Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Legal weed isn't living up to all of its promises. We need to shut it down"

The title of this post is the headline of this new CNBC commentary authored by Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Here are excerpts:

Today, a growing class of well-heeled lobbyists intent on commercializing marijuana are doing everything they can to sell legal weed as a panacea for every contemporary challenge we face in America.  Over the past several years we've been barraged by claims that legal pot can cure the opioid crisis, cure cancer, eliminate international drug cartels, and even solve climate change.

One seemingly compelling case made by special interest groups is that legal marijuana can boost our economy too: after all, marijuana businesses create jobs and bring in millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue.

Yet, a closer look at the facts reveals a starkly different reality.  The truth is, a commercial market for marijuana not only harms public health and safety, it also places a significant strain on local economies and weakens the ability of the American workforce to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

We already know that drug use costs our economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public health and safety costs.  The last comprehensive study to look at costs of drugs in society found that drug use cost taxpayers more than $193 billion – due to lost work productivity, health care costs, and higher crime.

A new study out of Canada found that marijuana-impaired driving alone costs more than $1 billion.  Laws commercializing marijuana only make this problem worse and hamper local communities' ability to deal with the health and safety fallout of increased drug use....

Over the past several months, the Trump Administration has signaled it is considering a crackdown on marijuana in states where it is legal. We don't yet know what this policy change may look like, but one thing we know for sure is that incarcerating low-level, nonviolent offenders in federal prisons is not the answer.  Individual users need incentives to encourage them to make healthy decisions, not handcuffs.

But we do need to enforce federal law.  Indeed, by reasserting federal control over the exploding marijuana industry, we know we can make a positive difference in preventing the commercialization of a drug that will put profits over public health and fight every regulation proposed to control its sale and use.  Marijuana addiction is real, and simply ignoring this health condition will only cost us down the road. We should assess marijuana users for drug use disorders as well as mental health problems, and assist those into recovery.  This can't happen in a climate that promotes use. 

July 27, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Latest effort to take down federal marijuana prohibition via constitutional litigation filed in SDNY

As reported in this Newsweek article, former New York Jets defensive end Marvin Washington "is one of five plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Sessions, the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency" that attacks federal marijuana prohibition on various grounds.  Here is a bit more about the lawsuit via the press report:

The Manhattan lawsuit targets the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which established federal drug policy and delineated narcotics into different schedules. Under the legislation, marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance—along with other drugs such as heroin and ecstasy—and is subjected to the tightest restrictions.... “Classifying cannabis as a ‘Schedule I drug’ is so irrational that it violates the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit said.

Washington has joined the lawsuit because the current legislation prevents him from obtaining federal grants to start a business aimed at professional football players who want to use medical marijuana to manage pain.... Other plaintiffs include an 11-year-old boy, Alexis Bortell, who requires medical marijuana to control his epilepsy, and a disabled military veteran, Jose Belen, who uses it to control post traumatic stress syndrome....

Washington, whose playing career ended in 1999, has been a vocal advocate for the use of medical marijuana in football. He has lobbied the NFL to promote medical marijuana as an effective means of pain relief. Washington played eight seasons with the Jets, while also playing for the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos in a 11-year career. He won the Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 with the Broncos.

Keith Stroup, legal counsel for the advocacy group NORML, has a lot more of the legal particulars in this new posting which also includes a link to the 89-page complaint in this case. Here are parts of his post:

Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, was recently filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York by lead attorney Michael Hiller, with NORML Legal Committee (NLC) attorneys David Holland and Joseph Bondy serving as co-counsel. The full complaint can be found here.

Individual plaintiffs in the suit were two young children, an American military veteran, and a retired professional football player, all of whom are medical marijuana patients; and a membership organization alleging their minority members have been discriminated against by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Seeking to overturn the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, plaintiffs request a declaration that the CSA, as it pertains to the classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, is unconstitutional, because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, an assortment of protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the fundamental Right to Travel. Further, plaintiffs seek a declaration that Congress, in enacting the CSA as it pertains to marijuana, violated the Commerce Clause, extending the breadth of legislative power well beyond the scope contemplated by Article I of the Constitution.

Named as defendants in the case are Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions, Acting Administrator of the DEA Chuck Rosenberg, the Justice Department, the DEA and the Federal Government.

In their Complaint, plaintiffs allege that the federal government does not, and could not possibly, believe that Cannabis meets the definition of a Schedule I drug, which is reserved for the most dangerous of substances, such as heroin, LSD, and mescaline; and that classifying Cannabis as a “Schedule I drug,” is so irrational that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

 Among the other claims in the lawsuit are that the CSA: (i) was enacted and implemented in order to discriminate against African Americans and to suppress people’s First Amendment rights; and (ii) violates plaintiffs’ constitutional Right to Travel.

July 25, 2017 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)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big meeting of feds and state/local officials in Colorado portends...?

As reported in this US News & World Report article, headlined "Feds Tour Colorado in DOJ Pot Review: Recommendations are due next week on whether to crush state-legal weed," there is some new activity in the arena of federal review of state marijuana reform. But what the new activity will lead to remains unclear. Here are excerpts:

Federal officials asked seemingly mundane questions during a Tuesday meeting in Colorado with state officials, at least some of whom were unaware that the discussion was part of a shadowy review of federal marijuana policy. The meeting provides the best glimpse yet into the issues authorities are considering as they prepare to make recommendations next week on what to do about state-legal recreational marijuana, with options ranging from a crackdown to keeping the status quo.

The guest list on Tuesday included Justice Department attorney Michael Murray, who is leading the department's marijuana policy review, and a State Department official with expertise in treaty obligations, according to Mark Bolton, deputy legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. John Zadrozny, a domestic policy adviser at the White House, was in the room, as were two representatives of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says Bolton, who also attended.

A person with knowledge of the meeting's purpose says the gathering and another meeting Wednesday with officials from the city of Colorado Springs are directly related to the ongoing federal pot policy review. The source asked not to be identified. Bolton says he was unaware that the meeting – which featured about 20 state agency representatives -- was directly related to the policy review....

The only question that Bolton recalls Murray asking dealt with whether 2014 guidance from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) remains "up to date," he says. That guidance outlined how banks can work with pot businesses, but many financial institutions remain reluctant to take on the compliance burden or perceived risk involved in handling cash for cannabis firms operating in violation of federal law. "I don't remember him asking other questions, but it may be they weren't questions that resonated with me," Bolton says.

The State Department official asked if there had been significant problems with diversion of Colorado marijuana to other countries, Bolton says. A representative of the Colorado Department of Public Safety said that is not a significant problem....

The ONDCP representatives at the meeting asked about educational efforts and about continued black- and gray-market sales, Bolton says. He can't recall Zadrozny asking any questions....

Bolton says state officials shared how Colorado uses marijuana tax revenue – estimated to exceed $500 million since recreational sales began in 2014 – to educate the public about the risks of the drug and about responsible use, and that officials pointed out teen use has not increased. He says participants did not directly address the possible consequences of repealing the Justice Department's 2013 Cole Memo, which allowed recreational pot stores to open....

Hickenlooper was not present at the meeting. But Bolton believes invitations extended by the governor during an April meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as an invitation by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, inspired the visit. It's unclear if federal officials are touring other states as part of their policy review....

After meeting with state officials, a group of feds met Wednesday with legalization foes in Colorado Springs. No supporters of regulating recreational sales attended, KKTV reported after staking out the meeting and later interviewing Mayor John Suthers, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general who opposes marijuana legalization. "A lot of [the meeting dealt with] sensitive case investigations. That's another reason why it couldn't be public," Suthers told the station. "Probably most of the discussion centered around the huge black market that exists for marijuana in Colorado." Suthers said the city's police department created the guest list, which included a local doctor and a school district director of discipline. The mayor and the police chief were unable to provide immediate comment....

KKTV reported a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff and at least one member of the DEA also attended the Colorado Springs meeting. Pence's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the national DEA headquarters referred questions to the local office, which did not immediately respond.

Although the Justice Department could launch a devastating legal assault on state-regulated recreational marijuana, medical marijuana currently is protected from federal prosecutors and anti-drug agents by a budget restriction passed in Congress. And in Colorado, state legislators approved legislation earlier this year allowing businesses to reclassify recreational pot as medical marijuana if the need arises.

July 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"What Jeff Sessions is getting wrong about legal weed"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new CNBC commentary authored by Gina Belafonte, Chris Leavy and Lindy Snider. Here are excerpts:

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, between 2001 and 2010 there were 8.2 million marijuana related arrests in the county, nearly 90 percent of them were for possession. African Americans were nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession than whites.

Since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana two decades ago, 28 others and the District of Columbia have followed suit. Eight states have also legalized adult use. We now have a track record of legal, regulated marijuana in more than half of the country, and clear evidence that it is a better approach than a blanket prohibition and harsh prison sentences for those who use it or participate in its commerce.

A 2014 study from the University of Texas, Dallas using FBI's crime data showed no rise in crime rates resulting from medical marijuana legalization, and even some evidence of decreasing rates of homicide and assault. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Denver saw a 2.2 percent drop in violent crime rates in the year after the first legal recreational cannabis sales in Colorado, and overall property crime dropped by 8.9 percent in the same period while Washington, which legalized recreational use in 2012, saw violent crime rates drop by 10 percent from 2011 to 2014.

The history of the War on Drugs is also a history of the economic and social disparities in our country. Black and brown men are disproportionally incarcerated under our current drug laws, and because mass incarceration breaks up families and severely limits ex-convicts' employment and business opportunities, the War on Drugs has dramatically increased the poverty rate in minority communities....

To be sure, the War on Drugs is a much bigger and more complex issue than marijuana legalization alone, but it is a good place to start. State legal cannabis is now a $6 billion industry that employs 150,000 people and is on track to create more jobs than the manufacturing sector by 2020.

It has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue; California alone is forecasting $1 billion annually. Two decades of state legal marijuana also has shaped public opinion, with record numbers of Americans now supporting legalization. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows 94 percent of U.S. voters support medical marijuana programs, and 60 percent favor full legalization.

In today's divided politics, few issues command such unanimous support. Medical marijuana is legal both in red and blue states. The first ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus, announced earlier this year, is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. And in the cannabis industry social justice and business interests are often aligned, with advocates and entrepreneurs standing shoulder to shoulder against reactionary policies such as the ones proposed by Mr. Sessions.

If he has his way on marijuana, Mr. Sessions threatens to turn back the clock on two decades of painstakingly gained progress, bringing us back to the days of overflowing prisons, disenfranchised communities and a $50 billion black market for cannabis run by drug cartels. We must not allow that to happen.

July 18, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Looking at the DOJ lawyer working on review of federal marijuana policies

This new US News article, headlined "Federal Pot Policy in Hands of Little-Known DOJ Official: A proposal on what to do about state-legal pot is due in two weeks," provides an interesting little glimpse into the young Justice Department lawyer who may have a big say in the future of federal prosecutorial policies for marijuana:

Michael Murray isn’t well known outside of legal circles, but that may soon change.  The former Supreme Court clerk holds the fate of a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry in his hands and will make recommendations soon on whether to launch a crackdown.

People who know Murray can’t imagine the straight-laced young father of three thinking highly of marijuana use and describe him as quiet and personally conservative.  But they also say he is thoughtful and independent-minded.

Murray, a 2009 Yale Law School graduate, is a counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and was tasked with the review earlier this year, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a larger crime task force would have a marijuana subcommittee.

The marijuana subcommittee's work is shrouded in secrecy, with recommendations due by July 27.  The outcome could be either a yawn or a jarring assault on states that have regulated seed-to-sale markets serving adults 21 and older.

Possession and sale of marijuana remain federal crimes.  The Obama administration, however, allowed states broad leeway to regulate medical and recreational sales.  Eight states now have laws authorizing recreational pot markets. Among the conceivable outcomes, the subcommittee could move to pull the rug out from under the cannabis industry by withdrawing or modifying the 2013 Cole Memo, which allowed recreational pot stores to open so long as enforcement triggers – such as underage sales, interstate smuggling and public health consequences – aren’t tripped.

At least in theory, Murray is not the only person reviewing the policy. But it’s not clear who else may be serving on the subcommittee and some legalization advocates fear the fix is in, with large pot advocacy and business groups saying they have had no contact.  "They have been operating in a black box, really," says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.  "There has been no indication that there was an opening for any viewpoint other than those of whoever is on this committee."  West says the group is "preparing with our allies in D.C. for whatever may come from this."

Statistics from the early years of pot legalization can be manipulated to support a viewpoint, making diverse input potentially significant.  For example, two recent studies came to opposite conclusions on the effects of legalization on traffic safety.  And while surveys show teen pot use has not increased nationally or in the pioneering states since 2012, contrasting current rates to historical low points offers a different impression.

A closed-to-the-press June summit associated with the larger Justice Department task force featured a discussion on drug-supply reduction with Kevin Sabet, the nation's most prominent anti-legalization organizer and leader of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Sabet has not said what interactions, if any, he has with the subcommittee.

Amplifying reformers’ concern is the fact that the larger task force is co-chaired by Steve Cook, an advocate of harsh sentences for drug crimes.  And Murray’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is a cantankerous critic of marijuana use who in May asked Congress to drop budget language protecting state medical marijuana programs.

Murray lacks the combative style of Sessions or Cook, according to friends and former colleagues, who describe him as family-oriented and scholarly. One supporter of legalization who asked not to be identified said they trusted his judgment.

Murray joined the Justice Department after working for the Jones Day law firm, which has sent many attorneys to the Trump administration.  His wife, Claire McCusker Murray, became associate counsel to President Donald Trump earlier this year.  “Michael is a brilliant young lawyer [and] he has a somewhat understated personality, especially compared to a lot of people who fill the ranks of the Trump administration,” says David Lat, who also clerked for Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, a prominent conservative on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.  “I would not expect anything crazy from him,” says Lat, who did not clerk for O'Scannlain at the same time as Murray but knows him socially....

Katherine Moran Meeks, an attorney who clerked alongside Murray for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2013-2014, says Murray is, however, “a man of his own mind.”

“He’s a person of integrity and he’s there to offer a careful legal opinion,” Meeks says. “I’m sure that’s what he’ll give, rather than something driven by partisanship.”

July 14, 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 (1)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A look into Uruguay's unique (and uniquely important?) experiences with marijuana legalization

2300-URUGUAYPOT0702The Washington Post has this interesting new article taking a deep dive into on foreign nation's distinctive approach to marijuana reform. I recommend the article in full, and it is headlined "In Uruguay’s marijuana experiment, the government is your pot dealer." Here are excerpts:

Uruguay is the world’s first country to fully legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. But under its strict rules, there will be no Amsterdam-style smoking cafes, and foreigners won’t have access to the national stash.

Nor will there be shops selling ganja candies, psychedelic pastries or any of the other edible derivatives offered in pot-permissive U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington, where entrepreneurial capitalism fertilizes the United States’ incipient marijuana industry.

Instead, Uruguay’s government has developed a legalization model whose apparent goal is to make marijuana use as boring as possible. A vast regulatory bureaucracy will determine everything from the genetic makeup of the plants to the percentage of psychoactive compounds in their flowers.

The endeavor puts Uruguay (population: 3.4 million) at the forefront of a growing list of nations and U.S. states experimenting with marijuana. Pot has been legalized for recreational or medical use in more than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia, but it remains essentially prohibited under federal law. American activists have been bracing for a confrontation with the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes the liberalization trend.

Canada, Mexico, Colombia and other nations across the Americas also are moving to legalize cannabis on a limited basis. But only Uruguay has set up a comprehensive system to regulate every facet of the plant’s life cycle, from tiny seed to smoky haze. Uruguayans say their model is designed to strike a balance between prohibition and the kind of exuberant marijuana economy emerging in some U.S. states, where well-funded businesses may have incentives to encourage consumption.

In Uruguay, anything that smacks of commercial marijuana branding or advertising is banned. The two private firms authorized to supply the pharmacies with industrial quantities of dope — four tons annually — can’t even put their company labels on the packaging. “The risk of what they’re doing in Colorado is that you end up with something like the tobacco industry,” said Julio Calzada, one of the public health officials who designed Uruguay’s regulatory model after lawmakers approved legalization in 2013. He said the country won’t allow a competitive industry peddling pot versions of Marlboro and Camel. “The concept here is totally different.”

“To us, marijuana is a vegetable substance with a capacity to generate addiction, so what we’re trying to do is control the production, distribution and consumption of that substance as effectively as possible,” he said.

It’s no fluke that this is happening in socially liberal Uruguay. Gambling and prostitution are legal and regulated here. Uruguay is also the only Latin American nation outside Cuba that has broadly legalized abortion, and it was one of the first to recognize civil unions and adoption by same-sex couples. Uruguay also is accustomed to relatively high levels of regulation and a big state role in the economy, with an array of government-owned banks, gas stations and utilities. Over the years, activists began to argue: Why not weed?

The experiment is not without skeptics and detractors — one reason it has taken longer than expected to fully implement the country’s legalization model. Marijuana cultivation and consumption has been allowed for personal use, and the country now has at least 60 cannabis clubs that provide members with a monthly supply. But the government has been slow to roll out its system of pharmacy-based commercial sales to the general population.

Uruguay developed its pioneering model under ex-president José Mujica, a former Marxist guerrilla turned statesman. His successor, Tabaré Vázquez, a trained physician, largely has sought to play down the legalization experiment, seemingly wary of a potentially negative impact on Uruguay’s image. Legalization advocates close to the government say officials also have been hung up by international banking rules that sanction entities with ties to the narcotics trade.

Still, Uruguayan officials say the nation’s pharmacies will be stocked with cannabis sachets and ready to begin dealing in the second half of July. The newly created Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) will coordinate distribution.

Anyone over age 18 who registers in a government database will be able to buy up to 40 grams per month at one of three dozen participating commercial pharmacies. Instead of showing ID, buyers will place their thumb on a scanner that links to a government database and tells the pharmacy how much marijuana they are eligible to purchase.

More than 4,600 Uruguayans have registered for the system, according to the IRCCA website, and officials are expecting that number to increase substantially once marijuana users realize that the product sold in pharmacies is vastly superior to the low-grade weed available illegally on the streets. Some marijuana users have chafed at the idea of registering with the government. But even legalization advocates concede that such a safeguard is necessary to prevent traffickers from buying up pharmacy stocks and smuggling Uruguay’s crop into Brazil and Argentina, the country’s much-larger neighbors.

“A lot of consumers here don’t like the fingerprint system and point out that they don’t have to do anything like that to buy a bottle of wine,” said Martín Fernández, a human rights attorney in Montevideo who has become an expert on the country’s cannabis law. “But we see it as something transitional that could disappear with time.” ...

Officials say the new system will drain away customers from the black-market marijuana economy, where a kind of pot known as “Paraguayan Pressed” predominates. It is similar to cheap, low-potency marijuana that reaches U.S. streets from Mexico and is cultivated on large outdoor farms. The final product is littered with seeds and plant stems.

Its levels of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient, are typically below 5 percent, while the state-approved version soon to be sold in pharmacies will be available in seedless flowers (“buds”) at strengths of 5 and 10 percent THC, according to Eduardo Blasina, an agronomist who set up one of the two growing operations on state-leased land adjacent to the country’s maximum-security prison. “It’s one of the most secure places in the country,” he said....

One irony of the Uruguay model is that its pharmacies will be selling marijuana even though the country has not approved commercial sales of medical or health products derived from the plants. But it was pharmacy owners who petitioned the government to give them responsibility for retail sales, citing their experience handling controlled substances, said Alejandro Antalich, whose pharmacy trade association represents 300 stores. “The neighborhood pharmacist is one of the most trusted figures in Uruguayan society,” he said.

July 8, 2017 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Some Alaska marijuana shops’ Facebook pages are being taken down"

CENSOR-FACEBOOK-MARIJUANA-hugeThe title of this post is the headline of this interesting news report from The Last Frontier.  Here are the details:  

Some Alaska marijuana shops have suddenly found themselves with one less outlet for advertising this week. Owners and employees of at least six marijuana retail stores in the state said that within the past week, their Facebook pages were either taken down or entirely deleted by the tech company.

At Arctic Herbery, owner Bryant Thorp said his shop's page was shut down Friday or Saturday. Another Anchorage shop, Enlighten Alaska, also had its page removed from the site about a week ago, said co-owner Jane Stinson. It also happened at Frozen Budz and Pakalolo Supply Co., both in Fairbanks, and Dankorage and Alaska Fireweed in Anchorage. “(Facebook) has been huge for us. That’s where almost all our advertising comes from,” Thorp said. He’s had issues with his Facebook page for a few months and has since focused on boosting his following on Twitter and Instagram.

Facebook has a set of community standards that dictates what is and isn't allowed on the platform, said spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja. “Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates standards,” she said. “Our team reviews reports to determine whether there was a violation.”

On a page explaining those community standards, under a section called "regulated goods," Facebook says it prohibits "any attempts by private individuals to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition." Marijuana businesses generally have to use caution in advertising, in part because state guidelines for pot ads are somewhat unclear, Alaska Dispatch News reported last year. Facebook — along with other social media platforms — is one of the biggest places for getting the word out about their businesses.

Jana Weltzin, an Anchorage-based attorney who specializes in the marijuana industry, said this is hardly the first time cannabis companies have had issues with Facebook. “This is not a new thing,” she said, adding that Colorado pot businesses dealt with a similar issue last year. “If you’re doing something that’s illegal and Facebook knows that, they try to not promote that. It’s still illegal under federal law.”...

The timing of the Facebook page removals seemed odd to some people in the local marijuana industry, too. The pages went dark around the same time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was visiting Alaska for the Fourth of July weekend. "That's what kills me," said Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association. "Zuckerberg shows up and Facebook pages are down."

"It's a weird coincidence, that's for sure," said Rich Beezley, chief operating officer at AK Fuzzy Budz in Anchorage. He said the shop's Facebook page has been shut down four times in the past month, but didn't have an issue this past weekend. He speculated that might be because the shop was closed for the holiday and wasn't posting on Facebook. "We're just in fear we're going to be shut down too," he said....

At Pakalolo in Fairbanks, co-owner Keenan Hollister said he got a notice on the Fourth of July that his company's page was taken down. “We face challenges every day running a legal cannabis business, but this is a disappointing one,” he said. “It feels like an attack on commerce in our state.”...

Some retail shops around the state don't appear to be affected. Facebook pages for Herbal Outfitters in Valdez, The Herbal Cache in Girdwood and Rainforest Farms in Juneau were still up Thursday afternoon.

This effective on-line article from a few months ago, titled "The Legally Hazy World of Cannabis Marketing," provides some additional background and context on the interesting issues that arise from the modern intersection of social medial and marijuana reform.

July 7, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Delaware creates big "Adult Use Cannabis Task Force" to study legalization reforms

Dell2As reported in this local article, in Delaware the "General Assembly has passed a concurrent resolution that will create a task force to study the outcome of regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use in Delaware for adults 21 and older." Here is more about this interesting development that could possibly increase the chances that the First State becomes the first state to fully legalize marijuana via the traditional legislative process:

The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force “shall study adoption of a model for regulation and taxation of adult-use cannabis in Delaware, including local authority and control, consumer safety and substance abuse prevention, packaging and labeling requirements, impaired driving and other criminal law concerns, and taxation, revenue, and banking issues.” It will hold its first meeting no later than September 7, 2017, and it must report its findings and recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly by January 31, 2018.

"The General Assembly is ready to take a serious look at regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use,” said Maggie Ellinger-Locke, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders to come together and examine every aspect of this issue. We hope it will pave the way for the General Assembly to adopt a more thoughtful approach to cannabis next session. Lawmakers can see the direction the country is moving on this issue and they know most Delaware voters support making marijuana legal for adults.”

The 23-member task force will be co-chaired by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Helene Keeley, Democrats who sponsored legislation this year to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 and older. It will also include:

• a state senator and a state representative from the minority caucus, appointed by the Senate president and House speaker, respectively;

• the Secretary of the Department of Finance;

• the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control;

• the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security;

• the Director of the Division of Public Health;

• the Director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health;

• the State bank commissioner;

• the Attorney General;

• the Chief Defender, Office of Defense Services;

• the Mayor of the City of Wilmington;

• the Chair of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee;

• a marijuana policy reform advocate and a medical marijuana industry representative, both appointed by the Governor;

• a physician with experience recommending treatment with medical marijuana, appointed by the Medical Society of Delaware

• the President of the Delaware League of Local Governments;

• the Chair of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council;

• the Chair of the Employer Advocacy Committee of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce;

• a representative of AAA Mid-Atlantic; and

• a pharmacist, appointed by the President of the Delaware Pharmacist Society.

More than 60% of Delaware voters support making marijuana legal, according to a September 2016 poll by the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication.

July 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Entrepreneurship and Legal Uncertainty: Unexpected Federal Trademarks for Marijuana Derivatives"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper available via SSR authored by W. Michael Schuster and Jack Wroldsen. Here is the abstract;

Though several states have legalized marijuana use, the drug remains illegal under federal law.  Not surprisingly, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refuses to register trademarks related to marijuana because of the federal prohibition.  What is surprising, though, is the USPTO’s willingness to grant trademarks for cannabidiol (CBD) — a marijuana derivative that is likewise expressly illegal under federal drug laws.

This article explains why the USPTO’s divergent treatment of trademark applications for CBD and marijuana products is legally incoherent.  Additionally, when viewed from an entrepreneurial perspective, this phenomenon exemplifies how legal uncertainty breeds entrepreneurial opportunity.  Specifically, the article argues that the evolving regulatory landscape for CBD and marijuana products has been, and continues to be, ripe for legal strategists and innovative entrepreneurs to combine forces to create competitive advantages in the emerging marijuana industry.

July 3, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"The Golden State's ‘High’ Expectations: Will California Realize the Fiscal Benefits of Cannabis Legalization?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by George Theofanis now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The federal government has been taking an increasingly relaxed approach to enforcing marijuana laws, allowing states that have legalized to realize the tax benefits of lawful marijuana.  California is now seeking to realize those same benefits. In 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passing of Proposition 64 (Prop. 64), also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

With the country’s highest population and largest economy, California’s impact on the marijuana industry is expected to be massive.  Some are predicting that California’s marijuana market will generate $1 billion in tax revenue alone.  Nonetheless, successfully generating revenue from the recreational market largely depends on several unknowable and unpredictable variables.  For example, high prices when legal sales begin could polarize consumers toward the illicit market and stall industry growth.  On the other hand, low prices could undercut a state’s revenue goals.  In addition, even with the general success of the recreational markets in Colorado and Washington, the unique circumstance’s present in California make revenue projections unpredictable.  Complicating matters more, marijuana’s illegal status under federal law also has the potential to slow down market growth and decrease revenue, depending on unpredictable circumstances.  Accordingly, a sound cannabis tax scheme must take these and other uncertainties into account.

This Article focuses on how a tax regime that strives for short term gains will be more susceptible to the unstable conditions of the market.  It explores how California is able to minimize financial risk in the recreational market while facilitating its growth.  This Article argues that California should adopt several mechanisms for adjusting the marijuana tax rate, as recommended in the Rand report, because the current tax scheme is too aspiring and will result in slower market growth over time.  For instance, by scheduling future tax rate increases and exploiting untapped tax bases, California can cash in long-term without overburdening the market in its infancy. Indeed, a tax scheme that focuses on a short rate of return rather than long term gain will fail to optimize cannabis tax revenue.  The marijuana industry will continue to develop in unpredictable ways, making flexibility to change important to the overall success of any marijuana tax regime.  By minimizing risk and facilitating market growth, California can seek to become the golden standard of the cannabis industry.

June 25, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"A Principled Approach to Taxing Marijuana"

Download (3)The title of this post is the title of this terrific (and lengthy) article in National Affairs authored by Jonathan Caulkins. Every serious student of marijuana reform ought to read the whole piece, and here are excerpts that highlight just a fee of the many astute observations herein:

The concern with cheap marijuana is not that tens of millions more Americans might smoke marijuana once or twice a week. That would not matter much, because occasional use is, by and large, not terribly harmful. Rather, the concern is that millions more would become habitual users. Over the last decade or so of liberalizing policy, the number of people who report using marijuana at some point within the past year has increased moderately, but the number reporting heavy use has soared. In 1992, fewer than one million Americans self-reported daily or near-daily use of marijuana; by 2014, the figure had ballooned to 7.8 million. Half of the marijuana used in the U.S. is consumed by people who spend more than half their waking hours intoxicated.

 

Whatever one thinks about the long-term consequences of chronic heavy use, acute marijuana intoxication can interfere with the ability to perform useful and even necessary tasks. Marijuana is not a cognitive-performance enhancer. And while we welcome low prices for most consumer goods  —  if health care and rent were cheap, it would make life a lot easier for most people  —  that approach may not apply to "temptation goods." Suppose people could buy essentially unlimited candy and desserts for 50 cents a day. Would that be a good thing? Maybe not. Lots of Americans already struggle with their weight, and consumption tends to go up when prices fall.

 

Libertarians may want prices to be as low as possible even for temptation goods. But the internalities argument goes as follows: Marijuana is a dependence-inducing intoxicant that leads many users to systematically make bad decisions that harm themselves as well as third parties; more than four million Americans report suffering enough problems with chronic marijuana use to meet clinical criteria for a substance-use disorder.

 

Chronic drug use involves repeatedly ingesting chemicals that bind to one's neuro-receptors  —  literally altering the brain in ways that are visible in brain scans. Changes in the brain's reward circuitry can compromise the neural system that normally helps rational actors successfully negotiate free markets. Even if each dose considered on its own seems appealing, regular drug consumption can leave long-term users regretful. The phrase "drugs hijack the brain" is sensationalistic, but not altogether wrong. So there is nothing illogical about adopting a libertarian perspective toward conventional consumer goods but making an exception for temptation goods, particularly for artificially introduced neurotransmitters and their chemical cousins.

 

To be sure, taxing to protect the minority for whom cheap marijuana would trigger habitual use is paternalistic, and it sacrifices the interests of the majority whose use would not create such problems. But the sacrifice would not be large: A $5-per-gram tax would cost someone who smokes a half-gram joint every weekend only $125 a year. Furthermore, the taxes would not actually increase out-of-pocket costs, but merely lessen the decline in price that would inevitably accompany federal legalization. So even with high taxes, legalization would still save marijuana users money.

June 22, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Changes in undergraduates’ marijuana, heavy alcohol, and cigarette use following legalization of recreational marijuana use in Oregon"

The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the journal Addiction. Here are the summary details via the abstract:

Background and aims

Recreational marijuana legalization (RML) went into effect in Oregon in July 2015. RML is expected to influence marijuana use by adolescents and young adults in particular, and by those with a propensity for substance use. We sought to quantify changes in rates of marijuana use among college students in Oregon from pre- to post-RML relative to college students in other states across the same time period.

Design

Repeated cross-sectional survey data from the 2012-2016 administrations of the Healthy Minds Study.

Setting 

Seven 4-year universities in the USA.

Participants

There were 10,924 undergraduate participants. One large public Oregon university participated in 2014 and 2016 (n = 588 and 1115, respectively); six universities in U.S. states where recreational marijuana use was illegal participated both in 2016 and at least once between 2012 and 2015.

Measurements

Self-reported marijuana use in the past 30 days (yes/no) was regressed on time (pre/post 2015), exposure to RML (i.e., Oregon students in 2016), and covariates using mixed effects logistic regression. Moderation of RML effects by recent heavy alcohol use was examined.

Findings

Rates of marijuana use increased from pre- to post-2015 at six of the seven universities, a trend that was significant overall. Increases in rates of marijuana use were significantly greater in Oregon than in comparison institutions, but only among students reporting recent heavy alcohol use.

Conclusions

Rates of Oregon college students’ marijuana use increased (relative to that of students’ in other states) following recreational marijuana legislation in 2015, but only for those who reported recent heavy use of alcohol. Such alcohol misuse may be a proxy for vulnerabilities to substance use or lack of prohibitions (e.g., cultural) against it.

June 15, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Deputy AG Rosenstein tells Congress marijuana is "properly scheduled under Schedule I"

During his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee,  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was asked the Department of Justice’s stance on marijuana.  Here from The Cannabist is a report on this discussion:

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski used part of her time to ask about marijuana, and the tension between federal law, under which cannabis is illegal, and states like Alaska which have legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana.

Rosenstein’s response: “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states.  It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids…  I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science.  And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug.  It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I.  And therefore we have this conflict.”

He also mentioned that there may be changes coming to the Cole Memorandum. “Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect.  Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana.  So I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…”

He concluded that the Department of Justice is “responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

Murkowski responded only, “Confusing.”

June 13, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

After primary win by reform advocate, is New Jersey now on track to be the first state to fully legalize marijuana through regular legislation?

New-jersey-reform1Though eight states and Washington DC have all voted through ballot initiatives to fully legalize marijuana, no state has done this form of marijuana reform via the traditional legislative process.  Vermont got awfully close just last month before its Governor vetoed a legalization bill passed by the state's legislature (as noted here), and it seems possible some form of legalization could still happen there in 2018.  

But, as highlighted by this Leafy article, headlined "New Jersey’s Primary was a Huge Win for Legalization. Here’s Why," fellow who won the Democratic primary for Governor this week in New Jersey is very committed to making, and seems poised to be able to make, this form of marijuana reform a signature achievement of his time in office.  Here are excerpts:

[This week] we learned which candidates will vie to replace New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in November’s gubernatorial election. Democrats selected former US ambassador and Goldman Sachs alum Phil Murphy, while Republicans tapped current Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, [Gov Chris] Christie’s second-in-command.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Murphy is the heavy favorite to win in November.

Gov. Christie is among the loudest anti-cannabis voices in the nation and in seven months he’ll be out of office. Which means prospects for major cannabis reforms can only get better. Right? “Oh definitely,” Murphy spokesman Derek Roseman told Leafly earlier today. “One major hurdle cleared in having a nominee [like Murphy] who recognizes that our current laws have not served us as a society.”

Murphy’s comments in victory underscored that sentiment. “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Murphy told a cheering crowd. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”...

Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) chairs NJ’s Senate Judiciary Committee. He sponsored New Jersey’s medical marijuana law and led a delegation of state lawmakers on a fact-finding tour of Colorado last year. “There is widespread public support both in New Jersey and across the country for legalizing marijuana,” Scutari told Leafly.

“In New Jersey, we now have a Democratic nominee, who I believe will be our next governor, who supports legalization. That’s why it is so important that we begin shaping our recreational marijuana program now, so that we are prepared to move forward with a program that ends the prohibition on marijuana and that treats our residents fairly and humanely. We’ve already done extensive research on how legal cannabis programs are faring in other states and are continuing the process of working on legislation to create the best recreational marijuana program for New Jersey.”

June 8, 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)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Battling the racial roadblocks to joining the legalized marijuana trade"

Download (2)The title of this post is the headline of this lengty new Washington Post article which highlights racialized realities in the marijuana industry.  Here are excerpts:

States generally do not track the race and ethnicity of license applicants, but industry analysts and researchers say that dispensaries and the more-profitable growing operations across the country are overwhelmingly dominated by white men.

The lack of minority representation is especially fraught given that research shows African Americans were disproportionately arrested and incarcerated during the war on drugs. Now that marijuana is seen as a legitimate business, advocates argue that minorities should also reap the profits....

The marijuana trade, legal in some form in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries. The $6.6 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2016 is expected to expand to $16 billion by 2020, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis data analytics company headquartered in the District.

But African Americans seeking to go into business as growers or retailers face a host of hurdles, researchers say. Many states bar convicted drug felons from the industry, disproportionately hurting minorities because of historically higher conviction rates. Others have set high investment requirements. Some dole out licenses through appointed commissions that industry researchers say reward the politically connected, who by and large are wealthy and white.

“Marijuana legalization without racial justice risks being an extension of white privilege,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist for Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for drug policy reforms.

The disparities have become such a source of consternation for some lawmakers and industry leaders that more than half a dozen states and municipalities, including Oakland and the District, are taking steps to boost minorities in the competitive licensing process....

Colorado, one of the earliest states to legalize marijuana, has nearly 1,000 dispensary licenses and nearly 1,500 cultivation licenses. African Americans make up less than a handful of license holders, according to cannabis entrepreneurs in the state. Wanda James, a former Navy lieutenant who says she’s one of the few black growers and dispensary owners in Colorado, blames regulations barring those convicted of drug crimes from owning, and working in, a dispensary or cultivation center.

“In Colorado, if you sell 10 pounds of cannabis today, you probably get written up in Forbes about what a great businessperson you are, but if a young black man sells a dime bag on a street corner in Alabama, he’s probably going to jail for 10 years,” she said. A black person is nearly four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though the two groups use marijuana at similar rates, according to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report that examined arrests in every state using a decade’s worth of FBI crime data....

Jesce Horton, an Oregon marijuana entrepreneur who started the Minority Cannabis Business Association in 2015 to diversify the industry, said that as a college student in Florida, he was arrested three times for marijuana possession. His criminal record would have barred him from entering the business in other states. “It’s really a slap in the face to communities who have been targeted,” Horton said. “A lot of people see these as racist regulations. These are fear-based tactics by legislators who are more than willing to go along with the business interests sitting in the room.”

Some states also require applicants to have financial holdings upward of $1 million, a particularly high bar given the documented wealth disparities between blacks and whites. Those without ready access to capital cannot turn to banks, which are unwilling to provide business loans for an industry that is still illegal at the federal level....

Even with potential shifts in federal drug-enforcement policies, several jurisdictions have moved to address racial disparities in the industry. Oakland recently voted to set aside half of all marijuana business permits for people who had been arrested for drug crimes in the city or lived in neighborhoods with high marijuana arrests.

Illinois, like Pennsylvania, awards extra points to minority applicants. Ohio requires 15 percent of licenses to be issued to minorities. Florida has reserved one of its future marijuana-cultivation licenses for a member of the state’s Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. Maryland marijuana regulators, meanwhile, are fending off a lawsuit that threatens to halt its program after no black-owned businesses won cultivation licenses.

Some prior related posts:

June 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable commentary and stories about mothers and marijuana

Especially because I have long loved and respected all the mothers in my life, I am always drawn to motherly perspectives on marijuana and also to considering the various potential connections between mothering and marijuana.  Accordingly, these recent commentaries and stories on these kinds of topics caught my attention:

From ABC News here, "Doctors worried about increased marijuana use in pregnant women"

From Babble here, "Inside the Private World of Mothers Who Smoke Weed"

From Creators here, "A Conservative Mom Breaks the Pot Taboo"

From Metro (UK) here, "Weed-smoking Mums are sick of being judged by wine-drinking Mums"

June 2, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Older Women and Medical Marijuana: A New Growth Industry"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy New York Times article.  Here are excerpts:

Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left the hospital, her doctors handed her a “shopping bag filled with opiates,” she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her pharmaceuticals.

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to stash their drugs. “Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and I thought, ‘Why are we sneaking around like guilty teenagers?’” Ms. Moss said.

In 2015, she started a business called AnnaBis, a line of aroma-controlled handbags, clutches, vape cases and other pot-related accessories. Soon after, she began publishing cannabis-friendly travel guides exclusively for women — becoming one of a small but growing number of older women who are marijuana entrepreneurs.

“What other industry is growing so fast there’s the opportunity and low cost of entry?” Ms. Moss said. “Entrenched opportunities already have their systems set up. This hasn’t been created yet.”

Her story is typical of the women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have started up businesses in the world of pot. Inspired partly by their own use of the drug for pain relief, or by caring for others who use it for their own aches, these women see viable business opportunities and view their work as therapeutic for their customers. “It’s definitely a trend,” said Troy Dayton, the chief executive and a co-founder of the Arcview Group, an investment and market research firm that focuses on the cannabis industry....

There seems to be a market for such services: A study of 47,140 participants released in December, based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that cannabis use among adults ages 50 to 64 had increased nearly 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, while use by people 65 and older had risen 250 percent.

Ms. Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, used to think marijuana was a “hard-core drug like crack or cocaine,” she said. “If someone would have told me 12 years ago that I’d be an advocate for cannabis, I’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking too much.’” But now? “I get so much gratification from this work, and it’s so rewarding to see people get healed,” she said. “My life is better than ever. I’m healthy, and I’m starting a new business at 69.”

May 27, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Two notable new accounts and accountings of modern marijuana industry

This afternoon brings two interesting new pieces about the state and fate of the marijuana industry from the business media. Here are the headlines, links and a few key passages from the articles:

From MarketWatch here, "Marijuana experts question how industry will mature as rapid growth continues but full legalization lags":

Right now the industry is experiencing growing pains.... Certain markets have become so crowded and competitive it’s gotten tougher for businesses to turn a profit.  The Marijuana Business Daily, which conducts an annual survey of marijuana retailers, wholesale cultivators and infused product manufacturers, said about 55% of those queried said they had reached break-even or turned a profit within the first year of starting their business.  That’s down from 70% who, when polled last year, said they achieved that first-year milestone.

Recreational sales of marijuana ballooned 80% to $1.8 billion in 2016, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily, and in 2017 recreational sales are expected to surpass medical sales for the first time.  The industry currently employs anywhere from 165,000 to 230,00 people, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily.

Investments in the industry are increasing in size, frequency and scope.  Major institutional investors are still steering clear of the market because it’s federally illegal, but individual investors are showing interest.  Last year, private equity firm Tuatara Capital raised an industry record $93 million to invest in marijuana businesses.

From CNBC here, "How the Trump administration is affecting the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry":

Projections vary among industry analysts, but the numbers are substantial.  Marijuana Business Daily predicts retail sales will hit $6.1 billion for 2017 and the industry could have a maximum economic impact of some $68.4 billion by 2021; GreenWave Advisors predicts $7.7 billion for 2017 and $30 billion by 2021 if recreational and medicinal cannabis is legalized nationwide.

Capital has also flooded into the space — nearly $1 billion from 2012 through 2016, according to GreenWave Advisors, citing data from Pitchbook.  What's more, Marijuana Business Daily finds that investors report plans to increase the size of their investments this year.  The average investor or firm involved in the industry has put around $450,000 in cannabis companies to date, with each investment coming in around $100,000.  But this year, they plan to invest around $500,000 on average in marijuana businesses.

"The Trump Administration has not yet changed our strategy, because there's been a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of action," says Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Canopy Accelerator, an investment fund for early stage cannabis companies.  It has invested over $6.5 million since early 2015 in more than 64 companies.  "A lot of investors are becoming more aware that they have an impact on what the administration might decide or not decide to do based on how they present themselves as a business-friendly environment, creating jobs and having positive effects on society," Rea says.

May 18, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interesting look at how religion and religious groups might support or oppose marijuana reform

Genesis-129-Bible-Jesus-Religion-cannabis-17234763584

This lengthy new BuzzFeed News article, headlined ""Can Cannabis And Christ Coexist? These Devout Southern Christians Think So," provides am interesting and effectively review of some issues that arise at the intersection of marijuana reform and religion.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some extended excerpts:

Lydia Decker couldn’t miss the man in the motorized wheelchair as he whirred down the aisles of a West Texas grocery store. As someone with lung problems herself, she noticed his oxygen tank and wondered about his illness and his meds. They got talking, and Decker mentioned Genesis 1:29, the organization she heads that uses religion to preach the value of medical cannabis. This was one conversion that wasn't going to happen.

“Oh, that trash!” Decker remembered the man saying as she tried to reason with him in the pharmacy aisle. The nurse with the man “politely” asked Decker, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to leave. She did, but not before handing the nurse a Genesis 1:29 business card, which features a map of Texas covered with a large cannabis leaf and the words “One Mission End Prohibition!”...

Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she's endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”

Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.

Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May. “People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,'” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”

The South is the last frontier for cannabis law reform. And it is no coincidence that it is also the most religious region in the country, according to Pew Research. It’s a place where interpretations of God’s word can be as powerful as law, and where preachers have long proclaimed the evils of marijuana. So as pot takes hold for medical use in more than half the country, and for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, both are nonstarters in much of the South. Only Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia have full medical marijuana programs, and recreational use is not even on the horizon.

The president of the organization that represents the largest evangelical group in the US won’t budge on calling marijuana a sin. “The scripture speaks against drunkenness, and marijuana is a mind-altering substance with the purpose of achieving, essentially, what the Bible would describe as drunkenness,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

To get the votes they need, pro-legalization groups can't just preach to nonbelievers; they also need to court people of faith, says Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that is behind most of the cannabis laws in the country. Support from religious groups has become as key as support from law enforcement groups, addiction specialists, and parent groups. “I know that most of the major policy reform organizations are working on that right now — trying to build coalitions with faith-based groups,” Fox said.

After all, marijuana has never been more popular with young people — recent polls show the 18–34 crowd overwhelmingly in support of legalization. At the same time, young people’s church attendance is dropping. As much as pro-pot groups need religious support, religious leaders need to hold onto their flocks, and sometimes that means loosening opinions on controversial issues.

In Utah last year, the Church of Latter-day Saints weighed in on competing medical cannabis bills and made the unprecedented move of expressing support for one, albeit by backing the stricter of two pieces of legislation. And a group of Muslim undergraduate students at the University of South Florida, where medical marijuana was on the state ballot, tackled the question of whether cannabis use is haram last year during an event called "Contemporary Issues in Islam: A Discussion on Medical Marijuana.” Some faiths have expressed varying degrees of support for medical marijuana, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Unitarian churches. In New York, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries had the cannabis blessed by a rabbi. And globally, to respect the traditional use of cannabis by Rastafarians, Jamaica legalized cannabis for religious use in 2015.

But to bring cannabis to the region of the US where states are deeply red and religious and where pot is both a social taboo and a ticket to jail, Decker and others are harnessing their devotion to their faiths to evangelize for it....

Still, religious opposition continues to influence drug policy throughout the region. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke out against the nine legalization initiatives put before voters in November. “I think when it comes to marijuana I’m, of course, for criminal penalties for marijuana use and for continuing criminalization of marijuana,” Moore told BuzzFeed News, specifying, though, that he is not in favor of the “incoherent mass incarceration that we’ve had as a result of the drug war.”

The Catholic Church has also come out against legalization; in 2014, Pope Francis remarked that "drug addiction is an evil” and “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called 'recreational drugs,' are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” The Catholic diocese in Arizona and Massachusetts came out against legalization in fall 2016. While this “didn’t swing the pendulum in Massachusetts,” where legalization squeaked through in November, “it very well could have in Arizona,” where legalization failed, Fox said.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion | Permalink | Comments (15)

"Risky Business? The Trump Administration and the State-Licensed Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this short essay authored by Rob Mikos and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he opposes legalization of marijuana, a drug he considers “only slightly less awful” than heroin.  Such comments have fueled speculation that the Trump Administration might soon launch a new war on weed.  In this short essay, however, Professor Mikos suggests that the Trump Administration’s impact on state reforms and the state-licensed marijuana industry is likely to be tempered by three potent forces: (1) political support for state reforms; (2) practical limits on the DOJ’s enforcement capacity; and (3) legal doctrines that weaken the DOJ’s ability to turn back the clock on state reforms.  The essay discusses each of these constraints in turn and ultimately suggests that the Attorney General might pursue less draconian tactics, like anti-marijuana media campaigns, to curb the rise of the marijuana industry and the harms he attributes to it.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)