Friday, September 15, 2017
In preparation for coming reforms, UMass to study marijuana use in Bay State before start of recreational sales
As reported in this press release, as "Massachusetts prepares to begin sales of recreational marijuana in 2018, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health (DPH), have begun a one-year baseline study to assess the level of marijuana use before legal, recreational sales go into effect." Here is more:
The investigation will be funded by a $275,000 contract from DPH as part of the DPH Marijuana Baseline Health Study to provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving. They will also look at outcomes such as marijuana-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities. Public health professors Rosa Rodríguez-Monguió and Jennifer Whitehill will lead the research at SPHHS.
David Buchanan, SPHHS chair of health promotion and policy, helped to organize two forums last year for Massachusetts lawmakers to hear about impacts of legalization in Colorado and Washington State. He says that agency directors in both states strongly recommend pre/post studies to evaluate the impact. After the forums, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana unanimously recommended that a baseline study be conducted in Massachusetts, and it was later mandated as part of legislation passed in December 2016 that tweaked the ballot question passed by the voters.
As part of the baseline study, Whitehill and Rodríguez-Monguió have designed a statewide survey plus other studies that will complement the efforts of investigators from DPH, John Snow, Inc., Mathematica Policy Research, and the UMass Donahue Institute. Findings from the various lines of investigation will be presented to a legislative committee in July 2018.
Rodríguez-Monguió says one question to be addressed with the collection of new survey data is whether increased marijuana availability leads to increased use of other substances, particularly alcohol and prescription drugs, or whether marijuana use might serve as a substitute for prescription drugs and other substances. The UMass Amherst team will also analyze several existing national and state databases to explore associations between recreational marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug use, and involvement in fatal car crashes and calls to poison control.
Deputy AG Rosenstein hints about lingering concerns about sticking with Cole memo federal prosecution policies
As reported in this Forbes piece by Tom Angell, the "Trump administration is continuing to weigh whether or not to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference, the Justice Department's number two official said on Thursday." Here is more:
"We are reviewing that policy. We haven't changed it, but we are reviewing it. We're looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "And I think there is some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it's more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states," he said.
Under the so-called "Cole Memo," named after the former Obama Justice Department official who authored it in 2013, the federal government set out certain criteria that, if followed, would allow states to implement their own laws mostly without intervention. Those criteria concern areas like youth use, impaired driving and interstate trafficking.
In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime legalization opponent, directed a Justice Department task force to review the memo and make recommendations for possible changes. But that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force's report to the attorney general.
In his new remarks, Rosenstein expressed concern that people are misinterpreting the still-in-effect memo. "That's been perceived in some places almost as if it creates a safe harbor, but it doesn't. And it's clear that it doesn't," he said. "That is, even if, under the terms of the memo you're not likely to be prosecuted, it doesn't mean that what you're doing is legal or that it's approved by the federal government or that you protected from prosecution in the future."...
Citing ongoing federal prohibition laws, Rosenstein said, "Marijuana is illegal, and it's a controlled substance and there are no authorized uses for it, with very limited exceptions for research approved by DEA." Without saying when a decision or announcement might be made, he said that the administration will "take that all into consideration and then make a determination whether or not to revise that policy."
September 15, 2017 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)
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming article authored by Beau Kilmer and Robert MacCoun which is soon to be published in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. Here is its abstract:
Public support for legalizing marijuana use increased from 25% in 1995 to 60% in 2016, rising in lockstep with support for same-sex marriage. Between November 2012 and November 2016, voters in eight states passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana sales for nonmedical purposes—covering one-fifth of the US population. These changes are unprecedented but are not independent of the changes in medical marijuana laws that have occurred over the past 20 years. This article suggests five ways in which the passage and implementation of medical marijuana laws smoothed the transition to nonmedical legalization in the United States: (a) They demonstrated the efficacy of using voter initiatives to change marijuana supply laws, (b) enabled the psychological changes needed to destabilize the “war on drugs” policy stasis, (c) generated an evidence base that could be used to downplay concerns about nonmedical legalization, (d) created a visible and active marijuana industry, and (e) revealed that the federal government would allow state and local jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from marijuana.
September 13, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard and Jeffrey Miron. Here is its abstract:
By the end of 2016, 28 states had liberalized their marijuana laws: by decriminalizing possession, by legalizing for medical purposes, or by legalizing more broadly. More states are considering such policy changes even while supporters and opponents continue to debate their impacts. Yet evidence on these liberalizations remains scarce, in part due to data limitations.
We use data from Monitoring the Future’s annual surveys of high school seniors to evaluate the impact of marijuana liberalizations on marijuana use, other substance use, alcohol consumption, attitudes surrounding substance use, youth health outcomes, crime rates, and traffic accidents. These data have several advantages over those used in prior analyses.
We find that marijuana liberalizations have had minimal impact on the examined outcomes. Notably, many of the outcomes predicted by critics of liberalizations, such as increases in youth drug use and youth criminal behavior, have failed to materialize in the wake of marijuana liberalizations.
September 12, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 11, 2017
In this recent post, I noted that last week the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released here some key data from its 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The SAMSHA data showing decreases in teen marijuana use garnered considerable attention, and rightly so because so many are concerned about when marijuana reforms might mean for marijuana activity by those with still developing brains.
The SAMSHA data covers a lot more than teen usage, and Christopher Ingraham has this new Washington Post piece about a trend in the data concerning adult marijuana use. His piece is headlined "Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about," and here are excerpts:
[NSDUH has data on] the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.
In 2016, nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year. That figure's up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.
Again, this on its own is not necessarily cause for concern. It's possible to smoke marijuana moderately on a daily basis — half a joint to wind down after a day of work, akin to the ubiquitous glass of wine with dinner, for instance. But the comparison with alcohol is instructive here. According to the federal survey data, marijuana users are far more likely to use daily than drinkers are to drink daily.... In a given year, lots of people drink — but relatively few of them drink every day. That's not true for marijuana. Marijuana users are nearly three times as likely as drinkers to consume their drug of choice daily.
Some of that daily marijuana use is probably inherently moderate and nothing to be concerned about. But public health researchers worry that much of it is a result of problematic use — drug dependency. "While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure, marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users," as Carnegie Mellon University researcher Jonathan Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.
The question, then, becomes how best to address the risks of chronic, heavy marijuana use. Keeping pot illegal is not likely to solve things — after all, the charts above show that daily marijuana use was rising well before the first states legalized the drug in 2014. Legalization advocates say that bringing the drug out in the open and regulating it is the best way to go. They point to tobacco as an example: Tobacco use, including heavy use, has fallen precipitously in the past two decades as a result of public health campaigns and greater stigma around use of the drug — all of which was accomplished without throwing people in jail for using it.
Public-health experts, meanwhile, are increasingly calling for a balance between the extremes of prohibition and commercialization — "grudging toleration," as New York University professor Mark Kleiman puts it. As a Rand Corp. report outlined last year, there are a whole host of options for dealing with the marijuana market, from allowing people to grow marijuana but not sell it, to giving the government a monopoly in marijuana sales, to more esoteric options like allowing nonprofit co-ops to control the supply of the drug.
The good news is that as laws relax around marijuana use, we're running real-world experiments in how some of those options actually work. In the United States, we have a handful of fully commercial markets, like the ones in Colorado and Washington. We also have noncommercial legalization for homegrown marijuana in the District. In Canada, meanwhile, it appears that the province of Ontario will experiment with implementing a government monopoly on the drug starting in July of next year.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable extended commentary appearing at the Heath Affairs Blog authored by Rebecca Haffajee, Alex Liber, and Kenneth Warner. Here are excerpts:
Those crafting marijuana laws can draw upon lessons learned about the harms of combusted tobacco and the smoking control policies that followed. Given what we already know about the health hazards of combusted marijuana and the difficulty of controlling the sale of commercially established products, policy makers should capitalize on this opportunity to create a legal marijuana market that mitigates potentially significant harms associated with inhaling combusted marijuana while still facilitating desired benefits of recreational marijuana....
Combustible marijuana likely poses similar risks to those of combustible tobacco, while vaporizing or eating marijuana products offers a “cleaner” delivery mechanism. Why repeat the devastating public health harms of smoking tobacco when policy makers can reasonably mitigate similar consequences of smoking marijuana?...
In a recent comprehensive review of the scientific literature, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that “smoked marijuana…is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.” The report and other reviews found strong evidence linking combusted marijuana to increased risk for chronic bronchitis....
Edible and vaporized marijuana products offer the potential to deliver therapeutic and euphoric benefits of marijuana while avoiding cardiopulmonary-related harms of combustion. Although precise estimates of the decreased risks associated with this substitution are not available, by analogy the health risks for smokeless and vaporized tobacco products are estimated to be roughly 90 percent less than those of combusted tobacco.
Valid concerns have been raised about the potential health harms from commercially marketed edibles, especially their attractiveness to, accessibility by, and increasing exposure and overdoses among children. We strongly support prohibitions on the sale of marijuana products — including edibles — to minors, clearly labeling product THC content and requiring child-proof packaging. Additionally, if marijuana is only legally available for sale in forms that do not resemble cigarettes, children may be less likely to cross over between products....
Policy makers in jurisdictions considering legalization are not bound by custom to make available all forms of marijuana for recreational use. Little prior interstate commerce of legal marijuana products exists, and most states have yet to legalize recreational use. The environment is ripe to experiment with different types of markets, and entrepreneurial policy makers could embark on implementing a safer legal marijuana market that omits combustibles, based on our current and developing knowledge.
While uncertainty still exists regarding the relative harms of different marijuana products and robust research is warranted, waiting for perfect scientific consensus about the scope and nature of harms related to marijuana combustion is unwise. The evidence base around marijuana combustion harms is already strong, and growing. Arriving at total consensus will take decades — as it took to link cigarettes to lung cancer — and waiting to embark on an alternative, very likely safer policy regime has real costs, measured in disease and death. Permitting the sale of THC extracts for consumption in edible or vaporized form will neither compromise therapeutic nor euphoric benefits of recreational marijuana use. In addition, creating variation in recreational marijuana policy regimes — between those already enacted that permit marijuana combustion and those enacted in the future that don’t — would create natural experiments ripe to study the differential effects and quantify harms versus benefits. Policy makers in favor of legalization should seize the opportunity to design a new market that permits recreational sale of marijuana only in edible or vaporized form, to minimize the potential for the kind of disease burden associated with smoked tobacco.
September 10, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), which serves as a chief research arm for Washington’s legislature in Olympia, has been been tasked with assessing the costs and benefits of marijuana legalization in the state. It is required to produce reports in 2015, 2017, 2022, and 2032. The first 2015 WSIPP report, blogged about here, largely said it was too early to start reaching any conclusions about the impact of legalization. This second 2017 WSIPP report, released this past week, is similarly cautious about reaching firm conclusions about the impact of the state's initiative providing for marijuana legalization, the the report does have this useful summary of findings:
Our outcome analyses were designed to identify causal effects of I-502. However, I-502 is a multi-faceted law that may affect outcomes through a variety of mechanisms including changes to criminal prohibitions; the creation of a regulated cannabis supply system; and investments in substance abuse prevention, treatment, and research. The findings we present in this report are only one portion of a larger body of work designed to address multiple aspects of the law.
In these initial investigations, we found no evidence that I-502 enactment, on the whole, affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions. Further, within Washington State, we found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions.
The bulk of outcome analyses in this report used the within-state approach to focus on identifying effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales. We found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected youth substance use or attitudes about cannabis or drug-related criminal convictions.
We did find evidence that higher levels of retail cannabis sales affected adult cannabis use in certain subgroups of the population. BRFSS respondents 21 and older who lived in counties with higher levels of retail cannabis sales were more likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days and heavy use of cannabis in the past 30 days. We also found two effects that are difficult to interpret. Among the portion of the population aged 18 to 21, BRFSS respondents living in counties with higher sales were less likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days, in some analyses. It may be that legal cannabis sales have made cannabis more difficult to access by persons below the legal age, for instance, by reducing black market supply through competition.
We also found that in the portion of the BRFSS sample who smoked cigarettes, respondents living in counties with higher levels of legal cannabis sales were less likely to report past-month cannabis use. It is particularly difficult to explain why increased sales would lead to lower cannabis use among cigarette smokers.
We look forward to updating these results with additional data to see if these effects persist.
Though not mentioned in this summary, the report reveals a notable decline in marijuana-specific criminal charges in the wake of the legalization vote in Washington. And, not to be overlooked, Washington now has a significant job sector and tax revenue stream as a result of legalization. It seems this WSIPP report was much more focused on changes in marijuana use than in other impacts, which strikes me as the reason why this report creates the impression that there is not much to report.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Earlier this week, the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz released this notable discussion brief titled, “The Marijuana Gateway Fallacy.” This short report covers a lot of marijuana reform ground outside the arena of "gateway drug" discourse, but here is one passage from the report on that front highlighting that we still hear "gateway" talk from politicians on both sides of the political aisle:
There are alternative explanations to the gateway hypothesis for why most users of dangerous drugs report the use of marijuana. The Common Liability Model posits that the use of multiple drugs reflects a common risk for drug use, rather than the use of one drug increasing the risk of using other. This may arise from common genetic predispositions, psychosocial factors, drug availability, and opportunity to use. Availability is linked to the age of an individual. Because of the relative ease of obtaining alcohol and marijuana in the home (compared with cocaine and heroin), youth interested in drug experimentation are likely to try these first.
In 2016, the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) — while not fully rejecting the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug—concluded that, given the evidence to date, “further research is needed to explore this question.” Shortly after NIDA released this determination, D.A.R.E. quietly removed marijuana from its publicized list of gateway drugs.
Yet, non-evidence-based political factors on both the left and the right remain the reason for the persistence of the gateway myth. In 2015, Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor and former Republican presidential candidate is quoted as saying, “Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country, and we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement.”
In Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, both Democrats, and Republican Governor Charlie Baker formed a coalition opposing legalization of recreational marijuana. Mayor Walsh said “You’ll hear the other side say that marijuana is not a gateway drug. If you know anyone in the recovery community, talk to them… You’ll hear that most of them, many of them started with marijuana.” Speaker DeLeo added that it would be hypocritical to support legalization of marijuana while fighting the opioid abuse epidemic. When talking about legalization of the medical use of marijuana in Florida, her state, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said about marijuana policy: “I just don’t think we should legalize more mind altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs.”
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this new Wonkblog analysis authored by Keith Humphreys at The Washington Post. Here is how it starts and ends:
All the diverse effects of legalizing recreational marijuana may not be clear for a number of years, but one consequence has become evident almost immediately: Pot has never been so cheap. Steven Davenport of the Pardee Rand Graduate School has analyzed marijuana retail prices in Washington state since legal recreational markets opened in July 2014. Remarkably, prices have fallen every single quarter since....
The ongoing decline in marijuana’s price after legalization has an important implication for drug policy more generally. The experience of Washington and other marijuana legalization states demonstrates how enormously effective prohibition of production and sale is at raising drug prices. For example heroin’s price took a decade to fall by 16 percent, which the legalization of marijuana accomplished in just eight months. Notably, even high taxes on legal marijuana don’t keep the legal price anywhere near what it was when the drug was more broadly illegal.
Prohibition imposes huge costs on drug producing industries that are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. These higher prices are one of the principal reasons (the others being stigma and fear of punishment) that illegal drugs are used so much less frequently than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana is a rare example where we can see the impact of legalizing a drug in real time, which shows that were the production and sale of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine also legalized, those drugs would also become dramatically cheaper to consume.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
The folks at Marijuana Business Daily have recently put together a two-part series on state-level marijuana reform efforts likely to be making headlines in 2018. Part I looks at initiative campaigns, and Part II is focused on legislature-driven efforts:
"Multiple 2018 marijuana legalization campaigns already underway" discusses ballot campaigns afoot in Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.
"Which state legislatures could legalize recreational, medical marijuana in 2018?" discusses New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont as possible recreational legalization states, and Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Texas as (mostly-long-)shots for medical marijuana reforms.
Though all of these potential reform states are interesting to watch, I think Michigan and New Jersey could prove to be especially important states for the future of recreational marijuana reforms nationwide. (I also believe they are the states in which reform right now seems the most likely.)
Michigan is a state that went for Prez Trump along with other rust-belt states, and it seems certain to be an important state in the 2020 Prez campaign. A vote in favor of full legalization in Michigan in 2018 could immediately impact how would-be 2020 Prez candidates talk about state marijuana reforms.
New Jersey not only could be the first state to embrace recreational marijuana reforms through the traditional legislative process, but it also could have a marijuana industry that serves huge population centers ranging from New York City to Philadelphia to even Baltimore and Washington DC. With probably a quarter of the nation's population less than an afternoon's drive from some part of New Jersey, a decision by the Garden State to start legalizing the gardening of marijuana for recreational purposes surely could have all sorts of national echoes.
September 3, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Jessica Owley now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Article explores the tension between land conservation and marijuana cultivation in the context of legalization. The legalization of marijuana has shifted the locations of marijuana cultivation and with that shift comes environmental and land-use implications. Investigating commercial-scale marijuana cultivation, this Article details how, in some ways, legalization can reduce environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation while also examining tricky issues regarding tensions between protected lands and marijuana cultivation.
Legalization of marijuana has brought its production out of the federal forests and individuals’ basements and closets and into large-scale agricultural production. In some ways, the legitimation of the process makes it less likely to be environmentally destructive. If we treat cultivation of marijuana the same as we treat cultivation of other agricultural crops, we gain stricter regulation of the growing process, including limits on pesticide usage, water pollution, wetland conversion, air pollution, and local land-use laws. Thus, it appears that legalization of marijuana yields an environmental benefit. And yet the story is, of course, more complicated than that. The strange status of marijuana as both a federally impermissible use and a stigmatized crop suggest that it will not fall under the same legal regimes as other agricultural products.
The Article reaches two main conclusions. First, in the absence of federal regulations, subnational governments must create and implement environmental and land use regulations governing the cultivation of marijuana to ensure the legal grows do not continue the harmful practices involved with black market marijuana. Second, land trusts and agricultural protection organizations should not become involved with marijuana cultivation in any form while it remains illegal at the federal level. To do so puts both the land and their operations at risk.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
New SAM report, asserting legalization states "have not fulfilled the requirements of the Cole Memo," urges federal law enforcement to target big players in marijuana industry
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the leading public policy group advocating against most state-level marijuana reforms, has released today this new report titled "The Cole Memo: 4 Years Later: Status Report on State Compliance of Federal Marijuana Enforcement Policy." Here are parts of this SAM report's introduction and conclusion:
On August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidelines to Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials regarding where to focus their drug enforcement efforts in states that have passed laws legalizing the retail sales of marijuana. The so-called “Cole Memo” directs enforcement officials to focus resources, including prosecutions, “on persons and organizations whose conduct interferes with any one or more of [eight] priorities, regardless of state law.”...
According to the Department of Justice, the Federal “hands-off” approach to marijuana enforcement enumerated in the Cole Memo is contingent on its expectation that “states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests. A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper, it must also be effective in practice.”
Unfortunately, since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational sale of marijuana in 2012, evidence has emerged that regulations intended to control the sale and use of marijuana have failed to meet the promises made by advocates for legalization. For example, states with legal marijuana are seeing an increase in drugged driving crashes and youth marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana are also failing to shore up state budget shortfalls with marijuana taxes, continuing to see a thriving illegal black market, and are experiencing an unabated sales of alcohol, despite campaign promises from advocates promising that marijuana would be used as a “safer” alternative instead.
Moreover, state regulatory frameworks established post-legalization have failed to meet each of the specific DOJ requirements on controlling recreational marijuana production, distribution, and use. While long-term studies and research on the public health and safety impacts of marijuana legalization are ongoing, this report provides a partial census of readily available information that demonstrates how Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State - the jurisdictions with the most mature regulatory markets and schemes - have not fulfilled the requirements of the Cole Memo....
Federal resources should target the big players in the marijuana industry. Individual marijuana users should not be targeted or arrested, but large-scale marijuana businesses, several of which now boast of having raised over $100 million in capital, and their financial backers, should be a priority. These large businesses are pocketing millions by flouting federal law, deceiving Americans about the risks of their products, and targeting the most vulnerable. They should not have access to banks, where their financial prowess would be expanded significantly, nor should they be able to advertise or commercialize marijuana....
These large marijuana operations, which combine the tactics of Big Tobacco with black marketeering, should form the focus of federal law enforcement, not individual users. At the same time, the federal government along with non-government partners should implement a strong, evidence-based marijuana information campaign, similar to the truth® campaign for tobacco, which alerts all Americans about the harms of marijuana and the deceitful practices of the marijuana industry.
August 30, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning 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)
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Alex Kreit now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
As more states proceed with marijuana legalization laws, questions have arisen about how to accommodate those states that wish to retain prohibition. For instance, in 2014, Oklahoma and Nebraska unsuccessfully sued Colorado based on the spillover effects that Colorado’s marijuana legalization law had on its neighboring states. This article asserts that there are several reasons why state marijuana legalization laws are unlikely to have a large effect on neighboring states.
First, marijuana is not a previously unobtainable good being introduced into the stream of commerce, as it is already available through the black market inexpensively. Second, legalization laws have a number of restrictions that make it very difficult for sellers to profit from exporting legally produced marijuana across state lines. Prohibition states may have reason to worry, however, that illegal marijuana growers will be better able to hide their operations in legalization states that allow residents to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use, which in turn may increase illegal marijuana exports to neighboring prohibition states. Prohibition states can minimize this risk of increased marijuana flow by lobbying the federal government to establish rules that protect their interests.
August 30, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable Cato Institute Capitol Hill Briefing slated for September. Here is how the event is described from the Cato website:
Featuring Tom Garrett (R-VA-05), U.S. Congressman; Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University; Trevor Burrus, Research Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute; moderated by Jonathan Blanks, Research Associate, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute.
The legal sale of recreational marijuana remains limited to a handful of states, but 29 states plus the District of Columbia allow the prescription and distribution of medical marijuana. Ten of those states — which represent 115 electoral votes — went for President Trump in the 2016 election. National polling shows that just over half of Americans favor marijuana legalization, but a much larger majority want the federal government to leave marijuana alone in states where it is legal.
While candidate Trump promised to protect medical marijuana on the campaign trail, President Trump’s Justice Department wants to be more aggressive against state-legal marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Ultimately, Congress holds the reins on the Department of Justice’s ability to enforce particular provisions of the CSA and determines which substances should be under federal control.
While marijuana decriminalization is often thought to be a Democrat-friendly topic, some of the best arguments for federal recognition of state marijuana policy rest in traditional Republican values of federalism, deference to local policy choices, and a limited federal government. Moreover, businesses that have no direct ties to cannabis cultivation or distribution like banks and financial institutions can benefit from clear federal rules that tolerate state-legal marijuana transactions.
Join us for a lunchtime discussion to explore several ways Congress can reshape federal marijuana policy in a manner that is more consistent both with public opinion and the conservative values of limited government, federalism, and local policymaking.
August 29, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, August 28, 2017
In this post from way back in December 2016, I suggested it could prove legally and practically difficult for the incoming Trump Administration to go aggressively after state-level marijuana reforms. The post was titled "why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive," and it outlined some challenges that might arise were the Trump Department of Justice to try to bring back an era of national federal pot prohibition enforcement by executive fiat. This post's title, which is much more catchy than my Dec 2016 title, comes from the headline of this lengthy BuzzFeed News piece by Dominic Holden. This BuzzFeed piece covers more effectively and systematically some of the issues and forces I had in mind back in December, and here are highlights:
Donald Trump said three times while campaigning that pot legalization should be left “up to the states.” But after five weeks in the White House, his former press secretary, Sean Spicer, announced that recreational marijuana — which was legalized by eight states without resulting in a crackdown by the Obama administration — has zero leeway under federal law. “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer told the press corps.
Since then, lots of conventional wisdom says the White House can — and probably will — try to shut down America’s pot experiment. That wisdom looked particularly valid given that Trump’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has sharpened the attacks. He said in February that distributing pot remains illegal “whether a state legalizes it or not,” and turned the screws in March by warning federal prohibition “applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws.”...
How, exactly, the Trump administration will approach this is TBD. The Justice Department is currently considering its options. At any time, though, Sessions and Trump could begin raids in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington state — where thousands of state-licensed pot businesses are already operating in the open. The administration could then argue in court that even issuing pot licenses is superseded by federal law.
Raiding farms and stores may seem simple, at first, but unlike federal pot busts in past years, targeting regulated state systems would present new legal disputes over states' rights. BuzzFeed News' interviews with law enforcement, former federal prosecutors, state officials, and conservative leaders show a crackdown would give rise to a hydra that pulls Trump into logistical, political, and legal traps — replicating his most humiliating setbacks like the travel ban (legal) and Obamacare (political).
Not only is legalization unprecedentedly popular, a crackdown has grown even more unpopular — and Trump would be destroying jobs in rural districts that voted for him. Possibly most damaging for Trump, though, is that he can’t fully win, because state decriminalization of marijuana cannot be completely stopped. “They have very limited tools, and I think none of them would be successful,” Jenny Durkan, who served as US attorney in Washington state in 2012 when legalization took hold there, told BuzzFeed News. “I just don’t think they can stick the genie back in the bottle.”
There are several paths Trump could take if he wanted to try anyway. Here's why each one would be difficult, or even impossible.
1. Trump can’t bust all the legal pot businesses because there are way too many already. ...
2. If Trump were to even threaten pot businesses, he would still end up in brutal court battles. ...
3. Even if Trump only makes a few busts, the states will get involved and fight Trump, too. ...
4. Trying to overturn state legalization laws themselves would be difficult and time-consuming — and could still fail. ...
5. Fighting long legal battles would be unpopular for Trump, and it would grow more toxic by the day. ...
6. Trump could never stop people from using and growing pot with impunity, even if he won in court. ...
The reporting and analysis in this article merits considerable attention, but I want to put a bit of extra emphasis and spin on the key final point. Though aggressive enforcement actions and successful lawsuits would not enable federal officials to fully "beat pot," the feds still could bring down much of the modern commercial marijuana industry. (And, importantly, there are even some folks supportive of marijuana reform who are not so supportive of the modern commercial marijuana industry.) I continue to believe a new federal weed war remains unlikely, but I also believe there will be notable casualties is such a war still gets waged in some capacity in the coming months.
August 28, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (5)
Saturday, August 26, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this big long article Denver Post article exploring marijuana reform's impact on roadway safety. Here are excerpts:
The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show. A Denver Post analysis of the data and coroner reports provides the most comprehensive look yet into whether roads in the state have become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization.
Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes in Front Range counties, according to coroner data since 2013 compiled by The Denver Post. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law, and one was at 22 times the limit. Levels were not as elevated in earlier years.
Last year, all of the drivers who survived and tested positive for marijuana use had the drug at levels that indicated use within a few hours of being tested, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, which compiles information for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
The trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014. Colorado transportation and public safety officials, however, say the rising number of pot-related traffic fatalities cannot be definitively linked to legalized marijuana. Positive test results reflected in the NHTSA data do not indicate whether a driver was high at the time of the crash since traces of marijuana use from weeks earlier also can appear as a positive result.
But police, victims’ families and safety advocates say the numbers of drivers testing positive for marijuana use — which have grown at a quicker rate than the increase in pot usage in Colorado since 2013 — are rising too quickly to ignore and highlight the potential dangers of mixing pot with driving....
Estimates vary for how much marijuana use has increased in Colorado since legalization. Surveys by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that use within 30 days rose from about 12 percent of Colorado adults in 2013 to 17 percent in 2015, a 42 percent increase. But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment published a survey last year putting adult use at 13 percent in 2015, indicating a slower rate of growth.
The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015, FARS data show. The numbers are not strictly comparable as the usage estimates would take into account Colorado’s population growth rate of roughly 1.8 percent a year....
Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it’s detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities. Even coroners who occasionally test for the drug bicker over whether to include pot on a driver’s death certificate. “No one’s really sure of the broad impact because not all the drivers are tested, yet people are dying,” said Montrose County Coroner Dr. Thomas Canfield. “It’s this false science that marijuana is harmless, … but it’s not, particularly when you know what it does to your time and depth perception, and the ability to understand and be attentive to what’s around you.”...
The trends in the state appear nearly identical in Washington state, where recreational marijuana was legalized at about the same time. Officials there have been tracking the drug’s impact on driving much more carefully and for a longer period, statistics show. What Washingtonians have been seeing is starting to be revealed here: “Drug-impaired driving is now eclipsing alcohol, and that’s frustrating,” said Darrin Grondel, director of Washington’s Traffic Safety Commission, which is gathering and studying the data.
However, Colorado’s understanding is due to deepen. The legislature last session passed House Bill 1315, which mandates a vigorous analysis of traffic fatalities statewide and the extent to which marijuana and other drugs are involved and prosecuted. As part of that project, state police have re-analyzed about a third of blood samples taken from suspected drunk drivers in 2015 and, according to a person familiar with that project, found that more than three in five also tested positive for active THC.
Coroners and police say they have no idea just how many drivers – dead or alive – have active THC in their system because so few of them are tested for it in the first place. Colorado’s Department of Public Safety in March 2016 said barely half of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were tested for drugs – and 81 percent of the ones tested were dead. That has remained relatively unchanged since 2012, when 45 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes were tested. That’s because Colorado’s DUI laws are such that a positive reading for alcohol impairment quickly results in a suspended license. Not so for marijuana....
Transportation officials are concerned not only with pot-related fatalities but with the overall rise in traffic deaths. While CDOT doesn’t see the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes as “a reliable measurement,” preferring metrics such as the number of actual crashes and fatalities, it does note that those are also on the rise. The reason, said CDOT’s Cole, is probably due in part to an increase in motorcycle fatalities, pedestrian deaths, cellphone use — and marijuana.
Friday, August 25, 2017
As noted in this prior post, last month US Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent letters to the leaders of states with recreational marijuana laws detailing troublesome data that, in the words of these letters, raised "serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana 'regulatory structures'." And, as reported in this prior post, last week Washington set a forceful response to AG Sessions. This week, as reported here by HuffPost, Colorado sent its response in the form of this detailed five-page missive. (Alaska and Oregon have also responded forcefully to the Sessions latter, but Colorado and Washington seem to me the most important states to watch because they have the most mature marijuana industries and the longest-in-place regulatory regimes.) Here is part of the HuffPost summary of the letter:
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) mounted a vigorous defense of their state’s legalized and regulated marijuana program Thursday, replying to a critical letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was directed at states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.
Hickenlooper and Coffman, in a response letter dated Thursday, tell Sessions that their state’s numerous marijuana laws and regulations are “effective.” They said the regulations work smoothly to prevent diversion of the drug outside of the state, block marijuana use by minors and protect the public’s safety and health. The pair also encourage the federal government to work with the state to “fortify” the robust program that it has already built....
“The State of Colorado has worked diligently to implement the will of our citizens and build a comprehensive regulatory and enforcement system that prioritizes public safety and public health,” the Colorado letter reads. “When abuses and unintended consequences materialize, the state has acted quickly to address any resulting harms. While our system has proven to be effective, we are constantly evaluating and seeking to strengthen our approach to regulation and enforcement.”
The Colorado officials detailed statistics that the state provided to the Department of Justice in a report in July, a document HuffPost obtained and previously reported on earlier this month, to back up their argument that state-level legalization of marijuana is effective.
Prior related posts:
- Effective review of back-and-forth between AG Sessions and legalization states over marijuana policies
- Washington Gov and state AG respond forcefully to letter from AG Sessions about marijuana reform concerns
August 25, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning 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)
Thursday, August 24, 2017
The folks at Third Way have this notable new publication titled "America’s Marijuana Evolution." Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the ground covered in this piece, but it still makes for an interesting read based on how legal and policy changes are discussed. Here is one excerpt focused on state laws and political developments:
A detailed analysis of the ten states to most recently legalize medical marijuana legislatively finds that most bills passed with large majorities, regardless of the party controlling the chamber. In nine of those ten states, the measure passed with at least 60% of the vote in the lower chamber of the state legislature. And in all but Ohio, the upper house voted in favor of legalization with at least 58% of the vote. In several states, the bills passed with more than 80% or even 90% approval—making it clear that medical legalization on the state level has gained wide support across the ideological spectrum.
Marijuana is even less of a partisan issue on the state level than on the federal level, though Democratic policymakers at all levels of government remain more supportive of reform than Republicans. In every single one of the ten states to most recently legalize legislatively, the majority passing the bill through each chamber of the state legislature was bipartisan. And while in nine of those ten states the Governor signing the bill into law was a Democrat, in the three most recent — Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — both chambers of the state legislature were controlled by Republicans. In fact, in Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich signed his state’s bill into law, making it the first to enact marijuana legalization through a process that was Republican-controlled at every stage. And the Democratic Governor of West Virginia who signed his state's bill into law earlier this year — Jim Justice — has since announced he is switching party affiliation to be a Republican.
When Vermont became the first state in the nation to pass a recreational legalization bill this spring, it did so with healthy majorities as well—20-9 in the Senate and 79-66 in the House. Though only a handful of Republicans voted for the bill in each chamber, when Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed it, he said that he is not philosophically opposed to marijuana legalization and has since been working with the legislature on a new bill that addresses some specific concerns he had raised.
Increasingly, marijuana reform is becoming a bipartisan issue in state legislatures, regardless of the party in power. That’s especially true for medical legalization, which is now the law of the land in the majority of states.
We analyzed the state legislative and gubernatorial elections immediately following legalization in each of the ten states that most recently legislated medical marijuana, and we couldn’t identify a single instance of negative political consequences for elected officials who supported legalization of medical marijuana.
We could find no state legislative races in which voting in favor of a medical marijuana bill was detrimental. Only two state senates flipped party control after legalization—New York and Minnesota—but in both the medical marijuana vote had been overwhelmingly in favor and bipartisan. Only two state lower chambers flipped party control as well — Minnesota and New Hampshire — but in neither state was marijuana a major campaign issue. Not a single Governor in any of these ten states lost a reelection campaign because he or she signed a medical marijuana bill into law — in fact, only one Governor lost their reelection at all (Democrat Pat Quinn of Illinois), and it was to an opponent who did not oppose medical marijuana legalization.
It seems clear that legalizing medical marijuana is not a political liability for Governors or state legislatures. In fact, given the overwhelming popularity of medical marijuana, just the opposite may prove to be true going forward, especially as more states legalize and those that don’t are left behind.
State policymakers have led the way on marijuana reform. More than half of the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana did so legislatively, and more are likely to follow. The growing bipartisan nature of state reforms and the absence of any major political consequences for those policymakers who enacted them illustrate that policymakers can feel comfortable publicly supporting legalization, regardless of party affiliation.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
"Regulating Marijuana Advertising and Marketing to Promote Public Health: Navigating the Constitutional Minefield"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Leslie Gielow Jacobs that is available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Marijuana legalization, at least to some extent, is now a reality in half of the United States. This shift reflects the good reasons to decriminalize marijuana use and to legalize and regularize its cultivation, distribution and retail sale. Legalization also introduces substantial public health dangers and injects the potent tool of advertising and marketing to promote marijuana into the struggle for persuasive influence between sellers aimed at increasing profits and regulators trying to minimize the damages to public health. But limits on advertising and marketing to reduce adverse public health consequences are difficult to impose because of the increasingly aggressive interpretations of the protections for advertising articulated by the Supreme Court. Regulators must understand the types of regulations that will provoke constitutional challenges, and how a court’s analysis of each type of regulation will proceed.
This Article is the first to provide detailed analysis and concrete, step-by-step guidance for regulators seeking to balance the electoral mandate to provide access to marijuana products with their ongoing and urgent responsibilities to protect public health. It provides regulators with the knowledge they need to understand the constitutional implications of a wide range of options, and to make choices that implement their public health objectives without provoking expensive legal challenges.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
I was so very pleased and excited to see this announcement from the office of the Mayor of Los Angeles, which begins this way: "Mayor Eric Garcetti has appointed Cat Packer as Executive Director of the newly-established Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation." Here is more:
Packer will be the first Executive Director for the department, which was created in June after Los Angeles voters approved the local regulation and taxation of cannabis earlier this year. In her new role, Packer will launch the department and lead implementation of the new cannabis regulations being developed by the City Council, City Attorney and Department of City Planning. Her appointment is subject to City Council confirmation.
“Taxing and regulating legal cannabis in Los Angeles will be a complex process — we need someone leading the effort who understands and can navigate those nuances,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Cat’s experience makes her an excellent fit for this new role. I am confident that her work will help us implement new regulations in a way that is fair and equitable for all of our communities, respects our neighborhoods and raises valuable new revenue for City services.”
Packer has spent much of her career working on issues of cannabis reform. Prior to joining the City, she worked as a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she advocated for responsible cannabis policy across California. “I look forward to serving the City of Los Angeles as we lead the development and implementation of responsible, equitable cannabis policies that will serve as a model for the rest of America,” said Packer. “I can’t wait to get started, and I’m grateful to Mayor Garcetti for this amazing, pioneering opportunity.”
The City’s Department of Cannabis Regulation was established as the result of several voter-approved initiatives over the last year, here in Los Angeles and statewide. Last November, California voters approved Prop. 64, which paved the way for the legalization of recreational cannabis across the state. In March, L.A. voters approved Prop. M — which approved local regulation, taxation and enforcement of cannabis policy. The Department of Cannabis Regulation will be governed by a five-member Cannabis Regulation Commission.
I find this news so very pleasing and exciting because Director Packer is a 2015 graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and she was a student in my marijuana seminar in Spring 2015. Especially in the early years of my seminar, I made a habit of telling students that they could likely become leaders in the field of marijuana law and policy relatively quickly because there were relatively few senior lawyers with knowledge and experience in this space. As I gear up to teach my marijuana seminar again this coming fall, I will be sure to spotlights Cat's impressive early achievement in this arena. (With all my students, I take no credit for their any of their achievements, but I take comfort when learning my instruction did not harmfully lead them astray.)
August 10, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)