Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ohio marijuana reform story getting even more dynamic and constitutionally complex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some prior related posts:

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reviewing SAM's take on recent marijuana reserch and reform developments

DownloadAs regular readers surely realize, I tend generally to favor modern marijuana reform efforts. Consequently, I tend generally to notice and feel most inspired to blog about research and press reports that tend generally to favor modern marijuana reform efforts. But I fully recognize, and generally have respect for, the many policy-makers and advocates who strongly oppose modern marijuana reform efforts.

Especially because I think it is critical in this space and elsewhere that competing voices are heard and dynamic perspectives considered in modern marijuana reform debates, I am ever grateful for the efforts of Kevin Sabet and his group SAM: Smart Approaches to Marijuana for covering and promoting reform-opposition research and developments. And, and these recent posts from the SAM blog highlight, SAM has has a lot to say on these topics over just the last 10 days:

June 25, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Noticing significant tax revenues now flowing from marijuana legalization

How-colorado-allocates-marijuana-taxes_largeThe Motley Fool folks have been keeping an eye on the modern marijuana industry, and this recent article highlights why these folks reasonably think the industry is likely to continue to grow. The article is headlined "These 3 Charts Show Why More States Will Soon Legalize Marijuana," and here are excerpts (along with a reprinting of one of the referenced charts):

Want to know why states are legalizing recreational marijuana? Let me give you a hint: It has something to do with the color green. Not the color of the plant, but the color of money.

Because recreational marijuana has now been legal in Colorado and Washington for 18 months and 11 months, respectively, we're finally starting to see just how lucrative the recreational-marijuana business is.... In March alone, consumers in Washington purchased $21.9 million worth of recreational cannabis through legal channels. That was more than twice the amount of the $8.3 million spent on medical marijuana that month.

The rapid ascent of recreational-marijuana sales is nothing short of extraordinary. In July 2014 -- i.e., the inaugural month of recreational sales in Washington -- the handful of stores open at the time sold a mere $2.8 million worth of weed. Over the next eight months, this figure climbed by a factor of 10....

The upshot for the state is a rapidly expanding tax roll. If you add together the taxes that Washington receives from both recreational- and medical-marijuana sales, it's creeping up on $4 million a month. And for the record, it may have eclipsed that mark already, given that the latest available data covers just the month of March.

Colorado is experiencing a similar windfall, as it generates even more tax revenue from legal marijuana sales than Washington does. Last month, taxes from the industry came in at $9.6 million. And if you include the $1.1 million in revenue it received from licensing and other types of fees, you get more than $10.6 million....

In short, say what you will about the legalization of marijuana, particularly for recreational sales, but one thing seems certain: As sales and taxes from the industry continue their sharp ascent, it's going to be hard for other states to stand by idly and watch their neighbors get rich.

June 21, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Spotlighting how US marijuana reform is already having a global impact

Download (2)This intriguing new Forbes article, headlined "Israel, Canada Want A Piece Of New York's Medical Marijuana," highlights a number of ways in which marijuana reform in the United States is already changing a number of notable global realities.  Here are excerpts: 

For years the United States worried about drugs crossing our borders from other countries, now it seems other countries are crossing our border to get into drugs. Namely – cannabis.  While most believe that the U.S. is conservative in its approach to marijuana, the recent push for legalization has suddenly thrust America’s marketplace into a cannabis leadership position.

The potential for the U.S. market is so big, that companies from other countries want in. Israel wants in on the action in New York.  Marijuana is illegal in the country, but in a twist, the country is a world leader on its research into the medical uses of marijuana. Tikun Olam, which means ‘healing the world’ in Hebrew, is the only large-scale industrial producer of cannabis in Israel and operates under a license from the Israel Ministry of Health.  Tikun Olam announced that it was partnering with Compassionate Care Center of New York and applying to be a Registered Organization under New York’s Compassionate Care Act....

MedReleaf, another Canadian manufacturer of medical-grade cannabis announced it entered into an exclusive partnership with New York State Compassionate Care Center of New York.  CCCNY has also applied for one of the five licenses to be awarded in New York State and while it hasn’t gotten any approvals, it has established a greenhouse in Newark, NY ready for immediate production.  MedReleaf operates a 55,000 square foot facility in Markham, Ontario and is one of the largest suppliers in the Canadian market.  Tikun Olam is also partnered with MedReleaf in Canada and grows some of Tikun’s proprietary strains.  Canada has been very progressive in setting up its medical marijuana program and the companies there want to expand....

The changes taking place in the US are also affecting Mexico, another long time black market partner.  Marijuana seizures at the border are half of what they were five years ago.  Mexican farmers are ripping up their cannabis plants and turning to subsidized tomatoes. Mexico decriminalized small amounts of pot, but hasn’t gone as far as the US in legalization.  The drug cartels are switching to more expensive products like heroin and luxury strains from Colorado are in demand in Mexico according to Bloomberg and creating a reverse in the trafficking.

The exchange goes both ways.  Jamaica may have an established black market business, but its looking to U.S. firms to become legitimate.  Jamaica only recently decriminalized marijuana, which is hard to believe that it wasn’t already legal.  Any tourist to the country was usually offered ganja on the shuttle bus from the airport to their hotel.  Jamaica, the biggest supplier of black market pot to the U.S., kept it illegal to make officials in this country happy.  With our laws easing up, they felt like they had the green light to acknowledge that marijuana shouldn’t be punished within its country. United Cannabis Corp based in Colorado has launched a partnership with Jamaican agencies for a marijuana research and development facility.  The Cannabinoid Research & Development Company is considering a headquarters in Kingston Jamaica for pharmaceutical research and with the goal to standardize strains.

As the domestic cannabis growers become more established, it isn’t inconceivable they too will want to take their knowledge and experience to other markets.  As the medical marijuana market matures, global partnerships will become more frequent blurring those old drug wars.

June 19, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oregon agency effectively encourages citizens to "Educate Before You Recreate"

ImagesAs reported in this local article, headlined "Oregon launches campaign saying what's legal with marijuana," an important public service campaign has gotten underway in Oregon roughly seven months after Oregoinians voted to legalize marijuana in the state. Here are the details:

As Oregonians prepare to enter the new world of legal marijuana, the state wants folks to know a few things.

With the slogan, "Educate Before You Recreate," The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched a public education campaign to put across the message that although it will be legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana starting July 1, it is not yet legal for anyone but medical marijuana patients to buy it — including bringing it back from across the border in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is already legal. The $350,000 campaign includes paid ads, an official website with a PowerPoint presentation, and posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Under Measure 91, starting July 1, anyone over 21 in Oregon can possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana, such as dried buds at home and up to one ounce outside the home. You can consume marijuana at home or on private property. You can grow up to four plants per residence at home out of public view. You can make brownies and other edible products at home and receive them as gifts. And you can give away marijuana and receive it as a gift.

It is illegal to buy or sell recreational marijuana and to transport it across state lines. That includes buying some from a legal retail outlet in Washington state and bringing it home to Oregon. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in public or to drive while stoned. Measure 91 will not protect you if your employer prohibits drug use, especially if there is a federal connection, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And if your landlord prohibits smoking in your apartment, you can be evicted for smoking marijuana, but not for eating it...

The OLCC does not expect to have the chain of retail recreational marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and sales outlets permitted and operating until late in 2016. There has been talk in the Legislature about jumpstarting that by allowing recreational marijuana sales through medical marijuana dispensaries as early as October, but that remains up in the air....

John Bishop, executive director of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, says anyone buying or selling marijuana without a license is still subject to arrest. But he adds that authorities will continue to focus on large amounts of marijuana.

June 18, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Among Prez candidates, "Marijuana Federalism Beats Prohibitionist Meddling"

The quoted portion of this post comes from the headline of this recent Reason piece by Jacob Sullum, which canvasses at length the comments made by 2016 presidential candidates about whether they would respect state effort to reform their marijuana regimes in the shadow of federal prohibition.  Here is how the piece starts and ends:

Last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his intention to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it if he is elected president.  In an interview on Face the Nation, Christie answered "yes" when asked whether he would "return the federal prosecutions in these states," "yes" when asked if he would "go after" marijuana, and "correct" when asked if legalization would be "turned off."

If he were president, Christie could make a lot of trouble for state-licensed growers and retailers, but he would not actually have the power to make Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon recriminalize marijuana.  Furthermore, any attempt to override the decisions made by voters in those states would arouse strong objections — and not just from supporters of legalization. Illustrating that point, another Republican presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, disagreed with Christie.  "Colorado voters made a choice," she said in a Fox News interview last Tuesday. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice."

As I noted in March, that stance is pretty common among Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination, and it seems politically smart, since even voters who hate marijuana do not necessarily think the federal government should force prohibition on states that do not want it.  A recent Pew Research Center survey found that three-fifths of Americans think the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized pot.  Even more striking: A 2012 CBS News survey found that 65 percent of Republicans thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide," even though only 27 percent supported Colorado-style legalization....

In short, Chris Christie's determination to stamp out marijuana legalization puts him in the minority among presidential candidates, among Republicans, and among the general public. "I don't believe that people want to be told just what they want to hear," he said on Face the Nation. "I believe they want to be told the truth as the person who is running sees it." There's a startling proposition: In 2015, it seems, promising to keep marijuana illegal counts as courage.

June 16, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Starting remarks to start Ohio Marijuana Policy Reform Symposium

As regular readers know, the exciting the Ohio Marijuana Policy Reform Symposium (details here) is taking place today,June 11, 2015, at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  Though formal registration is over, because there is no charge for attending this exciting Symposium at Ohio State, I encourage anyone still interested in attending to make it over to the College of Law because there may still be some limited space in the auditorium (and a few extra donuts and lunches).

I have the honor and privilege of giving brief opening remarks for the event (which formally starts at 10:30am), and I plan to start my remarks this way:

Marijuana reform is a very serious issue.  But, until recently, it has been hard to get serious people to take this issue very seriously.  Disconcertingly, it seems elected officials are especially eager to ignore (or even make jokes) about the very serious issue of marijuana reform even as more and more citizens and voters, young and old, healthy and sick,  keep saying in polls and keep showing on election day that they are troubled by blanket criminal prohibition and are eager to have significant policy reforms seriously considered.

June 11, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Seeking questions from readers to ask during "Ohio Marijuana Policy Reform Symposium"

As regular readers know, the exciting  Ohio Marijuana Policy Reform Symposium (details and registration here) is taking place tomorrow June 11, 2015, at the The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  Though I hope everyone interested in marijuana reform in the Buckeye State is making plans to attend the event in person, I know there are plenty of folks interested in marijuana reform who will not be able to attend the live event.  Consequently, I wanted to use this space to solicit question from those unable to make the Symposium concerning what issues and topics they would like to have covered.  

I am pretty sure the full event will be available via podcast before the end of the day tomorrow, so anyone who suggests good questions in the comments or via e-mail (to sentencinglaw @ gmail.com)  will be able to hear the answers.   Though I am a panelist on the afternoon "academics" panel, I will be moderating the morning panel of the  Symposium, which starts with The Marijuana Policies of Ohio Taskforce, chaired by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, presenting the findings of its comprehensive research report titled "Marijuana & Ohio: Past, Present, Potential."  There will be an audience Q&A session after the Taskforce presentation, but I would work in as a moderator any especially good questions received from this solicitation.

As I have mentioned before, mportantly, there is no charge for attending this exciting Symposium at Ohio State tomorrow, but space in the auditorium can get limited so I highly encourage everyone interested in attending to pre-register via this webpage.

June 10, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Marijuana & Ohio: Past, Present, Potential"

Download (12)The title of this post is the title of the fascinating Taskforce report that is to be formally released and extensively discussed at this Thursday, June 11, as the Ohio Marijuana Policy Reform Symposium (details and registration here).  Because I am going to be critically assessing this report at the Symposium, I have gotten to see an advance draft of the long and detailed report which is described as a "research-based public policy review and discussion."  Because the report is filled with lots and lots of information, I likely will be reading and re-reading the draft nearly non-stop before I talk about the report in a few days.

The draft report, which is even longer and more data-heavy than I had expected, confirms my belief that this Taskforce report will greatly advancw public information and understanding as the debate over marijuana reform heats up in Ohio and nationwide in the months ahead.  Indeed, a letter from the Chair of the Marijuana Policies of Ohio Task Force, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, stresses this point at the front of the document:

The question of changing Ohio’s approach to marijuana policy may soon be put before voters – most likely on the November 2015 ballot. The rapid pace of change in marijuana policy across the country, however, has made it difficult to keep up with the experiences, research, and practices occurring in different states. Political arguments from all sides of this debate have made it even more challenging to separate fact from opinion.

As a county prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how ineffective, inefficient, and sometimes harmful, our current marijuana laws are, but I know that voters need more than my perspective – or that of any elected official – to make their decision. Ohio cannot afford to make decisions about marijuana policy and law based on unsubstantiated and often unsupported talk on both sides of the issue. Ohioans need and deserve an honest and in-depth assessment of the positive and negative impacts that ending marijuana prohibition may have, so they can make up their own minds.

It is this need for an honest, fact-based appraisal that led me to chair this Taskforce....

[T]his report does not endorse any issue or side, and it does not recommend Ohioans vote one way or another. Instead, it provides a straightforward collection and analysis of current research, data, and best practices from around the country.

I believe this report will give Ohioans the clear information they need to make informed decisions, in November and thereafter, about potential changes to Ohio’s marijuana policies and laws. I look forward to continuing this important discussion throughout Ohio in the coming weeks and months.

I am very excited to help lead a discussion of this report at the Moritz College of Law later this week. Importantly, there is no charge for attending the Symposium on June 11, but space in the auditorium can get limited so I highly encourage everyone interested in attending to pre-register via this webpage.

June 9, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 8, 2015

What an Ohio high school kid thinks about marijuana reform: "Marijuana legalization as viewed from the trenches of youth"

ImagesThe quoted portion of the title of this post is the headline of this interesting new commentary authored by Karina Baffa and published by cleveland.com. According to the piece, Ms. Baffa "graduated Monday from Fairview High School, in Fairview Park, where she researched the ramifications of marijuana legalization as part of a senior project."  The piece merits a full read, and here are some excerpts from the start and end of the piece:

As a recent high school graduate, I have seen the short- and long-term effects of marijuana from all aspects of my life. I believe that the opinions and viewpoints of our younger generation are vital when it comes to the decision to legalize marijuana.

Even though this drug has positive medical uses and effects, it is still a mind-altering drug that needs to be legally regulated and used responsibly when utilized for recreational purposes.

As a member of society, I believe the legalization of marijuana would implement a plethora of health and economic benefits. Studies portray a decrease in violence and aggressive behavior after someone smokes marijuana, as opposed to people intoxicated with alcohol, who can sometimes get violent and make poor decisions, causing thousands of deaths per year....

From my personal experiences, I can confidently assert that whether or not marijuana is illegal, anyone who wants to smoke it will do so. The use of marijuana, like practically anything, is bad only if you make it bad. The advantages that legalized marijuana would bring to today's society include more profit for business people and more revenue for government, reduced crime and violence, and a beneficial alternative to detrimental drugs that already are legal, such as cigarettes and alcohol.

Overall, from my viewpoint as a recent high school graduate, I strongly believe the legalization of marijuana would be a positive step.

Among the meta-stories I find notable from this piece is the simple fact that Ms. Baffa decided to, and her high school allowed here, to make study of the ramifications of marijuana legalization be part of an official senior project. I suspect just a few years ago, a public high school in Ohio would not have considered this a proper subject from study.

With this piece serving as kind of a sign of the times in Ohio, I am hopeful everyone interested in this topic within the state (including Ms. Baffa) is now making plans to attend the exciting Ohio Marijuana Reform Symposium taking place later this week at my own Moritz College of Law.  As described on this registration page, a notable set of speakers will be presenting and assessing on Thursday, June 11, 2015, on the campus of The Ohio State University the findings of a big new report about marijuana reform in the Buckeye State.

June 8, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Recent pot legalization ... has galvanized some to mix weed and sex to make some money."

Marijuana-turns-anyone-into-sex-craving-person-reefer-madness-1936The title of this post is from a sentence in this notable new OZY article, which is headlined "Getting Stoned, Getting Freaky." Here are some (amusing? prurient? silly?) excerpts:

[G]etting intimate while getting high is not exactly a 21st-century invention. Cannabis was used for a range of medicinal purposes more than 10 centuries ago in ancient India, including — you guessed it — as a turn-on trigger.  There are at least 18 variations of bhang, a grass-infused drink that was used as a sort of love potion in the ancient Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbi systems of medicine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  Some experts, like anthropologist Christian Rätsch in his book Plants of Love: The History of Aphrodisiacs and a Guide to Their Identification and Use, argue that weed was a central component to the sexual part of ancient Hindu and Buddhist Tantra, though it’s still up for debate how prominently it was featured.

And modern science hasn’t exactly cleared the haze when it comes to pot’s effect on sex. A flurry of studies in the 1980s found mixed results, with some noting that bud put a serious damper on sex while others found it lit a fire under the bed, according to Michael Castleman, a journalist who specializes in sexuality.  Research into the weed/sex tie-up went on hiatus until about a decade ago, when Canadian researchers picked up the torch and found that one-third of interviewees used weed specifically for its sex-enhancing properties, while another third said it “seldom” or “never” improved sex.  “It doesn’t work the same way for everybody,” warns Andrew Hathaway, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Guelph.

Today, weed can seem like one person’s magical cup of tea and not another’s because it’s not an objective aphrodisiac per se, says Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the most widely known marijuana researchers.  Marijuana doesn’t increase libido or sexual performance so much as it enhances the sensations of sex. Just like how food tastes better and music sounds better while stoned, Grinspoon says, “sex feels better.”  When he first started smoking in his 40s, it took Grinspoon a few tries to feel anything.  It finally struck him that he was high when he got into bed, he says. But nowadays getting stoned is a bit different given how much stronger the drug is.  Smoking too much can make someone fold in on themselves or become paranoid, which isn’t exactly the sexiest move.

Science be damned, weed-centric entrepreneurs are seemingly willing to try anything to make money in an industry that many are calling the Wild West.  Recent pot legalization in a number of U.S. states — the big vote in California happens during next year’s election — has galvanized some to mix weed and sex to make some money. There’s Foria, a well-received marijuana-infused sex lube for women, and more products are likely to follow.  Even some porn stars are cashing in by partnering with growers and having smoke sessions on live cams with fans, says Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist who has done extensive research on the adult entertainment industry.  Hell, there’s even an ad for a sex columnist “with weed focus.”

There’s obviously a lot more at stake here than making money.  Pro-weed activists promote weed as an immaculate aphrodisiac that can help deter date rape, since alcohol tends to lead to aggression while pot tends to have the opposite effect.  But critics warn the drug’s strength will lead to unsafe sex.  The reality, says Tyler Osterhaus, an anti-violence educator who has worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Sexual Violence Prevention Program, is somewhere in the middle.  He adds, however, that weed can certainly lower someone’s guard and make them vulnerable to sexual violence.

June 6, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Noting the impact of marijuana reform on the Colorado real estate market

This new CNN Money article, headlined "The pot effect on Denver's housing market," spotlights a notable economic impact that can be traced to marijuana reform. Here are excerpts:

Denver's housing market is on fire. Home prices have shot up by double-digits, inventory has fallen dramatically and multiple offers with bidding wars have become common.

One factor driving the demand: pot. The budding industry has impacted home prices since the state legalized marijuana in 2012. "There has been a huge bump in real estate prices due to the legalization of marijuana," according to James Paine, managing partner at West Realty Advisors. "It's massively pushed up raw land and industry prices."

In March, Denver experienced the second-largest jump in annual home prices at 10%, just behind San Francisco, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. While the legalization of marijuana isn't the only thing driving the market, it has contributed to job growth in the area that has people flocking to Denver.

"The pot industry is creating jobs we didn't have before," said Kelly Moye, a Re/Max real estate agent who has worked in the Denver area for 24 years. "It's brand new, it adds a whole new factor to the area; you have real estate needs, housing needs, job needs."

The industry has created jobs beyond growers and dispensaries. Legal marijuana has also been a boon for existing businesses like security and HVAC companies who service the new "green" businesses. "Electricians have grown from mom and pops to big-time electric companies," said J.P. Speers, an agent at ‎Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. Denver and its surrounding areas have also become a hot spot for the tech industry, adding to the job rush....

But there is the nagging question of just how long the real estate buzz will last. Moye said the market has room to run for five to seven years barring any major economic disasters. If more states legalize marijuana, that could also take away some of the state's luster. "We are going to continue to see an increase in population growth based on marijuana until other states start picking up recreational laws," said Speers.

June 4, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Former federal prosecutor: "Legal Marijuana Dealers -- And The Government -- Need Bankers And Lawyers"

The title of this post is drawn from the headline of this notable new Forbes commentary by Matthew L. Schwartz, who for a decade served as a federal prosecutor and is now partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner.  Here are excerpts from an important piece:

It is not unusual for legal marijuana businesses to become entangled in government investigations. Although it wasn’t my focus, as a former federal prosecutor I sometimes investigated unlawful drug trafficking organizations.  Following the drugs and money back to their source increasingly led to marijuana businesses in states that had legalized it.

In many cases, the “legal” marijuana business was knowingly involved in the unlawful distribution.  But on more than one occasion, legitimate marijuana businesses were victims of circumstance.  In one case, for example, a licensed grower in California had a handful of workers who were diverting a portion of the crop to a criminal organization.  In another case, a dispensary in Colorado was purchasing unlawfully-produced marijuana.  In both cases, the guilty were arrested and the innocent business owners were not, but the businesses were adversely affected – each was the subject of a government investigation, its premises were searched by law enforcement agents, and its bank accounts and property were subject to seizure....  Companies without stringent compliance programs are particularly at risk.

As a result, virtually every bank of any size has decided not to do business with legal marijuana companies, concluding that the so-called “regulatory risk” outweighs the benefits of doing business with them....  Major law firms, ever risk-averse, have also decided not to advise marijuana companies... [because] most major law firms have decided that the risk that they will be deemed an aider and abettor of criminal activity makes advising marijuana businesses untenable....

The lack of access to banks and lawyers is a problem not only for legal marijuana businesses, but for regulators and law enforcement, as well.   Though marijuana remains a controlled substance, legalized marijuana is a reality in many states – and arguably an inevitability, even at the federal level – and it is in the government’s interest for companies in that market to have robust compliance programs.  Likewise, the government has no desire for marijuana businesses to be conducted in cash: the use of cash makes it significantly harder for the government to trace the proceeds of the marijuana businesses, not to mention the fact that businesses that deal in large volumes of cash present opportunities for robbery and other crimes of violence.  But for marijuana money to be both traceable within the legitimate financial system and subject to stringent compliance programs – both within the marijuana businesses and at the institutions that handle their money – means having access to banks and lawyers....

Until marijuana businesses have regular access to the financial system and can turn to a broad array of sophisticated lawyers for counsel, they will remain half-way in the shadows. This is by no means an argument for legalizing marijuana; it doesn’t have to be legal for marijuana businesses to have access to professional services.  Last month, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act was introduced in the House of Representatives; among other things, it would prohibit banking regulators or criminal prosecutors from investigating or penalizing a financial institution for “providing financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business.” Congress could easily pass similar protections for lawyers. Doing so would recognize a basic proposition: when a bank or a lawyer provides services to a legal marijuana business, it is not helping that business to break the law. To the contrary, lawyers and banks – especially sophisticated and responsible ones – help businesses to comply with the law. That helps the marijuana business and government alike.

June 1, 2015 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 (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Terrific NBC coverage of African Americans and the modern marijuana industry

Black_and_green_slate2_2d6258b7ff6757fd04ca12d1dd45030a.nbcnews-ux-840-480Regular readers likely already know that I find extra interesting and important the intersection of marijuana reform and civil rights and social justice issues.  Consequently, I have been especially pleased to see that that NBC has been running a number of article under the banner "Black & Green, A Series About African Americans & the Marijuana Industry."  This piece, headlined "Post-Legalization Many African Americans 'Just Say No' To Marijuana Industry," is the latest in the series, and it gets started this way:

It's not surprising that many African Americans are leery about cashing in on the legal cannabis industry. Numerous reports show that the black community continues to pay a high price for it in the criminal justice system even where marijuana is legal.

A 2013 ACLU report noted that on average, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person," even though blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates." Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small black populations, concluded the report, touted as the first to examine marijuana possession arrest rates by race for all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) and their respective counties from 2001 to 2010.

"There's more of a negative stigma surrounding this industry — the [cannabis] culture and religion [in the black community] plays a heavy factor," says Lakisha Jenkins, president of the California Cannabis Industry Association, which has been a part of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) since 2013. The Washington D.C.-based non-profit organization billed as the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S., has formed a committee focused on figuring out ways to draw more people of color to the industry. "Since we're the ones who've been incarcerated [the most for marijuana possession and use] it makes it rather difficult [for some people of color] to see it as a positive and viable industry," says Jenkins, a committee member.

Here are the other notable piece in the series so far: 

Part I: Six Reasons African Americans Aren't Breaking Into Cannabis Industry

Part II: Capitalizing On Cannabis: Meet Colorado's Black 'Potrepreneurs'

Part III: Green Chips: African American Investment in Marijuana Marketplace

May 26, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Oregon's big marijuana harvests: How do you bring all that pot into the legal market?"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting local article noting that Oregon already had a robust marijuana production market before it legalized the product via voter initiative last year.  Here is how it gets started:

More than any state that has legalized marijuana, Oregon is a champion when it comes to producing the drug. Seth Crawford, a marijuana policy researcher at Oregon State University, estimates the state grows three to five times the 150,000 pounds or so consumed by Oregon pot users -- a crop potentially worth more than any other single agricultural commodity in the state.

A report from a Seattle venture capital firm specializing in pot says the state's legally allowed producers – those who grow for medical marijuana patients – harvest enough to meet the needs not only of patients in Oregon but in Washington, Colorado and Arizona as well.

"We've got plenty of supply," says Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and a member of the committee overseeing implementation of the pot legalization initiative. He wholeheartedly endorsed the common quip that Oregon is the "Saudi Arabia of marijuana."

As a result, the legislative debate over how to implement the November initiative that legalized recreational marijuana has revolved around how to turn this thriving – if often illegal -- industry into an economic and societal success story. The abundance of the state's marijuana crop is driving some of the biggest decisions that legislators face, from how strictly to regulate medical marijuana growers to whether to put a sales tax on pot despite the state's historic hostility to such taxes.

A growing number of legislators on the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 say they want to start retail sales as early as possible to entice growers into the legal market. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which Measure 91 charged with regulating the recreational marijuana market, says it probably won't be ready to allow retail outlets to open until fall of 2016.

But key lawmakers on the marijuana committee say they are seriously looking at allowing the sale of at least smokable pot starting Oct. 1 at existing medical marijuana dispensaries. "There are already well-established black-market channels," says Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland and the co-chair of the Measure 91 committee, "and we need to make this (legal) market as appealing to people as possible."

Burdick has been a particularly strong champion of legislation putting stricter limits on the size of medical marijuana growing operations, saying she wants to channel larger and more commercially minded producers into the recreational market.

Oregon has nearly 35,000 registered grow sites, according to the latest Oregon Health Authority records, but three-quarters serve just one or two patients, each of whom can have up to six plants grown for them. Nearly 400 sites grow for at least 10 patients and account for much of Oregon's marijuana crop.

The heart of the industry is in southern Oregon, where growers have plenty of sun and rural isolation. "You can't compete with the quantity and quality produced in southern Oregon," says Crawford, the OSU expert who has extensively researched the area's marijuana culture. He says many growers have been producing pot for decades, perfecting their strains and earning a supplemental income for their family.

May 24, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

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

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

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

Excerpt:  

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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