  And in a capitalist-driven economy and society, this is a very big deal.  Further evidence of these realities comes from this interesting recent Business Insider article about marijuana capital headlined "Private equity is 'seeing more excitement than it can handle' in the marijuana industry." Here are excerpts:

The cannabis industry is starting to see some serious investment activity. Over the last few years, a new wave of cannabis-finance companies have formed to capitalize on the green rush.

Companies like Tuatara Capital, Seventh Point, Poseidon Asset Management, and Privateer Holdings have dived headfirst into the industry.  While the first three are brand new, having been founded in the last few years, Privateer started in 2011.  The fund bills itself as the first in the US to focus solely on cannabis-related endeavors.

These private-equity firms invest specifically in companies operating in the legal-cannabis industry,as well as providing capital for new startups to generate returns down the road.  "It's never a dull day," Al Foreman, the CIO of Tuatara and a 16-year veteran of the private-equity industry, told Business Insider.  "It's fascinating to be part of a new and emerging industry."

Retail sales of legal cannabis, including both medical and recreational, are projected to hit $4.3 billion in 2016, according to Marijuana Business Daily's 2016 fact book. And sales will likely skyrocket to $11 billion by 2020, with recreational sales representing an ever larger portion of the market.  Some outlets are predicting even higher sales, with estimates ranging as high as $22.8 billion by 2020.

So far, the money's pouring in. Forty-seven percent of active investors in the cannabis space plan on sinking $10 million or more into private cannabis companies in the next year, according to the fact book.  On its own, Seventh Point, named for the seven points of a cannabis leaf, is looking at completing $75 million worth of fundraising this year, according to the firm's CEO, Steve Gormley, who has over 15 years of experience in private equity.  "It's like a floodgate," Gormley told Business Insider.  "We oversubscribed [raising more money than intended] our first two funds. I haven't seen anything like this in my career."

While most of the money in the industry is still coming from family offices and people's personal bank accounts, 18% of entrepreneurs who have started cannabis companies in the past year have landed funding from venture-capital and private-equity investors, according to the fact book.  "We're getting more excitement than we can handle," Gormley continued.  "I cut my teeth in the dot-com era.  I lived through the housing bubble.  This is something completely unto itself."

Founders Fund, the legendary Silicon Valley venture-capital firm, sank $75 million into Privateer Holdings in 2015, according to PitchBook.  Even Roger Mcnamee, an early Facebook investor, sank a chunk of his personal fortune into a series B round for MJ Freeway, a cannabis software and compliance firm based in Colorado, the company's cofounder, Jessica Billingsley, told Business Insider.

But he industry still faces numerous regulatory challenges.  Though states like Colorado and Washington have set up markets for recreational marijuana, the plant is still a Schedule I drug at the federal level, and most banks refuse to deal with cannabis companies for fear of federal repercussions.  Firms that invest in the cannabis space need to be particularly careful about where their money goes.  They only invest in states that have specific rules allowing for the commercialization of recreational or medicinal marijuana.

Companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission cite ongoing federal prohibition, banking issues, as well as potential civil and criminal penalties as the top risks to investing in the cannabis sector, according to Law360.  But there are ways to get around these risks: Some companies, like Cannakorp, build products used for the consumption of marijuana — but don't actually touch the plant themselves.  This exposes investors to far less legal risk as opposed to dealing with, say, a dispensary.

Because of this often confusing regulation, where different rules exist in each state, Foreman says that investing in cannabis requires "professional, full-time focus" to successfully navigate the industry.  "The market is so fragmented," Foreman said.  "Each individual state is a separate market.  If you're an investor who's accustomed to looking at companies or sectors that are national or global — to retrain that mindset to focus on an individual state market is an obstacle that needs to be overcome."

While neither Gormley nor Foreman could say who specifically invested in their funds, both mentioned that private investors, rather than institutional, provided the bulk of their fundraising.  Foreman added that he thinks institutional investors — who have largely steered clear of the marijuana industry so far — have been warming up to the industry as recently as the past few months as more markets open....

Initially, mostly cultivators and producers who had been successful were taking their profits and reinvesting, according to Gormley.  Then, high-net worth individuals, who have a much higher risk tolerance than institutional investors, started getting into the space.  Once these individuals started taking the industry seriously, the basket of investors started to broaden.

Roughly nine months ago, a proliferation of family offices jumped into the space, Gormley found. "Now, we've got venture capitalists and hedge fund operators and private-equity senior managers coming in as individuals," he said.

These firms, specifically focused on the cannabis industry, are trying to bring a level of financial maturity to a complex industry.  "We launched Tuatara to create an entry point for sophisticated investors," Foreman said. "That's the next phase of evolution for the capital-raising and the capital-accumulation process."  Foreman thinks that because so many new markets are expected to open up as states like California vote on legalization in November, the "argument around market fragmentation" will start to go away, he said.  "The overall landscape will have reached a point of critical mass, and the industry will be too big to ignore," Foreman added.

Gormley, for his part, was much more direct. "I'm seeing the profile of the cannabis-industry investor thawing," Gormley said.  "Whereas it was only cowboys, I'm seeing people who are more traditionally bottom-line driven and conservative coming off the sidelines."  He even likens attitudes he's seen about cannabis in the US to marriage equality. "When I was growing up, it was inconceivable," Gormley said, regarding marriage equality. "And then it started to happen at the state level, and then there was just this massive cultural shift."

August 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Marijuana Agriculture Law: Regulation at the Root of an Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming paper authored by Ryan Boudin Stoa available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation.  As many as thirty marijuana legalization initiatives may appear on election ballots in 2016, legalizing the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana in as many as 17 states and adding to the growing number of states that have already legalized marijuana.  Many of these legalization initiatives propose to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, and many titles are variations of “the regulate marijuana like alcohol act.”  For political and public health reasons the analogy makes sense, but it also reveals a regulatory blind spot.  States may be using alcohol as a model for regulating the distribution, retail, and consumption of marijuana, but marijuana is much more than a retail product. It is also an agricultural product, and by some measures, the largest cash crop in the United States.  Since marijuana prohibition laws were passed long before any regulations for cultivation were developed, states are facing an unprecedented challenge: regulate, for the first time ever, one of the country’s largest agricultural industries.

There are major regulatory challenges ahead, and how states respond to those challenges will shape the course of the marijuana industry.  At present there is a gap in understanding the regulatory challenges presented by marijuana agriculture, and the options states have to address them.  This Article identifies those challenges and the regulatory approaches most capable of addressing them.  The study begins by describing the existing state of marijuana agriculture regulations.  States are likely to find that the marijuana industry’s unique characteristics justify a tailored regulatory approach; relying on existing agricultural policies may be ineffectual or lead to perverse outcomes.  

Next, fundamental questions about the “marijuana fragmentation spectrum” are explored.  Will the industry come to be dominated by agricultural conglomerates mass-producing a marijuana commodity, as many have feared?   Or will governments and the industry adopt the appellation model favored by the wine industry, to protect local farmers and differentiate between products?  The major environmental impacts of marijuana agriculture are analyzed as well, including regulations that address water allocation, water quality, energy, organic certification, and crop insurance.  Finally, the study addresses power distribution trade-offs within marijuana agriculture regulation frameworks, including local vs. state, and consolidated vs. fragmented, regulatory authority dilemmas.  The findings suggest that responsible and sustainable marijuana agriculture can be fostered at the state level, but only if regulations are responsive to the unique and unprecedented challenges that marijuana agriculture presents.

August 3, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, 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, July 27, 2016

"Legalizing and Regulating Marijuana in Canada: Review of Potential Economic, Social, and Health Impacts"

The title of this post is the title of this short essay authored by Mohammad Hajizadeh and now available via this link on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Notwithstanding a century of prohibition, marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in Canada. Due to the growing public acceptance of recreational marijuana use and ineffectiveness of the existing control system in Canada, the issue surrounding legalizing this illicit drug has received considerable public and political attentions in recent years. Consequently, the newly elected Liberal Government has formally announced that Canada will introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 to start legalizing and regulating marijuana. This editorial aims to provide a brief overview on potential economic, social, and public health impacts of legal marijuana in Canada.

The legalization could increase tax revenue through the taxation levied on marijuana products and could also allow the Government to save citizens’ tax dollars currently being spent on prohibition enforcement. Moreover, legalization could also remove the criminal element from marijuana market and reduce the size of Canada’s black market and its consequences for the society. Nevertheless, it may also lead to some public health problems, including increasing in the uptake of the drug, accidents and injuries. The legalization should be accompanied with comprehensive strategies to keep the drug out of the hands of minors while increasing awareness and knowledge on harmful effects of the drug. In order to get better insights on how to develop an appropriate framework to legalize marijuana, Canada should closely watch the development in the neighboring country, the United States, where some of its states viz, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska have already legalized recreational use of marijuana.

July 27, 2016 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

"Legalize marijuana and reduce deaths from drug abuse"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable recent commentary from The Hill authored by Ike Brannon. Here are excerpts:

It seems as if everyone has woken up to the problem of opioid abuse at once and wants to do something about it. In March, Politico assembled a working group to “confront the opioid epidemic.”  In May, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the creation of a statewide heroin task force that he charged with ending the heroin and opioid crisis in the state.  And in June, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 93 percent increase in funding to combat opioid addiction nationwide.

The problem of opiate abuse is growing.  There were an estimated 16,000 deaths caused by prescription opioid overdoses in 2010, the last year for which we have reliable data, three timesas many who died in 1999.  More people die from drug overdose each year as are killed by firearms.

As deaths from opioid abuse grow, the proposals to address this crisis have remained the same: Doctors should be more judicious about prescribing painkillers, governments should invest more in treatment facilities, and the courts should mete out stricter punishments for those who illegally sell these drugs.  All of this, of course, is more or less what we’ve been doing the last five decades, with little success.

However, the data tell us that there is a possible deterrent to growing opioid addiction that has shown real promise: the wholesale legalization of marijuana.

Several states have made the drug legal in some form for over a decade — whether via medical marijuana or, more recently, the outright legalization of the drug — and the data generated from these state-level experiments suggests that the easier it is to acquire marijuana, the less opioid abuse there is.  For instance, in 2014, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that opioid overdose deaths decreased by nearly 25 percent in a state following the passage of medical marijuana laws.

A recently published study by the RAND Corporation also found a decrease in opioid addiction and overdoses in states with medical marijuana dispensaries.  And last month, investigators at the University of Michigan published a retrospective survey of 244 patients suffering from chronic pain who frequented medical marijuana dispensaries and discovered that they frequently substituted medical marijuana for opiates, with many of them judging medical marijuana as being more effective at treating chronic pain.  Medical marijuana use was associated with a 64 percent decrease in opioid use, as well as a reduction in the amount and severity of the side effects of medications and an improved quality of life....

It’s hard to dispute that legalizing marijuana would reduce opiate abuse and save lives.  There are other reasons to end its prohibition, but its role in solving what appears to be an otherwise intractable problem claiming thousands of lives a year seems like a compelling one. 

July 22, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2016

"What (and Whom) State Marijuana Reformers Forgot: Crimmigration Law and Noncitizens"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Carrie Lynn Rosenbaum now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper asserts that state and local marijuana reforms that relax criminal penalties should, but will likely not, benefit Latino/a noncitizens.  Because of the intricate relationship between criminal and immigration enforcement, state and local police engagement in racial profiling will not only fail to be eliminated by state-level marijuana reforms but may be exacerbated.  As a result, in spite of marijuana law reforms intended to lessen overly punitive penalties stemming from minor marijuana conduct, noncitizen Latino/as will continue to be disproportionately criminally policed and deported.

Scholarly literature addressing the intersection of criminal and immigration law has considered ways in which racial profiling in criminal law enforcement infects the immigration removal process.  However, the literature has yet to explore the way in which sub-federal drug law reforms, and specifically, recent marijuana law reforms, will fall short for noncitizen Latino/as because of the way in which racial profiling in criminal law enforcement infects the immigration removal process.

After decades of excessive, punitive, and ineffective policies, particularly in the area of drug law enforcement, states have initiated reforms, including marijuana decriminalization.  At the same time that decriminalization measures are being implemented, in the field of immigration law, resources for apprehension, detention and deportation have skyrocketed, with a focus on “criminal aliens.”  The criminal-immigration removal system has resulted in local and state law enforcement agents playing a critical, and problematic role in the detection, apprehension, and removal of “criminal aliens.”

The plight of noncitizens deported or found inadmissible based on marijuana-related conduct highlights a deeper, systemic problem.  Not only do extremely harsh immigration consequences serve as a double-penalty for potentially minor marijuana offenses, particularly in light of criminal law reforms, but enforcement of remaining marijuana laws will likely fall disproportionately on Latina/o noncitizens.  Over ninety percent of deportations arising out of criminal law enforcement are to Central American and Mexico, yet Mexican and Central American immigrants make up less than half of the United States immigrant population.

While decriminalization of marijuana may be more than a symbolic move away from the failed “tough on crime” policies of the past, it not only fails to take into consideration the impact of marijuana laws on noncitizens but also may exacerbate the racially biased aspects of drug law enforcement on noncitizens, particularly Latinos.  This Article discusses the ways in which criminal-immigration law enforcement has impacted noncitizens, primarily Latino/as, to demonstrate why sub-federal marijuana reforms will fail to alleviate racially disparate outcomes, perpetually leaving Latino/a noncitizens in the shadows.

July 11, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

In party platform, Democrats call for a "reasoned pathway to future legalization" of marijuana

As reported in this Washington Post piece, the Democratic National Committee had a close and notable vote over the terms of the party platform.  Here are the details:

The Democratic Party endorsed a "reasoned pathway to future legalization" of marijuana and called for the drug to be downgraded in the Controlled Substances Act, in a tense and unexpected victory for supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Going into the platform committee meeting, Sanders's campaign had no new language about marijuana. The senator from Vermont had favored state-to-state legalization efforts, and the language approved by the drafting committee called for "policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty."

But on Saturday afternoon, the committee brought up an amendment that would have removed marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. David King, a lawyer and Sanders delegate from Tennessee, argued that marijuana was added to the act — giving the drug the same legal classification as heroin — during a "craze" to hurt "hippies and blacks." The amendment, however, was headed for defeat, with some committee members worrying that it went too far and undermined state-by-state efforts to study decriminalization.

Arguments stopped when committee members proposed swapping in the language of a rival amendment — one that merely downgraded marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act and included the undefined "pathway" to legal status.

When the vote was called, 81 of the 187 committee members backed the downgrade amendment — and just 80 opposed it. A roar of applause went up from the seats where people not on the committee were watching the votes. For the next 10 minutes, that victory was thrown into jeopardy. Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, the co-chair of the platform committee, entertained a complaint that at least one member might not have been able to vote, lacking the "clicker" that recorded electronic ballots.... Finally, former senator Mark Pryor (Ark.), a Clinton delegate, walked up to a microphone to announce that opponents of the amendment were unhappy that the compromise language had been replaced — but not unhappy enough to fight about it. "We withdraw the objection," he said.

There was more celebration in the back of the room. Later, after the unanimous adoption of a tough criminal justice reform plank, the grumbling that ended some sessions was replaced by Sanders voters saying: "Thank you! Thank you!"

The text of the marijuana amendment: "Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization."

July 10, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recognizing how California's coming vote on full legalization of marijuana could be a game changer

AumalogoNROne of many reasons I focused a lot last year on the failed (and at times foolish) campaign to fully legalize marijuana in Ohio was because I believe that a vote in favor of full legalization in 2015 in a bellwhether state like Ohio would be a "game changer" in the marijuana reform movement nationwide. But even though Ohio voters soundly rejected a flawed full legalization initiative last year, marijuana reform in Ohio and nationwide continues apace. And, as this new Rolling Stone article highlights, California's full legalization initiative now on the ballot is surely the most obvious "game-changer" circa 2016. The Rolling Stone piece is headlined "The Pot Law That Could Be 'Deal-Breaker for the Drug War': California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act could have ramifications far beyond the state's borders," and here are excerpts:

Last week California's pot legalization initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, qualified for the ballot in November, setting the stage for a vote that will have ramifications far beyond California's borders.

There are several reasons why if the AUMA passes, it will make California the heaviest domino to fall in the nationwide effort to legalize marijuana, the most obvious being the state's size and the sheer number of people who would have access to legal weed. One in 10 Americans lives in California, while the Los Angeles basin alone is home to more people than Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska — the four states that have so far legalized adult use marijuana — combined. California also has the sixth largest economy in the world, allowing the rest of the country to draw solid conclusions about the financial impact of legalization.

The Golden State is also known as a trendsetter with the power to break down stereotypes. Having pioneered medical marijuana in 1996, California is a leading exporter of cannabis policy and culture. If California legalizes, the way it goes about doing so will set a standard going forward for other local and national governments to follow.

"It really is the state that wags the tail of the nation, so if California's 55 senators and representatives in Congress were to be in favor of legalization, then it would be a total dynamic change," says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. Other states like Colorado and Washington give us models of how legalization can look, he continues, "but none of them has enough national sway so as to be the template for the rest of the country where possible."

California influences other states, as well the federal government. "We see California as a tipping point to end federal prohibition," says Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  If legalization passes, overnight a plurality of the United States population will reside within cannabis-legal states, and the federal government will be forced to reckon with the "marijuana question," she says. Moreover, California can make the biggest difference in regard to international drug cartels, especially in Mexico. "Colorado has begun to undermine the marijuana cartels, but I think [legalization] in California might cut their legs out from under them," Lyman adds.

California will become the new "gold standard" for legalization, she says. Other states can look to California for guidance on cannabis revenue allocation, community assessment, environmental protection, anti-monopoly provisions, drug education for juvenile possession of cannabis, expunging marijuana convictions and banning regulators from denying licenses to those with prior drug felonies.

First and foremost, the AUMA would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. In doing so, it would also herald a new economic program to offset the effects of prohibition and the Drug War. If passed, the measure would impose a 15 percent retail tax on cannabis, projected to generate up to $1 billion in revenue, as well as $100 million annual savings, to fund public university research on legalization ($10 million), DUI protocols ($3 million), medical cannabis research ($2 million) and support for communities most devastated by the Drug War ($50 million over five years). Everything left over would go to environmental cleanup from illegal grows (20 percent), law enforcement (20 percent) and youth drug prevention, treatment and education (60 percent)....

Additionally, people with prior marijuana convictions could petition to reduce or expunge them from their records — no matter whether they are still in jail, on probation or parole, or have already finished their sentences. "We see 2016 in some ways as potentially the last year where social justice drug policy reforms are leading the marijuana legalization battle, as this becomes a full-fledged industry," says Lyman. Capitalist motives could take charge, pushing socially conscious policy to the sidelines. If the AUMA fails, however, activists worry it could have a depressing effect on other legalization efforts and extend the end of prohibition. "Having California lose would be a tremendous setback," says Lyman. "We cannot afford to lose."...

Legalization in California opens up a conversation at national and international levels, says Chris Conrad, a court-qualified expert witness on marijuana, author and activist influential in shaping California's medical marijuana laws. Even if the AUMA isn't perfect, it's a starting point from which California and the nation can continue to see progress. "The initiative allows for more changes and improvements. Look at all this progress we made with marijuana illegal. Just think of what we can do when it's legal," he says.

Conrad points out that if California legalizes, the entire American West Coast from Alaska through Baja will have legal marijuana. (Canada will likely legalize in 2017, too.) "That's a huge chunk of the country, and it sends a message to the rest of the world that it's OK to do this," says Conrad. "Once California legalizes marijuana, people will say it's done. Remember we came from zero tolerance, and now we're talking about how much marijuana should a person be able to carry around legally. I think it's time to cash in some chips. It's a deal-breaker for the Drug War."

July 6, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

As a few NFL players continue to talk up medical marijuana, what are the marijuana reform views of all the new NBA multi-millionaires?

Untitled-1_2Long-time readers are familiar with a number of posts in this space discussing a number of current and former NFL players talking about medical marijuana as a alternative to traditional painkillers as a way to treat chronic pain (and perhaps brain injuries) from thier playing days.  Another recent article on this front comes from PBS in this article, headlined "For some NFL players, ban on medical marijuana is a real pain," has has this overview:

Percocet or pot?  An increasing number of Americans are choosing to use legalized cannabis instead of highly addictive opioids to control chronic pain but not in the NFL where a blanket ban is still in place.   A group of retired players are working toward changing that, knowing firsthand what it's like to live on pills.

It makes great sense that past and present NFL football players are at the forefront of some discussions about medical marijuana, and I continue to believe that these athletes could play a huge role in legitimating medical marijuana use in the years ahead.  But during a week in which sports talk-radio and the sports pages are filled with reports of dozens of NBA altheles signing new contracts paying them tens of millions of dollars(!), I am wondering whether stars from another prominent US professional sports league might eventually play some role in legitimating recreartional marijuana use.

Notably, one former NBA player has recently suggested that up to 80% of all NBA players use marijuana.  Even if this number is significantly inflated and, say, only 25% of NBA players use marijuana recreationally, this would still mean that there are likely at least a dozen marijuana users among the 50+ players who have recently signed free agent contracts that will be paying them well over ten million dollars per year for being elite athletes.

For a host of financial/personal reasons, current NBA players are wise not to say a word about marijuana use or the national marijuana reform movement.  With tens of millon dollars at stake in their new contracts (not to mention future endorsement or broadcasting interests), there is no reason an active players would or should, right now, feel comfortable talking about marijuana use among NBA players or even openly giving a donation to a marijuana research or reform organization.   But, given the reasonable assumption that the NBA now has now the greatest percentage of multi-millionaire employees who use marijuana and still perform terrifically at their job, I think marijuana reform organizations ought to be looking to that league for potential future reform advocates.

July 5, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Canada creates task force to move forward with full marijuana legalization

As reported in this AP piece, "Canada launched a task force Thursday to study the regulation of recreational marijuana ahead of a legalization measure the government plans to send to parliament in the Spring of 2017." Here is more:

Canada's Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould said that the task force will help devise a system regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales.  Anne McLellan, who will chair the task force, said they will be consulting with provincial and municipal governments, as well as with U.S. states like Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal.

McLellan said there's been a deeper understanding of the marijuana landscape over the past decade.  "I think so many people have come to the conclusion, for so many reasons, that the current situation is not working and we need a better way forward," she said.  "I have, myself, concluded that legalization with a regulatory regime, such as the task force will be exploring, is the way forward."

The task force is made up of experts in public health, substance abuse, law enforcement and justice.  The panel, whose recommendations will be made public, will have to report back to the government by November before legislation is introduced in 2017.  The government will also hold an online public consultation that will be open until the end of August.

The legislation will need to be voted on in Canada's House of Commons, but since the current ruling Liberals hold a majority of seats, the bill is expected to pass.

While it's still unclear what restrictions will be imposed on marijuana growers, Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said the government had a responsibility to put in place legislation "to control the production, distribution and the consumption" of pot, especially to keep it out of the hands of children and criminals.

July 2, 2016 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Why the Marijuana Business Is Appealing to Female Entrepreneurs"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Atlantic piece.  Here is how it gets started:

In this mountain town, which began allowing the recreational sale of marijuana in 2014, businesswomen and female entrepreneurs say they are launching marijuana-centric companies with the hope that they can avoid the glass ceiling some say prevented them from reaching board rooms and corner offices in other industries.

In the past several years, women have become a driving force in the growth of the cannabis industry here and across the United States. As one magazine cover proclaimed recently, “Legal marijuana could be the first billion-dollar industry not dominated by men.”

Numbers would seem to bear those sentiments out. According to Marijuana Business Daily, women make up about 36 percent of executives in the legal-marijuana industry, compared to about 22 percent of senior managers in other industries. Women hold just 4.2 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. At tech companies like Google and Twitter, disproportionately few executives and engineers are women.

“It’s a new chance for many women who have been in the corporate world who couldn’t get to the next level,” said Becca Foster, an independent consultant with Healthy Headie, an in-home cannabis shop co-founded by Holly Alberti-Evans that goes by the tagline “the Mary Kay of Mary J.” A young mother of four, Foster worked as a senior implementation manager at Bank of America before going the cannabis consulting route. “It stalled out,” she said of her finance care; there was no clear way to balance both family and work.

June 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lots of notable marijuana politics and reform news from the states and Congress ... UPDATE: And from the DNC

Over at Marijuana.com, Tom Angell does a great job covering news on the marijuana reform law and politics front.  These posts from this past week highlight why serious marijuana reform students should be following his work:

UPDATE: Here is another new item of note from the same source, with its starting text:

Democrats Approve Marijuana Platform Plank

Members of a Democratic National Committee panel responsible for drafting the party’s 2016 platform have approved a plank calling for broad marijuana law reform.

It reads: “We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so.  We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty.  And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”

 

June 24, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Effective coverage of impact of marijuana reform on migration of poor and homeless to Colorado

Joel Warner has penned these two interesting and important new lengthy pieces about homelessness in Colorado and its intersection with marijuana reform:

Marijuana Legalization In Colorado: How Recreational Weed Is Attracting People, But Spiking The State’s Homeless Rate

Marijuana Legalization: Pot Brings Poor People To Colorado, But What’s Being Done To Help Them?

Here are brief excerpts from both articles (which ought to be read in full):

While much has been made of the tourists, entrepreneurs and investors lured to Colorado’s blossoming marijuana industry, very little attention has been paid to another population drawn to the state’s cannabis experiment: marijuana migrants moving to the state who wind up on the streets. Interviews with people at homeless shelters in Denver and other Colorado cities like Pueblo suggest that since Colorado launched its legalized cannabis system in 2014, the percentage of newcomers to the facilities who are there in part because of the lure of marijuana has swollen to 20 to 30 percent.

All told, several hundred marijuana migrants struggling with poverty appear to be arriving in Colorado each month. Some of them, like Butts, come to use cannabis recreationally or medically without the fear of arrest. Others are hoping to get jobs in the new industry. But many arrive to find homeless services stretched to the breaking point, local housing costs increasingly prohibitive and cannabis use laws that penalize those without private residences....

Homelessness experts point out that there’s no proof that marijuana leads to homelessness, or that cannabis is the main culprit behind the growing numbers. Study after study has concluded that the major factors leading to homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, inability to find work and family crises. “There is very little safety when you are homeless,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter in Aurora, near Denver. “How many people want to trade their safety for access to something like marijuana or any other substance?”

But there is evidence that people who were already struggling to get by in other states are relocating to Colorado in part because of marijuana. So far, however, research on the phenomenon has been limited. A survey of Denver shelter workers by Metropolitan State University in the fall of 2014 found that eight of the 11 shelters said they were seeing client increases due in part to marijuana, said lead researcher Rebecca Trammell, but the study did not examine what, exactly those increases looked like. Plus some shelters actively avoid asking about marijuana use....

Marty Otañez, a University of Colorado Denver anthropology professor who’s been studying the state’s marijuana industry, said he’s met multiple cannabis workers who are on their way to becoming homeless. It’s left him convinced that it’s time for people in charge of the industry to address the problem. “The flow of ‘trimmigrants’ and other cannabis workers into Colorado and the added pressure on homeless shelters and social services for unemployed or poorly paid cannabis workers is a symptom of the broader problem of cannabis capitalism gone awry,” said Otañez. “Nominal efforts to fund corporate social responsibility schemes demonstrate the lack of seriousness on the part of cannabis business people to address in any genuine way the social ills associated with green gold.”

With nearly a billion dollars in revenue and more than $135 million in statewide taxes and fees generated by Colorado marijuana sales last year, some shelter managers would like to see a portion of the proceeds devoted to homeless services. “If some of those dollars can go to serving those folks, it could really help people,” said Tom Luehrs, executive director of Denver’s St. Francis Center day shelter. “We are not saying we want to become rich; we just want to help these people because Colorado is doing something good and it’s bringing people here.”

So far, none of Colorado’s marijuana tax revenues have gone to homeless programs. That will soon change. In Aurora, the city council recently voted to earmark $1.5 million of marijuana tax proceeds for homeless services annually for the next three years. According to Nancy Sheffield, project manager for Aurora’s neighborhood services department, the decision wasn’t based on concerns that marijuana was increasing local homeless numbers; it’s simply a matter of allocating resources to high-priority issues.

Whatever the reason, homeless advocates celebrated the move. “It’s a brilliant move by Aurora,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the city's Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter. “It’s not every day that a municipality gets a new funding stream. To reinvest that to meet the needs of struggling families is a good moral imperative stand.”

June 22, 2016 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Two great new Brookings papers on the varied forces really shaping marijuana reform

ImagesRegular readers perhaps growing bored of hearing me sing the praises of the work being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform.   But two great new Brookings papers (along with this live event about the papers) ensures that I will be continuing to talk about the must-read materials the folks there are continuing to produce.   Here are links to the two papers and the summaries provided by Brookings:

Worry about bad marijuana — not Big Marijuana by John Hudak and Jonathan Rauch

Many critics and proponents of marijuana legalization alike have voiced concerns about the potential emergence of Big Marijuana, a corporate lobby akin to Big Tobacco that recklessly pursues profits and wields sufficient clout to shape regulation to its liking.

Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, medical and/or recreational marijuana is now legal in more than two dozen states. As the federal government has largely tolerated state legalization, corporate capital and muscle have begun moving in on these new state markets. Such commercialization raises a new set of concerns about how industry dynamics may impact consumer behavior and potentially incur social costs.

In their new paper, “Worry about bad marijuana—not Big Marijuana,” John Hudak and Jonathan Rauch argue against alarmism. In analyzing the likely implications of the corporatization of marijuana, they conclude the following:

The marijuana industry will remain a diverse one even as large corporations emerge. The Big Marijuana rubric is more misleading than helpful as a guide to policy because it oversimplifies and stereotypes what is in reality a continuum of business scales and structures.

The marijuana industry is very unlikely to transform into something that looks like Big Tobacco during its notorious heyday. It is more likely that a commercial and regulatory model would look like the one governing alcohol, which is regulated primarily at the state level, combines mandatory with voluntary measures to police industry conduct, does a credible job of preventing antisocial and abusive commercial behavior, and has proven stable over time and broadly acceptable to the public and the industry.

Intelligently regulated and managed, Big Marijuana can be part of the solution. Corporatization, though not without its hazards, has considerable upsides. It brings advantages in terms of public accountability and regulatory compliance, product safety and reliability, market stability, and business professionalism.

Policy should concern itself with harmful practices, not with industry structure, and it should begin with a presumption of neutrality on issues of corporate size and market structure. Attempts to block corporatization are likely to backfire or fail. For policymakers, the concern should be bad marijuana, not big marijuana.

Bootleggers, Baptists, bureaucrats, and bongs: How special interests will shape marijuana legalization by Jonathan Rauch and Philip Wallach

Where there are markets, regulations, and money, special interests and self-serving behavior will not be far away. So argue Philip Wallach and Jonathan Rauch in this new paper that examines how special interests are likely to shape marijuana legalization and regulation in the United States.

Why did legalization of marijuana break through in the face of what had long been overwhelming interest-group resistance? In a post-disruption world, how might key social and bureaucratic actors reorganize and reassert themselves? As legalization ushers in a “new normal” of marijuana-related regulation and lobbying, what kinds of pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead? In this paper, Wallach and Rauch address those questions through the prism of what political economists often call the theory of public choice—the study of how interest groups and bureaucratic incentives influence policy outcomes. Their conclusions include:

For many years, the marijuana-policy debate was dominated by an “iron triangle” of anti-legalization interests: moralists and public-health advocates who believe marijuana use is wrong or harmful; commercial and gray-market interests with stakes in drug treatment and medical marijuana; and law-enforcement and quasi-governmental entities whose budgets and missions are sustained by the war on drugs. Those interests’ combined firepower stunted change even as public support for marijuana prohibition softened.

To make possible the wholesale disruption that has happened with marijuana legalization, public opinion change was necessary, but it was not sufficient. Also required was the disruption of the iron triangle. That was accomplished in the late 2000s through a shrewdly crafted campaign of “asymmetric warfare” that aimed money and argumentation at the incumbent coalition’s weakest points. In particular, reformers shifted the public’s focus from harms of marijuana use to harms of marijuana criminalization.

The rise of commercial marijuana interests and a potentially controversial “marijuana lobby” may impede legalization’s momentum as its opponents change the subject once again, from harms of criminalization to harms of corporate predation.

The present disrupted regulatory environment is unlikely to last. Old prohibitionist interests are discombobulated and new commercial-marijuana interests are still getting organized, giving legalizing states a degree of regulatory freedom which is exceptional but probably not durable. Over time, multiple interests will coalesce and colonize the regulatory process.

Despite widely touted concern that one or more disproportionately powerful players will dominate the regulatory system, regulatory incoherence should be a greater concern than regulatory capture. As policymakers increasingly need to navigate complex and conflicting interest-group politics, the result is at least as likely to be overregulation and misregulation as it is to be systematic underregulation.

June 19, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)