Tuesday, May 24, 2016
GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher admits currently using topical marijuana to treat his arthritis pain
The Huffington Post has this notable new article headlined "GOP Congressman Says He Uses Medical Marijuana To Ease Arthritis Pain: The plant helps relieve pain so severe it was waking him up at night." Here are the details:
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a leading voice for the reform of marijuana laws in the United States, became the first sitting member of Congress in recent history to admit to medical marijuana use.
Rohrabacher, speaking to a group of cannabis activists on Tuesday on Capital Hill, said he has been an avid surfer for about three decades but had not been able to enjoy the sport for about a year and a half due to arthritis pain he’s developed in his shoulder. The pain became so severe that it has disrupted his sleep, the lawmaker said. That is, until he tried medical marijuana.
“I went to one of these hempfests or something like that they had in San Bernardino,” Rohrabacher said, as first reported by Russ Belville at Cannabis Radio.
At the hemp festival, he met a vendor who introduced him to a cannabis-infused topical rub. “This guy was showing me the medical things and all that, and he says, ‘You should try this.’ And it’s a candle and you light the candle, and the wax is in there and it melts down, and then you rub it on whatever you’ve got problems with,” the Republican congressman said.
He finally tried the product a couple of weeks ago, and that was “the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night’s sleep because the arthritis pain is gone.” The attendees cheered his comments.
Rohrabacher, a vocal supporter for reform of the nation’s marijuana laws, is one of the main sponsors of a measure that blocked the Department of Justice from using funds to target and prosecute medical marijuana patients or businesses who are operating legal in their state. The amendment has been reauthorized for the past two fiscal years.
“Now don’t tell anybody I broke the law, they’ll bust down my door and take whatever’s inside and use it as evidence against me, whatever it is,” Rohrabacher said. “The bottom line is, there’s definitely cannabis in there and it makes sure that I can sleep now.”
This was the first time Rohrabacher has spoken publicly about using medical cannabis, his press secretary Ken Grubbs told The Huffington Post. It was also the first time in recent history that a sitting congressman admitted to using medical marijuana, said Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell.
“Putting a face on the people who use marijuana will help immensely in the battle to end criminalization and other forms of harmful discrimination,” Angell added. “It’s now going to be much harder for members of Congress, particularly those in the GOP caucus, to vote against medical marijuana, since they now know that one of their friends and colleagues is directly benefiting from it.”
The title of this post is the title of this new report produced by Gargen State public policy groups. This ACLU of New Jersey press release, which is subtitled "NJ Policy Perspective & NJ United for Marijuana Reform analysis projects $300 million in annual sales tax revenue to come with legalization for adults," provides this context and highlights:
New Jersey would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue by legalizing marijuana, a new report released by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform has found. Legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana for use by adults aged 21 and older would ultimately add an estimated $300 million in sales tax to state coffers rather than divert consumers to the illegal market, the two policy-focused groups said at a Trenton press conference.
"The lessons from around the country are loud and clear: marijuana legalization makes fiscal sense, and it makes practical sense," said New Jersey Policy Perspective Policy Analyst Brandon McKoy, a co-author of the report. "Expanding economic opportunities and addressing our persistent budget deficit aren't the only reasons to legalize and regulate marijuana, but they are extremely persuasive ones."
The report estimates that New Jersey would bring in at least $300 million annually if marijuana legalization were fully implemented, using graduated tax increases over a three-year period, going from 5 percent, to 15 percent, to the final rate of 25 percent. The first-of-its-kind report in New Jersey relies on conservative estimates, predicting the tax revenue only from marijuana sales. The report's projections are based on the experiences of other states, current information on marijuana users in New Jersey and the surrounding area, current pricing, and the tax structure of other states as they relate to New Jersey's interests.
Including a small percentage of New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians from counties neighboring New Jersey who are expected to participate in the legal, regulated market, the state could take in approximately $305.4 million once the sales tax is fully scaled to 25 percent, the report said. The report estimates that approximately 343,100 New Jerseyans would participate in a legal marketplace, spending $1.2 billion each year. Currently, New Jerseyans spend more than $850 million on marijuana each year. The calculation of tax revenue was based on a price of $350 per ounce, similar to the current estimated price of $343 per ounce in New Jersey.
Legalization would bring other economic benefits not covered in the report, such as job creation, growth in business, research and development, and boosts in property, agricultural, business, and income taxes. In addition, it would increase public safety, protect young people, save resources, advance racial justice, bolster public health, and reduce the strain on the police, corrections, and the criminal justice system, the report argues. New Jersey arrests more people for marijuana possession each year than for any other crime. A June 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that 58 percent of New Jerseyans support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for use by adults aged 21 and older.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Could Michigan be among the states voting on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in November 2016?
In looking at this fall's election as a huge one for the future of marijuana law, I have had my eye on five states in which it seemed very likely voters would be considering recreational reforms via ballot initiative: Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. But this local article, headlined "Marijuana advocates rally at Michigan Capitol in final push for petition signatures," suggests that there is a chance Michigan voters also might get an opportunity to speak directly on this issue come November. Here are the basic details:
Supporters of a ballot drive to legalize recreational marijuana use in Michigan lined the Capitol lawn Friday afternoon in a final effort to round up signatures and denounce recent legislative efforts to change state signature gathering law. Jeffrey Hank chairs MILegalize, the group behind the ballot drive. Prior to the rally, he said the group had collected a total 315,000 signatures, which had not yet been vetted.
The purpose of the rally was to bring in any outstanding petition sheets and make one final push for signatures before the June 1 deadline in the same place the drive began last June, Hank added. The group needs at least 252,523 valid signatures to get on the November 2016 statewide ballot, which would put the question of whether recreational use, purchase and possession of marijuana for people over 21 in Michigan should be legal before voters.
One notable speaker at the rally was Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who recently introduced legislation that would decriminalize marijuana in Michigan and has long advocated for reforms to marijuana law. He told rally attendees that in all of his experience gathering signatures for various ballot issues, he's never worked on an issue like marijuana legalization, because most people know exactly how they feel about the issue one way or the other. "Most people are grabbing it out of your hands — they want to sign, they want to move this issue forward," Irwin said. "It strikes right to the heart of how people feel about government and what they want their government doing."
Irwin said, to cheers from the crowd, that he would prefer the government paved roads and adequately funded schools instead of wasting time and money prosecuting Michigan citizens for cannabis....
Addressing rally attendees, Hank said this is the closest a statewide recreational legalization attempt has come to succeeding in Michigan. He said the legislature's efforts to change the law [about signature gathering] at this stage merely showed lawmakers were scared of how far they'd come. "If we get this close and we fail, we will have missed a historic opportunity," Hank told the crowd.
I know that in Ohio it is not uncommon for at least 25% and sometimes as many as 50% of collected signatures in support of a ballot initiative to eventually be deemed invalid. So this article's reporting on the signature gathering leads me to think it is still not likely a recreational reform initiative will make it to Michigan voters this year. Still, especially given that Michigan was the first rust-belt state to enact significant medical marijuana reforms via ballot initiative, this state is still one worth wathcing closely in the months (and years) ahead.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Notable commentary highlights how "Legalized Pot, Free Trade" could significantly improve US-Mexico interactions
This notable new New York Times commentary, authored by Ioan Grillomay and headlined "Legalized Pot, Free Trade," highlights some international benefits that could and should flow from modenr marijuana reform efforts. Here are excerpts:
Speaking last month at the United Nations special session on drugs, President Enrique Peña Nieto said he wanted to relax the nation’s marijuana laws. He has since sent Mexico’s Congress a bill to legalize medicine that contains cannabis, allow people to carry an ounce of marijuana without being prosecuted, and free some prisoners convicted on marijuana charges. “We Mexicans know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years,” he said.
Mr. Peña Nieto is new to the drug-reform game. Only last year, he said he was against legalizing marijuana, and at one point said he was not even going to attend the United Nations session.
What happened? He seems to have realized (or been advised) that it is better to be on the side of inevitable change. The proposal follows the rapid loosening of drug laws in the United States: Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, and 20 more states now permit it as medicine. The president’s shift also follows a November ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court, which held that the government had no constitutional right to arrest people for their “civil right” of growing cannabis.
And more is coming soon. In November, Californians could vote on an initiative to legalize marijuana. If America’s richest state, and one on the border, votes yes, it will have a huge impact on Mexico. Why would the Mexican government want to crack down on traffickers taking marijuana into California if it were fully legal there?
Various Mexican politicians and activists have come out in favor of wider marijuana legalization. Among them, the opposition senator Mario Delgado has proposed the decriminalization and regulation of cultivation, production and sales across Mexico. The former president Vicente Fox also supports this idea. Mr. Peña Nieto’s proposals make sense, but there’s even more to be done. The current bill would effectively allow cannabis consumption, but it would leave most of the production and selling of it to the black market — which means largely in the hands of drug cartels.
Marijuana reform in the United States has already eaten into the business of Mexican cartels. In 2011, the year before Colorado and Washington State legalized it, the United States border patrol seized 2.5 million pounds of cannabis coming from Mexico. Last year, with marijuana legal in four states and the District of Columbia, that had fallen to 1.5 million pounds.
However, even the latest number indicates that a significant amount of marijuana is still being smuggled north. The profits pay the cartels’ assassins, as well as corrupt police officers and soldiers, who discard piles of bodies across Mexico. Amid these changing dynamics, it becomes more and more pointless for Mexican soldiers (underwritten by the United States, through the Merida Initiative) to keep up the ritual of burning marijuana crops. What is needed, then, is for both countries to move from the current mishmash of laws toward the inevitable conclusion: that marijuana becomes a legalized product that can be traded over borders.
The same market forces that shape the trade in liquor or tobacco will shape the trade in marijuana. Like those, it generates major profits for the formal economy. A research group predicts the legalized marijuana market in the United States will be worth more than $6 billion this year, rising to more than $20 billion by 2020. That could be a boon for the Mexican and United States economies.
A regulated marijuana market won’t suddenly end the bloodshed in Mexico. Cartels would still traffic cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. The cartels have also diversified to kidnapping, extortion and even oil theft, crimes that can be dealt with only by markedly improved Mexican police forces. But marijuana reform will help immensely. Many in the ranks of Mexican cartels take their first step into the crime world by growing, smuggling or selling pot. That link would be cut, and legal jobs created. Mexican security forces could finally leave the marijuana issue behind to focus on real problems.
The United Nations special session on drugs was heavy on empty talk, but several positive things came out of it. One was that there is no appetite to make countries abide by the United Nations treaties that prohibit the legalization of marijuana. Another is that a range of voices across the world are calling for a new approach to drug policy. The growth of a legalized, binational marijuana market would be a step toward turning those calls into reality.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Regular readers are likely used to seeing me in this space praise the work being done by Brookings in general, and John Hudak in particular, in the arena of responsible and thoughtful discussion of marijuana law, policy and reform. This latest Brookings piece by Hudak, styled "A memo to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on marijuana policy," further demostrates why my praise is justified. I recommend the lengthy piece is full, and here are excerpts from how it starts and ends and the headings in between:
Eight months from today one of you will be inaugurated the 45th President of the United States. There is much to think about between now and then, but one issue with a penchant for falling between the cracks is marijuana policy. Marijuana policy is no longer just a punchline, reserved for the attention of activists. Marijuana policy will be a serious part of the next administration’s domestic policy, and it is critical that you create a strategy accordingly.
Both of you have suggested you are open to reforms or, at a minimum, to let states operate as they wish. However, a laissez-faire approach to cannabis is a dangerous stance that creates a bevy of policy problems at the federal, state and local levels. There is tremendous complexity involved in creating a uniform and consistent policy strategy. Marijuana will impact almost every corner of your administration — some obvious, some less so. To get it right — that is to make sure that your administration advances your policy goals — there are seven key steps to take.
1. When vetting possible appointees, ask them about cannabis....
2. Talk to Congress about marijuana....
3. Talk to states that passed marijuana reform....
4. Talk to cannabis businesses, patients, consumers, and activists....
5. Talk to marijuana reform opponents....
6. Talk to scientists studying (or trying to study) cannabis....
7. Think about your marijuana legacy....
The nation is changing its views on cannabis, and reform is not a flash in the pan, but a certainty in the future of American public policy. Your administration has the opportunity to initiate a sensible, safe, effective, and robust reform that reflects the policy changes in the states and a federal government ready to facilitate a working system. You can help mold the future of this policy, or you can be a bystander to history, remembered more for being a roadblock than a transformational policy champion. Ten years ago it would have been toxic to engage marijuana policy in this way, but as America changes its mind on cannabis, it may be even more toxic to stand by and do nothing about it.
May 20, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
I am a fairly strong proponent of marijuana reforms in large part because there seem to be a number of tangible immediate benefits from legalizating, regulating and taxing the marijuana marketplace, while significant drawbacks rarely prove to be as dire as predicted by opponents of reform. Two new stories in major newspapers today discussing developments in Colorado reinforce my views. Here are headlines, links and exceepts:
From USA Today here, "These kids are going to college on pot":
Colorado pot smokers are helping send 25 students to college, the first scholarships in the U.S. funded with taxes on legal marijuana. The awards offered by Pueblo County, in southern Colorado, are the latest windfall from legal Colorado marijuana sales that are also helping build schools and aid the homeless — and in one county, providing 8% raises to municipal workers.
Pueblo County is granting $1,000 each to the students, with recipients to be announced later this month. “It’s incredible,” said Beverly Duran, the executive director of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, which is overseeing the scholarships. "Every year we get a nice pool of students … but we can always only award to a small percentage. This for us expands that to extraordinary lengths.”...
Further south in Colorado, Huerfano County expects to collect an extra $500,000 in cannabis taxes this year. That’s bankrolling an 8% raise for almost all of the county's 96 municipal employees, a big deal in an area where a county road worker earns $12 an hour and most employees haven’t had a raise in more than five years....
In Aurora, the state’s third-largest city, marijuana taxes are helping improve roads, pay off a municipal recreation center, and provide direct services for homeless men and women. Aurora has nearly 20 pot shops and five grow sites, generating a projected $5.4 million in new taxes this year.
From the Los Angeles Times here, "Governor who called legalization 'reckless' now says Colorado's pot industry is working":
“The predictions of fire and brimstone have failed to materialize,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group working to reform pot laws. “Most Coloradoans, including the governor, recognize that the law is working.”
From the start, [Colorado Gov] Hickenlooper saw the legalization of marijuana as a great national experiment, something utterly new in this country and fraught with potential public health and safety issues. He fretted about a potential rise in drug use among children and was clearly uncomfortable with an amendment directly conflicting with federal law, which considers pot an illegal drug on par with cocaine.
There were plenty of snags at first. Marijuana edibles proved especially problematic because few people had experience with them. High-profile overdoses made national news. Just last week a lawsuit was filed against the maker of a marijuana-laced candy, alleging the product triggered a "psychotic episode" that caused a man to kill his wife in 2014. Still, none of Hickenlooper’s worst fears were realized.
Colorado is booming. The state has a 4.2% unemployment rate, one of the best in the country. High-tech companies are moving in. Small towns across the state, some once teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, have been saved by tax revenues from pot dispensaries. And the $1-billion-a-year cannabis business will pump $100 million in taxes into state coffers this year.
Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for Colorado, said the governor’s views reflect a growing sense of optimism about how the industry is regulated. “In the short run, there have been a lot fewer public safety and health issues than the governor feared in the beginning,” said Freedman, who is often referred to as the state’s marijuana czar. “In the beginning, we had problems with edibles and hash oil fires but now, for the most part, Colorado looks a lot like it did before legalization.”
Marijuana consumption has not changed much from pre-legalization levels and there has been no significant increase in public health and safety problems, he said. As for the $100 million in tax revenue, Freedman noted, that's out of a $27-billion state budget. Some 70% of the money is earmarked for school construction, public health initiatives and other projects. The rest goes back into regulating the industry.
“The governor has called this a grand experiment from the beginning. He looks at data points as he goes along and I think he’s pleasantly surprised that there were not as many challenges as he thought,” Freedman said. “He would say the jury is still out on this experiment but he’s optimistic.”
Some are less circumspect. “The state’s image is actually rising. We were just ranked as the best place to live in America,” Tvert said. “The idea that businesses would not relocate here or conferences wouldn’t be held here was untrue. In fact, attendees at conferences are now offered pot tours as day trips.”
May 17, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, May 15, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Christian Science Monitor article. It carries this subheadline: "A California law passed in October denies felons with drug convictions a license to sell medical marijuana. An new initiative would change that." And here are excerpts:
If you committed a felony for something that is no longer illegal, should your criminal record keep you out of the business now? A California law denying medical marijuana licenses to those with felony convictions for drug possession answers that question with a "yes," and it touches on the debate about how long a felony record should follow someone who has served their time....
The question could have even deeper implications for the state's pot industry, because although only medical marijuana is legal now, California voters will likely see a referendum for full marijuana legalization on the November ballot. Many current or prospective sellers of medical marijuana do have felony charges because of – for example – past drug possession. Casey O'Neill, board chairman of the marijuana group California Growers Association, told the Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy that 25 to 30 percent of California's weed growers have felony convictions.
The current initiative, if passed by referendum in November, would change the law to permit people with felonies for drug possession of any kind to apply for a license to sell marijuana, according to the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies for California.
Some members of law enforcement suggested that giving felons licenses to sell marijuana supports the growing pot industry at the expense of safety. "This new initiative will specifically allow for convicted major meth and heroin dealers to be licensed recreational marijuana vendors in California," said Chief Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, in a statement. "You have to question proponents in terms of placing personal wealth and corporation profits ahead of community well-being."
California's law enforcement has said fighting the black market by keeping felons out of these businesses is part of the reason the state requires licenses. California Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R) said the October law provides law enforcement with "clear rules for overseeing medical marijuana activities in their community—something badly lacking for the past 20 years," according to a press release for the California Police Chief Association.
Other states where medical marijuana is legal have different approaches to the question of whether a person convicted of selling marijuana before the state legalized it deserves a legal license now. Applicants for a medical marijuana license in Colorado must have all felony charges and sentences at least five years behind them; for drug charges, their record must have been clean for ten years. Colorado offers a case-by-case exemption for past state-level marijuana charges "that would not be a felony if the person were convicted of the offense on the date he or she applied," according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
May 15, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, May 14, 2016
This new New York Times article, headlined "How Much Is Too Much Marijuana to Drive? Lawmakers Wonder," not only picks up on the recent AAA reports on marijuana impairment and driving, but also spotlights how federal law continues to get in the way of needed research on these issues:
As more states consider legalizing the substance, that presents a challenge to legislators seeking to create laws on driving while impaired by marijuana.
The study, commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that laws in six states that legally assess impairment by measuring how much THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is in a person’s blood are not supported by science. “There is no concentration of the drug that allows us to reliably predict that someone is impaired behind the wheel in the way that we can with alcohol,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research....
The AAA study echoes the recommendations of many experts who call for the improvement of technology to evaluate drivers’ saliva for cannabis use.
Sean O’Connor, the faculty director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington, said that there was promising research into detecting cannabis through saliva and other techniques, but that it was being stymied by the drug’s legal classification as a Schedule 1 substance. “We are hamstrung by the fact that you can’t do legitimate scientific research unless you have a Schedule 1 license,” he said. His argument underlines the difficulty for states trying to write coherent policy when the drug is still illegal under federal law.
Prior recent related post:
Friday, May 13, 2016
Earlier this week, I had the great honor and pleasure of talking with Jeffrey Rosen and Randy Barnett as part of the National Constitution Center's "We the People" series concerning various constitutional issues related to the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The podcast is available at this link, and here is how it is introduced via that webpage:
Marijuana was first outlawed nationally by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Since 1970, it has been classified an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, listed alongside LSD, heroin, and other narcotics.
But in 1996, California became the first state to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, starting a cascade of changes at the state level. As of May 2016, 24 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana; four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska—and D.C. have also legalized recreational marijuana. In November 2016, more states, including Nevada and Maine, are slated to vote on the issue.
Join We the People to explore the constitutional issues at stake....
May 13, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
This new Washington Times article, headlined "Gary Johnson: Legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse," highlights why marijuana reform could become a big issue in the national Prez election campaign if a number of voters start seriously considering a likely candidate other than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here is why:
Libertarian White House hopeful Gary Johnson said Tuesday it’s been his stated position that legalizing marijuana will lead to less substance abuse overall. “I took the position I took business-wise to make the world a better place,” Mr. Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“On the medicinal side, marijuana products directly compete with legal prescription drugs that statistically kill 100,000 people a year,” he said. “And on the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse.”
Mr. Johnson, who won about 1 percent of the popular vote as the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, said there is a “total disconnect between elected politicians and the public.”
“Sixty percent of Americans now want to legalize marijuana,” he said. “But the campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado was a campaign based on marijuana is safer than alcohol, and it is. It’s safer than everything else that’s out there, starting with alcohol.”
The Libertarian Party will choose its presidential nominee later this month at a convention in Orlando.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
California reformers have collected signatures necessary to bring full legalization up for another state initiatitve vote in 2016
California voters in 2010 missed their chance to make their state the first to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes when the voted down Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, by a vote of 53.5% to 46.5%. Now, six years later, it appears that voters in California will have another chance this November to make marijuana reform history by becoming the last Pacific coast state (save Hawaii) to legalize recreational marijuana. This Los Angeles Times article, headlined "California voters getting chance to fully legalize marijuana," provides the details:
A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.
A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Tuesday said it has collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to qualify the initiative. Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other supporters of the measure plan to kick off a campaign for voter approval of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on Wednesday in San Francisco.
The measure would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.
"This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state,” Newsom said in a statement.
The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.
The use of marijuana in public and while driving would remain illegal. Parker, a billionaire who also co-founded the file-sharing service Napster, donated more than $1 million to the campaign to collect signatures and qualify the initiative. If elections officials verify that the signatures turned in Wednesday are sufficient and voters approve the initiative, California would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as states that allow recreational use of marijuana.
Opposition is already organizing behind groups such as Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, which formed to defeat a 2010 legalization initiative that was rejected by 53% of voters. "Marijuana is a very dangerous drug," said Scott Chipman, a San Diego businessman who is the Southern California chairman of the group. "The state has not proven it has the capacity or the will to properly regulate marijuana and so they won't."
The measure is also opposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn., in part, because of problems that have arisen in Colorado. Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, president of the association, said extremely potent marijuana is being sold in Colorado that he fears will lead to high addiction rates and high incidents of psychosis. “This is bad for our communities. This is bad for our youth and it’s a broad commercialization [of drugs], a for-profit, money-making model,” Corney said.
More than 55% of California voters allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 when they approved Proposition 215. Despite the defeat of a 2010 legalization initiative, a poll last year by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55% of likely voters in California favor full legalization.
“I’m excited to be a part of one of the largest coalitions of cannabis and non-cannabis organizations to come together to push this initiative forward,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. Bradley, who backed the failed 2010 initiative, said voters have since "seen how well [legalizing recreational use] has worked in other states."
Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, formed a blue ribbon commission on marijuana policy that made recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the initiative. The measure is supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Assn., California Medical Assn. California NAACP, and the national Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The medical association said in a statement that it supports the measure because "the most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."
May 4, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, May 2, 2016
Last week, the Washington Post's In Theory section focused on federal drug scheduling laws, with a particular focus on marijuana. The terrific collection of commentaries from a diverse array of experts was set up via this into piece headlined "Is it time to revise our federal drug laws?", which started this way:
In a letter this month to inquiring lawmakers, the Drug Enforcement Administration quietly announced that it will decide whether to change the federal status of marijuana “in the first half of 2016.” The move excited legalization advocates and reminded everyone else of how convoluted our drug regulatory process can be.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970 while facing backlash against the recreational drug use of the 1960s, the federal government categorizes drugs based on their medical value and potential for abuse. If substances have no potential for abuse, they aren’t controlled at all. If they do, they’re classified in one of five schedules of decreasing severity.
Drugs in Schedule I are deemed as having “no current accepted medical use” and a high potential for abuse — the category where marijuana resides, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others. These drugs are regulated with extreme stringency in terms of access, research and supply. Schedule II drugs — such as morphine, fentanyl and methadone — are seen as having a high potential for abuse but some medical value. Schedules III-V contain drugs of medical value and decreasing potential for abuse. Each schedule is regulated with correspondingly less strictness.
Critics of the system (or at least of certain drugs’ positions on the schedule) point out that this creates a circular problem. Drugs are placed in Schedule I under the presumption that they have no accepted medical use. Yet the strict regulations of that schedule make it difficult to conduct the scientific and medical research that could uncover such drugs’ medical potential, making it all but impossible to move them to a different schedule. Cannabis, for instance, has shown potential therapeutic value for ailments including chronic pain and epilepsy, but only one place in the United States (a University of Mississippi farm) is allowed to grow marijuana under federal regulations. A number of Schedule I psychedelic compounds have similarly shown promise in treating mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s difficult to set up the sort of large-scale studies needed to meet the government’s standards for use.
In addition, many schedule placements seem arbitrary at best and deliberately skewed at worst. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t in any schedule at all, despite their proven susceptibility for abuse. Schedule I serves as a catchall for drugs of barely comparable levels of danger and potential benefit, many of which have been stigmatized through racist or classist propaganda. Meanwhile, other mostly recreational drugs like cocaine are in placed in more lax schedules on the basis of quite limited medical use.
Here are the commentaries that followed in the series, all of which are valuable reads:
Keith Humphreys, professor and health policy expert at the Stanford School of Medicine, "The paradox at the heart of our marijuana laws — and how to fix it"
Erwin Chemerinsky, law professor at University of California, Irvine, ""Why legalizing marijuana will be much harder than you think"
John Hudak, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, "How racism and bias criminalized marijuana"
Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, "There’s something missing from our drug laws: Science"
David Courtwright, author and professor at University of North Florida, "Scientists want to study marijuana. Big Pot just wants to sell it."
Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, "5 reasons marijuana is not medicine"
Thursday, April 28, 2016
"Prosecutorial Discretion in the Context of Immigration and Marijuana Law Reform: The Search for a Limiting Principle"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Sam Kamin now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article compares the appropriateness of prosecutorial non-enforcement policy in the contexts of federal immigration and marijuana laws. I begin by discussing the ways in which the Obama administration has set policy in both areas through the use of memoranda directing prosecutors in the exercise of their discretion. I show that in both of these contexts the administration has turned to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion rather than legislative change to achieve its policy outcomes.
I turn next to the Take Care Clause, the constitutional requirement that the president faithfully execute the laws of the United States. I demonstrate that, although the Supreme Court has painted only the broadest outlines of the clause’s meaning, there are certain core ideas that seem to implicate the core of the doctrine. Finally, I apply the Take Care Clause in the two contexts, finding that in both that the Obama administration has acted within the bounds of its constitutional authority. In neither context has the Obama administration re-written legislation or engaged in the kind of categorical refusal to prosecute that might be constitutionally suspect.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
The Room for Debate section of the New York Times yesterday had an interesting quartet of pieces discussing marijuana reform focused on the "gateway drug" notion. Here is the section's introductory set up:
The drive to marijuana legalization has grown more powerful as the crisis of heroin and opioid addiction has become more troubling. Now some officials say efforts to legalize marijuana should stop because, they say, greater availability would increase use and marijuana can be a gateway to the use of other drugs.
But is marijuana a gateway drug and, for that reason, should it remain illegal?
Here are the contribututions, with links via the commentary titles and the brief summaries provided by the Times:
Robert L. DuPont, "Marijuana Has Proven to Be a Gateway Drug": Establishing it as a third legal drug, along with tobacco and alcohol, will increase drug abuse, including the expanding opioid epidemic.
Colleen L. Barry, "Overdoses Fell with Medical Marijuana Legalization": Medical marijuana might be safer for chronic pain management than opioids but more research is needed.
Ethan Nadelmann, "Fears of a Gateway Effect Vastly Exceed the Evidence": The vast majority of people who use marijuana never progress to using other illicit drugs, or even to becoming regular marijuana consumers.
Deborah Peterson Small, "Look at the Real Gateways to Addiction": Many promote myths about marijuana to justify the use of law enforcement and the testing of people for public benefits, jobs and exclusion from housing.
Friday, April 22, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this recent lengthy American Lawyer article which in part explains why I think my novel marijuana law and policy law-school class may not be all that novel in the coming years. Here is how the piece gets started:
On April 20, which each year marks the unofficial “420” holiday for marijuana enthusiasts worldwide, lawyers at big firms across the country spoke with The Am Law Daily about their work in the burgeoning field of semi-legal weed.
Though still not allowed under federal law, rapidly changing state regulations have created a relatively new industry worth roughly $5.7 billion. Clients looking to get involved in funding, growing or selling cannabis are calling upon lawyers to handle venture capital, finance, intellectual property, real estate, employment and regulatory work.
Am Law 200 firms have approached this industry with varying degrees of discretion. T hompson Coburn has a blog, Tracking Cannabis, Seyfarth Shaw has one too in The Blunt Truth and Dykema Gossett will also have one soon. Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark Silow praised the cannabis work of the four-partner group his firm hired in Chicago from Nixon Peabody when the team was brought on last year.
“I don’t think the firm’s ever been shy to put it out there that we’re entrepreneurial,” said Fox Rothschild partner Joshua Horn. The co-chair of his firm’s securities industry practice, Philadelphia-based Horn is also a member of the National Cannabis Bar Association, which was formed last year. On Sunday, Pennsylvania became the 24th U.S. state to legalize medicinal marijuana, so, as opposed to his partners in Illinois, Horn said he hasn’t put in much cannabis work near home. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has yet to officially authorize an ethics rule change that would protect lawyers working in this industry, as noted this week by sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer. But Horn said he is increasingly helping clients in other states raise capital to finance their cannabis ventures.
Baker & Hostetler corporate partner Randolf Katz is also doing marijuana finance work in California, where voters could approve the recreational use of marijuana in November. Katz said his clients are increasingly drawn to pot startups. “One fund was pretty heavily in it,” he said, referring to a client. “Another fund, in the past year, has sent over probably six to eight different potential investments for us to take a look at that are marijuana-related companies.”
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Huffington Post has this piece explaining why today's date is considered special in the minds of many marijuana fans. For me, what is special today is how many interesting marijuana policy and reform stories can be found in major (and not so major) media outlets. Here is just a sample:
From ABC News here, "Man's Jail Death Adds New Face to Debate on Marijuana Laws"
From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation here, "Federal marijuana legislation to be introduced in spring 2017, Philpott says: Health minister in New York for UN talks to review global drug treaties"
From CBS News here, "Marijuana use and support for legal marijuana continue to climb"
From the Daily Caller here, "Support For Marijuana Legalization Soars To 56 Percent Nationally"
From a FOX affiliate in Denver here, "Marijuana money might have saved small Colorado town from 'abyss of nothingness'"
From the International Business Times here, "After Years Of Petitions And Protests, Marijuana Group DCMJ Says It's Meeting With Obama Staffers At The White House"
From the New York Times here, "Marijuana Legalization in New England Is Stalled by Opiate Crisis"
From Quartz here, "America's weed industry is going to be massive. Is Big Marijuana a good thing?"
From Rolling Stone here, "What Will Rescheduling Marijuana Mean for the Pot Industry?"
From the Sacramento Bee here, "On 4/20, marijuana legalization headed for California ballot"
From the Wall Street Journal here, "Mexican President Backs Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use"
From Wired here, "A New Crop of Marijuana Geneticists Sets Out to Build Better Weed"
Exploring how to impact the hearts and minds of bellwether Buckeye voters concerning marijuana reform
Perhaps fittingly, the final student presentation planned for my Ohio State College of Law marijuana reform seminar is focused on "efforts to change the hearts and minds of Ohio voters when it comes to marijuana reform." Here is how the students have described their project and the materials they have assembled to this end:
Our project is focused on connecting with the average Ohioan who does not and has not used marijuana, in order to dispel any myths or prejudices that he or she might hold. The goal is to inform the populace about the virtues of marijuana reform before they vote on another bill/initiative so that they are primed to vote yes on the merits. The articles include what the polls say about Ohio's desire for legal marijuana, a Vice video about moms returning to marijuana consumption after years rebuking it, and some materials concerning compelling organizational tactics for reformers including strategies used for legalization initiatives:
Summer 2014 Prospectus by The Strategy Network describing ResponsibleOhio's plans for "2015 Ohio Marijuana Legalization and Regulation"
April 20, 2016 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 18, 2016
As noted in this prior post, we here have the pleasure and honor of having Sam Kamin, the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, provide reports and thoughts on-site from the The Cannabis Science and Policy Summit now going on in NYC. Here is his dispatch after the end of the summit's first day:
Some recurring themes today:
* It's easier to heavily regulate marijuana at the outset and then loosen the rules over time than to do the reverse. Loose regulations become entitlements and entrenched interests will fight like hell to keep them form disappearing. Andrew Freedman made the great point that once you have marijuana businesses complying with regulation, they'll be your allies when others want them weakened (because they benefit under the extant rules).
* Taxation should start relatively low (to kill the black market) and then ratchet up (or titrate, one of the words of the day) as legal marijuana is able to compete on price with the black market.
* Big marijuana is on everyone's mind and is the official boogeyman of the festivities. The 80/20 rule and its variants was invoked over and over. How to fix it? Government monopoly (at least on distribution), non-profit models, advertising bans, etc.
* A marijuana regulatory system should provide the amount of marijuana for which there is current demand; it shouldn't create new demand.
* We don't know much about interactions — with alcohol, with opiates, with tobacco — as we legalize marijuana. But those effects will be important if, as most people expect, legalization will lead to more marijuana usage. If it leads to less usage of other drugs, the harms are lessened; if other usage goes up or stays flat, increased marijuana usage is much more problematic.
* There is lots of concern about increased potency and I'm not sure it's warranted. High potency is not bad in itself; it means less smoking and that's a boon for health rather than a threat. Also, if we're talking about marijuana concentrates, the production process is incredibly dangerous if done at home, and if there's demand for concentrates, it probably makes sense to service that demand through a regulated market.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Cannabis Science and Policy Summit: on-site reporting from the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy
I invited Sam Kamin, the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, to provide some reports or thoughts about his experiences today and tomorrow as he is participating in NYC at the The Cannabis Science and Policy Summit. Here is the first of what I hope might be a few on-site report from a very informed participant in this event:
The morning started with a cautionary tone. Jonathan Caulkins gave a plenary talk on the dangers of a profit-driven marijuana market. His thesis was that 25 years from now, policy makers will look back on this period and wonder what on earth we were thinking.
* He showed that half of marijuana is consumed by those who use daily and that, as with any industry, there will be a push from industry to grow that group.
* He argued that Americans spend 40 billion hours per year stoned and that we could easily expect that to double post-legalization.
* He called marijuana a performance-degrading drug. There's a reason we don't test chess players for pot to be sure they're not cheating.
In the questions and discussions in the hallway afterward, talk focused on possible alternatives to a market-driven legal market. The most concrete was David Courtwright's invocation of Sweden's Gothenburg public house regulatory system (limited number of licenses, a limit on maximum profits, etc.) as a model for marijuana regulation that minimizes social harm.
A fascinating (to me) issue is whether there is room for legalization's opponents (groups like SAM and policy wonks like Caulkins) and the cannabis true believers who started all this (DPA, MPP, NORML, etc.) to join forces against Big Marijuana. Talking to Dan Riffle, I compared this to the Never Trump movement. No one (except the eventual winners, whoever they will be) wants corporate marijuana, which looks like the front-runner at the moment. The question will be whether various opponents, coming at that place from different directions, can find sufficient common ground to organize against the juggernaut and whether they can do so before things become inevitable.
For the record and to be a bit of an iconoclast, I consider myself something of a supporter of "corporate marijuana" at least in the short term for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, in the arena of medical marijuana, I think we will only get lots and lots of needed dynamic and aggressive research on the potential of the cannabis plant if there is a significant profit motive driving the research. Second and not to be overlooked, I think there can and should be more external benefits (like job growth and tax revenue) flowing from a commercial marijuana marketplace if (and this is a big if) government if focused mostly on aggressively regulating the marijuana industry rather than excessively seeking to control/hamper its innovative tendencies.
Friday, April 15, 2016
New group, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, with prominent physicians pushing to end pot prohibition
This notable new article from the Washington Post, headlined "More and more doctors want to make marijuana legal," reports on a notable new group starting to advocate for the ending of federal marijuana prohibition. Here are the details and context:
A group of more than 50 physicians, including a former surgeon general and faculty members at some of the nation's leading medical schools, has formed the first national organization of doctors to call on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in the interest of public health.
The group — which is announcing its formation Monday, under the name Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) — is endorsing the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, a break from the position of the American Medical Association, the largest organization of doctors in the country. DFCR argues that the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana use does more harm to the public than good. Citing hundreds of thousands of annual marijuana arrests, racial and economic disparities in marijuana enforcement, and the role of prohibition in keeping marijuana prices high and lucrative to violent drug dealers, the physicians say that creating a legal and regulated marijuana market is the best way to ensure public safety, combat the illicit drug trade and roll back the negative consequences of strict enforcement policies on disadvantaged communities.
The emergence of the group comes at a crucial moment in the national debate over marijuana legalization. More than 60 percent of the public now says that it supports marijuana legalization. Support for allowing medical use of marijuana with doctors' supervision is closer to 90 percent. Over 35 million Americans use marijuana recreationally each year, according to the latest federal statistics. Research organizations, medical groups and even many national lawmakers have called on federal authorities to revisit policies toward marijuana that have remained essentially unchanged for nearly 50 years.
"You don't have to be pro-marijuana to be opposed to its prohibition," DFCR founder and board president David L. Nathan said in an interview. Nathan is an associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He's quick to point out that his group does not advocate for the use of marijuana: While researchers generally agree that marijuana use is less harmful to individuals and society than the use of other common drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, about 9 percent of people who begin using as adults become dependent on the drug, and heavy use can be especially harmful to the developing brains of adolescents.
Rather, Nathan says, the best way to manage those risks is to bring use of the drug, as well as the associated commerce in it, out into the open via regulation. "Doctors should affirmatively support this," he said. "If you’re going to make something against the law, the health consequences of that use have to be so bad to make it worth creating criminal consequences. That was never true of marijuana. It was banned in 1937 over the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA)."
Indeed, in 1937, the AMA objected to the overly strict regulation of marijuana, as it was then used as a treatment for a number of medical conditions. The Association was worried that prohibition of marijuana would "deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value."
After the passage of the "Marihuana Tax Act," marijuana "just wasn't that well-known among doctors," Nathan said. Many doctors were unaware that the drug essentially outlawed by the Marihuana Tax Act was the same substance they knew as "cannabis," which they used to treat a variety of ailments from corns to poor appetite. In subsequent years, physicians were just as susceptible to lurid media reports about the supposed dangers of marijuana use and the "Reefer Madness" era as anyone else.
Like most mainstream medical groups, the AMA is now opposed to the outright legalization of marijuana, calling it a "dangerous drug" and "a public health concern." But the group's stance has evolved in recent years. It recently added language to its position statements calling for "the modification of state and federal laws to emphasize public health based strategies," rather than punitive, incarceration-based measures. The group now encourages research into the drug, and has called on federal authorities to make it easier to do so....
Not all medical professionals are happy about relaxing attitudes toward what they see as a dangerous, addictive drug. The notion of doctors advocating for marijuana legalization is "totally idiotic," said Robert DuPont, who served as the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and as the second White House drug czar, in an interview. "The idea that we cannot manage the health problems related to marijuana because it's illegal, that doctors are somehow inhibited from dealing with marijuana use and marijuana problems, is completely wrong."
"The idea that legalizing is going to stop the illegal market is equally stupid," he added. DuPont thinks that the current legal status of marijuana is sufficient to address the risks associated with marijuana use, and that punitive measures for drug sellers and users can be a powerful tool for helping at-risk people get treatment. "The criminal justice system is a wonderful vehicle for getting people into treatment and recovery," he said....
Much of the discussion around marijuana legalization, among doctors and the general public alike, hinges on different assessments of the same data showing the risks and benefits of changing marijuana laws. Groups like the AMA are concerned that legalization would lead to more widespread use of the drug, which would invariably mean greater prevalence of the negative health consequences associated with its use, like dependency and some mental illnesses that may be exacerbated by the drug's use.
But groups who favor legalization, like DFCR, point out that negative outcomes arise from the current system of prohibition, too. They say that the presence of a large black market, the stigmatization of individual users, and the potentially life-ruining effects of a marijuana conviction, are steep prices to pay for the nominal reduction in overall use that comes with prohibition.
In 2011, the California Medical Association, which represents 40,000 doctors in the state, became the first doctors' group to call for the full legalization of marijuana. They recently went a step further, explicitly endorsing a measure to appear on the ballot this November that would legalize marijuana and create a commercial market for it in the state. "Medical marijuana should be strictly regulated like medicine to ensure safe and appropriate use by patients with legitimate health conditions and adult-use marijuana should be regulated like alcohol," the group's president said in a February statement.
DFCR hopes to make a similar case among doctors at the national level, and to win over skeptics like DuPont and Friedmann. "We want to build a group of physicians who are going to be out in the public making the case for marijuana legalization to physicians, medical associations and the public at large," Nathan said.
The website for the DFCR is already in operation and has some interesting content. I especially liked this interesting page discussing the personal history and work of William Creighton Woodward, which includes this introduction:
In the 1937 hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act, Dr. Woodward defended the AMA’s position that cannabis should be regulated but not prohibited. In his lengthy testimony, he refuted the hyperbolic claims put forward by the proponents of marijuana prohibition, offering a prescient view of how our society should handle drug addiction in general, and marijuana in particular. There is much we can learn from this early, learned proponent of an evidence-based national cannabis policy, and extracts of his testimony are included below.