Thursday, December 8, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this effective new Time magazine article. I recommend the piece in full, and here are some key excerpts and major headings:
With Donald Trump nominating Cabinet members who have spoken out against legal marijuana, some are arguing that the war on drugs may make a comeback. But while there’s reason for anxiety among those selling recreational marijuana legally in states like Colorado and Washington, an all-out war remains unlikely.
Experts say that trying to undo legalization at this point would come with serious economic and political hurdles. “It’s certainly come so far,” says Sam Kamin, a marijuana law expert at the University of Denver, “that it can’t be undone without a heavy cost.” Others are even more skeptical. Says Mike Vitiello, a marijuana law expert at the University of the Pacific, “It’s kind of like illegal immigration: You can’t build a wall high enough.”
Here are seven reasons that it would be hard to stop what the states have started.
Waging a war on pot would go against the will of many voters.
“It would be a very blatant finger to the voters,” says the Drug Policy Alliance’s Amanda Reiman. In November, voters in eight states cast their ballots for some form of marijuana legalization. That means that medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and recreational marijuana is legal in eight, including the nation’s most populous: California. With that powerhouse on board, a total of about one quarter of the population lives in a place where voters have decided that adults should be able to consume cannabis much the same way they consume alcohol. And all but six other states have legalized a non-psychoactive form of cannabis known as CBD, which people use to treat conditions like juvenile epilepsy.
Public opinion on marijuana is going in the opposite direction. ...
Trump himself has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize. ...
It does not seem high on his list of priorities. ...
Waging a war costs money. ...
There’s a lot of money in marijuana these days and the prospect of much more in the future.
If legal marijuana markets didn’t exist tomorrow, that would mean the shuttering of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. It would buoy the black market. And it would also make for a lot of unhappy investors. The market for legal marijuana in America is already worth an estimated $7 billion and, according to market research firm ArcView, it will be worth more than $20 billion by 2020. While many bigwig venture capitalists and corporations are still wary of writing checks because of prohibition, others are proving eager to cash in on the “green rush.” Among them is even a member of Trump’s transition team, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. “There’s a huge amount of capital formation,” says Vitiello. “There are literally billions of dollars of investment in these gray market establishments.”
The extent of federal government’s authority over these matters is unclear.
December 8, 2016 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 (0)
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this lengthy and interesting recent California Sunday Magazine article. Here are excerpts:
Last year, U.S. legal marijuana was a $5.4 billion business, and that figure is expected to quadruple by 2020. According to one 2016 estimate, the industry and supporting businesses already employ between 100,000 and 150,000 people in the U.S., more than General Motors. California’s recent vote to legalize recreational marijuana — medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996 — created the world’s largest legal market and sent the clearest signal yet that widespread legalization is inevitable. (Seven other states legalized medical or recreational marijuana as well.)
The most glaring irony of legalization is that for decades black and Latino communities have disproportionately suffered under harsh drug laws, and now, with those laws in retreat, the entrepreneurs cashing in on the booming business are overwhelmingly white. California, like the four states that had previously legalized recreational pot, imposes restrictions on convicted felons joining the industry; some states also require business-license applicants to demonstrate cash reserves of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Both criteria weigh heavily against minority entrepreneurs seeking to enter the industry....
A diverse city with a history of tolerant pot laws, Oakland was hoping to lead the way in creating an industry that compensates for the racial inequalities of the past, but it was struggling with how to translate decades of injustice into still-hypothetical profits. Weeks earlier, Oakland’s city council had passed a remarkable, first-of-its-kind “equity amendment,” guaranteeing 50 percent of cannabis business licenses to former marijuana felons and to residents of several neighborhoods considered especially damaged by the war on drugs. In public statements, Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks, who introduced the amendment, made clear that her intention was to foster minority-owned businesses. “When you look at the cannabis industry here with respect to the ownership, it is predominantly white,” she said from the podium in the drab chamber of Oakland’s city council. People of color “are tired of simply being employees. When do they get an ownership piece of the pie? That is what this is about.”....
Most jurisdictions consider cannabis businesses something between a nuisance and a threat, but the city government in perennially broke Oakland was quick to recognize the economic opportunity in legal pot. It was an early jurisdiction to decriminalize adult use of marijuana, in 2004, and it became the first in the country to license medical marijuana dispensaries, also in 2004. Harborside, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in October, was one of the first dispensaries to open in the city, and it helped pioneer the widely imitated idea that dispensaries should be clean, welcoming spaces, more like Apple stores than smelly, cramped head shops. It now brings in a reported $30 million in annual sales and is an important Oakland taxpayer. After the Justice Department initiated a case against the dispensary in 2012, Oakland took the unprecedented step of suing the federal government on behalf of a cannabis business. (The Justice Department dropped its case earlier this year.)...
As legalization has spread, other jurisdictions have recognized the moral urgency of creating diversity in the industry. So far, none has succeeded. This past summer, Maryland issued its first 30 medical marijuana business licenses, but the process was thrown into disarray once it became clear that none had gone to a woman or an African American. It’s a “very complex problem,” the head of Maryland’s cannabis commission told The Baltimore Sun. Time sensitive, too, since the established companies are getting bigger and richer. Ohio’s medical marijuana law reserves 15 percent of business licenses for minority owners, but this aspect of the law immediately came under legal scrutiny and the program has yet to become operational.
December 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 5, 2016
Bring it, Jeff: why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive
The title of this post is my (foolish?) reaction to this notable new Politico magazine article headlined "Jeff Sessions’ Coming War on Legal Marijuana: There’s little to stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Here are excerpts from the start of the article which I follow with a (too brief) explanation for my blunt "bring it" bravado:
By nominating Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for attorney general, President-elect Donald J. Trump is about to put into the nation’s top law enforcement job a man with a long and antagonistic attitude toward marijuana. As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions said he thought the KKK "were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” In April, he said, “Good people don't smoke marijuana,” and that it was a "very real danger" that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions, who turns 70 on Christmas Eve, has called marijuana reform a "tragic mistake" and criticized FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing a the federal prohibition that President Obama has called “untenable over the long term.” In a floor speech earlier this year, Senator Sessions said: "You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
Sessions has not shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, but if he chooses, he will be able to act decisively and quickly — more so perhaps than with any other of his top agenda items such as re-doubling efforts to combat illegal immigration and relaxing oversight of local police forces and federal civil rights laws. With little more than the stroke of his own pen, the new attorney general will be able to arrest growers, retailers and users, defying the will of more than half the nation’s voters, including those in his own state who approved the use of CBD. Aggressive enforcement could cause chaos in a $6.7 billion industry that is already attracting major investment from Wall Street hedge funds and expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020.
And so far, Congress has shown no interest in trying to stop the Sessions nomination, at least on this issue. Even members who are in favor of protecting states from federal interference on the marijuana issue have said they support Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general: “I strongly support Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,” said Representative Tom McClintock, Republican from California. “He is a strict constitutionalist who believes in the rule of law. I would expect that he will respect the prerogative of individual states to determine their own laws involving strictly intra-state commerce.”
There are dozens of reasons I think it would be quite foolish as a matter of constitutional law and sound federal policing priorities for future Attorney General Jeff Sessions to start his tenure by using broad federal police powers to criminally prosecute tens of thousands of players in a growing recreational marijuana industry. This industry is already well-established and producing thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues in Colorado, Oregon and Washington; it is now gearing up for growth in Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Nevada and maybe Maine.
In the most simple of terms, it would be foolish for the Trump/Sessions Administration to try to "Make America Great Again" via tough federal pot prohibition enforcement because it would show to all who care to pay attention that the GOP's purported affinity for personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights is a huge bunch of hooey. But I genuinely believe that most younger GOP Senators — e.g., folks like Ted Cruz, my wish pick for AG, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott— have always voiced a genuine commitment to personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights. Consequently, I do not think these important GOP voices are going to be quick to bless any efforts by future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat.
Moreover, and completely missing from the facile analysis in this superficial Politico article, even if future AG Jeff Sessions were eager to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat for the emerging recreational marijuana industry, there will still be the bigger and stronger and much more consequential medical marijuana industry chugging along — especially in so many swing/red states that were critical to the election of Donald J. Trump circa 2016. I am thinking here specifically of now-red states like Arizona and Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those now-red states alone add up to nearly 100 electoral votes that a whole bunch of Dems would love to win back in 2018 and 2020; and they are all states that, I think, could easily go back into the Dem column if/when establishment Dems finally figure out that medical marijuana reform in a winning issue worth promoting forcefully. (I have blogged here an explanation for my claim in a post at my other blog that Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform.)
Importantly, in this post I have only outlined some obvious political/policy reasons for why I think it would be foolish (and ultimately unlikely) for future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal pot Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat. In a future post, assuming readers are interested, I can explain all the reasons I think the other two branches of the federal government — Congress and the federal judiciary — can and would and should find an array of means to "stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Given that Congress and federal judges over the last eight years have done a whole lot to preclude the Obama Administration from doing too much by executive fiat, everyone concerned about criminal justice and marijuana policy in the Trumpian future much keep in mind that the Framers gave us a wonderful federal system of check-and-balances that has been pretty effective at keeping the big bad federal government from doing too many stupid things that are obviously against the considered will of the people.
Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Reform
December 5, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?
In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).
I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)
I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.
This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.
November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Will Prez-Elect Donald Trump make it legal and easier for veterans to have access to medical marijuana?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new AP article headlined "For Colorado Veterans, Marijuana A Controversial Treatment." Here are excerpts:
Tom couldn’t sleep. After six years in the U.S. Navy, he found himself in the civilian world unable to readjust from his time on a ship, when a commanding officer would often wake up the sailors every few hours. He tried prescription sleep aids, but nothing really worked until he smoked some weed ... “I tried it very sparingly and slept the whole night for the first time in like months,” Tom said.
For members of the U.S. military, admitting to using marijuana could result in an investigation and in most cases, punishment or separation from the military. Because of this, many of the veterans who use marijuana chose not to reveal their last names...
Attorney Will M. Helixon, an expert in military law, said the military still considers marijuana a controlled substance. Someone in active duty caught using the drug could be punished and in most cases, processed for separation from the military. For someone who is not on active duty, it could still result in a discharge, which could close the door for future benefits and career options.
Helixon said it makes no difference to the military if marijuana is legal in some states, such as Colorado. “There are many instances where otherwise lawful conduct is prohibited by the military, marijuana being one of them,” Helixon said. “To not be efficient in your job or to be derelict in your duties is not a crime in the civilian world, but it is in the military.”...
Tom said he much prefers marijuana over drinking, even though branches of the military are no strangers to alcohol consumption. “The Navy has, I don’t want to say a tradition, but we’re known for being heavy drinkers. There’s that saying ‘drunk as a sailor,'” Tom said. “It’s like a big frat because at every port there’s ‘Let’s go out and get as drunk as possible.’ I thought it was so odd that the Navy was so gung ho about drinking and so against marijuana. I consider them on the same level.”
Juan, who is 50 and was in the U.S. Marine Corps, expressed the same sentiment. Juan broke his collarbone from injuries not related to the military, he said. “I just drank all the time to numb the pain but marijuana works much better and for sleep as well,” Juan said. Marijuana “doesn’t really get rid of the pain. It changes it to something more manageable if that makes sense … it like feels good to get it moving, like a massage.”
Juan said he has a couple friends recently who died from heavy drinking. He said the drinking culture in the Marines is similar to what Tom described in the Navy. “Oh yeah, it’s just like college — put enough young people together and they’re going to want to party and drink. In the Marine Corps everyone drank and pretty excessively too,” Juan said.
Juan said he is distrustful of prescription opiates as well. “I think the amount of opiates being prescribed to people is a little reckless. I don’t take aspirin because I don’t like the idea of drugs,” Juan said. “An opiate can actually kill you if you overdose. With marijuana, that can’t happen. You’re not going to smoke yourself to death.”... Juan conceded that it is possible to get hooked on marijuana, like anything else. “To be honest, I’m kind of addicted to not hurting all the time. You can be psychologically dependent on it,” Juan said. “If it gets to a point where you’re smoking before work or something then you’ve got a problem. I have friends who smoke it pretty heavily and they are well-paid with families to take care of. They’re not the stereotypical stoner on the couch.” ‘A Band-Aid’ Sam House, a spokesman for the U. S. Department Veterans Affairs for northern Colorado and Cheyenne, said that while marijuana may seem beneficial, it’s masking the real problem.... House said the VA follows the Federal Drug Administration, which has not found a medical use for cannabis. The Drug Enforcement Administration still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
Because of the federal policy, House said a veteran who uses marijuana won’t be able to get certain prescriptions at the VA medical office. For instance, veterans are routinely blood-tested every time they go in for a VA appointment, House said. So if a veteran tweaks his or her back in a way for which a doctor would prescribe prescription painkillers, when the bloodwork comes back positive for marijuana, the VA doctor can no longer prescribe the painkillers.
House is a veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD. He said it’s important for veterans to treat the root cause of the side effects with therapy, instead of self-medicating with marijuana. “The goal of every veteran should be to be normal and to seek out that new normal,” House said. “If someone is on an antidepressant, they may need that for the rest of their lives. Why complicate that with self-medication, which could or could not contribute to that depression?”...
Curt Bean, 31 of Lakewood, was diagnosed with PTSD after tours in Iraq with the U.S Army. Bean said he knows a fellow veteran who went from taking 14 medications for PTSD to three medications after starting marijuana. “The three biggest things for me — anxiety is really tough and then there’s depression and sleeplessness,” Bean said. “I’m able to have something to mitigate that in a healthy and positive way with zero negative side effects.”
Bean said he is heavily involved in the Colorado veterans community and he has seen other veterans switch from opiates to marijuana with positive effects. “They were just being zombies. And the marijuana allowed them to be a successful part of their families and their communities,” Bean said. “It allowed them to be part of their communities rather than isolating them in their room.”...
Bean said he knows many veterans are afraid to come out and say they use marijuana, but he is trying to raise more awareness about the issue. Bean has smoked marijuana on a few local news stations. “I understand the ramifications of doing that, but it takes people to stand up and say, ‘It’s silly,’ for this to become less of an issue,” Bean said.
Bean said he wished the VA would come around and see his perspective on marijuana use for PTSD. “It’s a matter of time. The longer they wait and drag their feet, the lower the quality of life for veterans and there is some loss of life,” Bean said. “That’s the most upsetting thing — that I’m on this expedition to be able to say that this is a valuable option for the guys and they should be able to use it because it does save lives.”
Notably, this two-page document entitled "Donald Trump's Contract with the American Voter," describes a part of a planned initiative to include "provid[ing] veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice." If that becomes a reality, it could make it much easier to veterans to have access to medical marijuana through the private health care system (although this would not alone solve problems for active military members).
Friday, November 11, 2016
As various folks continue to try to figure out just what happened on Election Day 2016, I am seeing a lot of people noting that Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote than did Donald Trump. But Trump is now Prez-Elect because he squeaked out state-by-state victories in a majority of the swing states. As the title of this post trumpets, I think simple math suggests the most of the swing states would have swung the other way if HRC had been a vocal and consistent advocate for major marijuana reform. Here is the basis for my thinking:
1. Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both advocated for full marijuana legalization, and I think it fair to imagine that some (significant?) percentage of their voters would have voted for HRC instead if she championed major marijuana reform.
If only half of voters who picked Johnson/Stein would have instead voted for HRC had she championed marijuana reform, HRC would have won, instead of lost, the states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states add up to 75 electoral votes and would have given HRC the presidency with more than 300 electoral votes. Given that younger persons disproportionately support full marijuana legalization (nearly 80%) and that younger voters disproportionately voted for Johnson/Stein, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to secure many of these third-party voters in 2016.
2. In addition to securing more of those who showed up to vote for a third party, I think significant advocacy for major marijuana reform could have allowed HRC to motivate many more traditional democrats to turn out to vote. This UPROXX article, headlined "It Appears As Though Hillary Clinton Was Ultimately Done In By Low Democratic Voter Turnout," details why lower turn out among democratic voters was fundamental to her surprising loss. (Given that HRC mostly made arguments about who to vote against (Trump) rather than arguments about why to come out to vote for her (what did she promise to do exactly?), it is not hard to understand why she struggled to encourage her traditional base to show up and vote.
If HRC advocacy for major marijuana reforms motivate just another 10% of traditional democratic voters to show up to vote for her, she now wins Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin big AND now also wins Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and maybe even makes Ohio and Texas(!) remarkably close. With just the first additional three of these states added to her column, and HRC has now more than 350 electoral votes; throw in Ohio and Texas and she is way over 400.
Now I realize, of course, that one probably needs to be smoking something to really believe that potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms would have turned the US deep blue and led to a landslide outcome not seen since the Reagan era. But throughout the election season and now in this period of post-mortems, I keep returning the my own feeling that HRC really provided no tangible reason for me to vote for her rather than just against the other guy. Potent advocacy for major marijuana reforms, I suspect, would have given a lot of people other than me a real reason to vote for HRC.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
This new Huffington Post article, headlined "9 States Are Voting On Marijuana On Election Day. Here’s Where They Stand Right Now," provides a relatively efficient and effective overview of all states to be watching for those concerning about state-by-state marijuana reform initiative developments. Arguments can be made that all five states voting on full recreation legalization are most important as a metric for the future of national reform, though I strongly believe the votes in all four medical marijuana states today should not be overlooked. Here is how the HuffPo piece sets up its state-by-state review:
Millions of voters across the United States are considering measures to roll back longstanding restrictions on marijuana this Election Day. By the end of Tuesday night, five more states could fully legalize weed, which would put nearly one-quarter of the nation’s population in areas that have rejected prohibition and decided to tax and regulate the plant. An additional four states are voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use. If approved, pot would become legal in some form in 29 states and Washington D.C.
Marijuana policy reformers say this could be a watershed moment for their movement. “Nov. 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017. But on the other hand, huge losses could interrupt the momentum we’ve been building for the last several years.”
I would be surprised if there is a consistent voting outcome throughout all the states, though I think is a near certainty that by the end the day a much larger number of Americans will be voting in favor of significant marijuana reforms today than at any other time in US history. That reality alone, even if reform proposals end up losing in a number of states, ought to help propel the national marijuana reform movement forward.
Drilling down into state-by-state outcomes and their impact on the national reform conversation, I have lately come to think the pace of national/federal marijuana reform might ultimately be influenced even more by the vote today in (swing state) Florida concerning medical marijuana than by any of the five recreational state votes. Then again, the recreational initiatives in California (as the biggest US state) and in Massachusetts (the biggest New England state) also are obviously very big deals for the likely future direction and structure of federal reforms. And none of the votes in any of the other states are without national significance and consequence, especially when each vote can help increasing significantly the number of US Senators who are from states in which voters or local representatives have called for some form of marijuana legalization.
Going through the states here by closing times (ET) provides one way to organize and track what reformers can follow most closely throughout the night:
Florida polls close at 7pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Amendment 2
Maine polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 1
Massachusetts polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 4
North Dakota polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Measure 5
Arkansas polls close at 8:30pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Issue 6
Arizona polls close at 9pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known a Proposition 205
Montana polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Initiative 182
Nevada polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 2
California polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Proposition 64
November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 7, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this recent report produced by the Marijuana Policy Group, which describes itself as a "non-affiliated entity dedicated to new market policy and analysis [seeking] to apply research methods rooted in economic theory and statistical applications to inform regulatory policy decisions in the rapidly growing legal medical and recreational marijuana markets." Here is part of the report's synopsis:
The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) has constructed a new model that accurately integrates the legal marijuana industry into Colorado’s overall economy. It is called the “Marijuana Impact Model.”
Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015. Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries....
Legal marijuana demand is projected to grow by 11.3 percent per year through 2020. This growth is driven by a demand shift away from the black market and by cannabis-specific visitor demand. By 2020, the regulated market in Colorado will become saturated. Total sales value will peak near $1.52 billion dollars, and state demand will be 215.7 metric tons of flower equivalents by 2020. Market values are diminished somewhat by declining prices and “low-cost, high-THC” products.
In 2015, marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source, with $121 million in combined sales and excise tax revenues. Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol, and 14 percent larger than casino revenues. The MPG projects marijuana tax revenues will eclipse cigarette revenues by 2020, as cigarette sales continue to decline. Marijuana tax revenues will likely continue increasing as more consumer demand shifts into the taxed adult-use market.
As a first-mover in legal marijuana, the Front Range has witnessed significant business formation and industry agglomeration in marijuana technology (cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and testing). This has inspired a moniker for Colorado’s Front Range as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.” Secondary marijuana industry activities quantified for the first time in this report include: warehousing, cash-management, security, testing, legal services, and climate engineering for indoor cultivations.
November 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Via email, I received news of this effective new "Policy Brief" released recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC. The title of this short document is "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion," and I especially appreciated its final section under the heading "Closing the Knowledge Gap." Here are excerpts from that section of this helpful document:
Legalizing recreational marijuana is a far-reaching policy change. There is little research available on its potential effects on usage rates or public health and safety. This section highlights what government—state and federal— should do to close the knowledge gap.
The first priority is for data collection, performance monitoring, and analysis. States' regulatory structures should incorporate a feedback mechanism to track key performance metrics and conduct descriptive analyses of the operations of the market and its regulatory oversight system.
The second priority is for a sophisticated research agenda to explore the impact of legalization, including a focus on intended and unintended results of policy. The legal marijuana industry is new and a broad understanding of its functional dynamics are mostly unknown.
Research can provide state policy and program managers the answer to a number of questions, such as:
What model regulations should states adopt?...
How does marijuana use relate to other drug use—e.g., is it a substitute or complement to alcohol use? Opioid use?...
What is the environmental impact of legalization?
How do we test for marijuana use and what constitutes impairment?
How does marijuana use affect driving, workplace performance, and academic achievement?
How do new marijuana delivery systems (e.g., vaping) affect health and do they have other damaging consequences? What are the health effects of second hand smoke?
What is the impact of legalized marijuana on illegal markets? What is the impact on grey markets, where legal home grows of marijuana leak or are diverted into illegal markets?
What is the impact of the new marijuana industry on states’ gross domestic products?
How does the legalization of marijuana affect the social cost of illicit drug use?
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new local commentary authored by Carol Rose, who executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. Here are excerpts:
When thinking about how to cast your ballot on Question 4, to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, consider the social justice implications of your vote.
Don’t buy the argument that "no one gets arrested for possession of marijuana” anymore. That’s simply not true. More than 600 people are still arrested for marijuana possession annually in Massachusetts. It matters a lot to them and their families that using pot is still not legal. Arrests generate criminal records, which create barriers to housing, employment, education, adoption and more.
Moreover, criminalizing marijuana disproportionately hurts poor people and folks of color. Black people are more than three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of marijuana use are the same across race. Recent data from the Boston Police Department show that hundreds of people in Boston’s neighborhoods of color are disproportionately stopped by the police for marijuana, while their white suburban neighbors who consume at the same rate do so without concern. Indeed, since voters approved decriminalization of an ounce or less in 2008, racial disparities in marijuana arrests have increased in Massachusetts. Legalization will reduce those disparities.
Unnecessary drug raids are another part of the problem. Last month, after spotting one marijuana plant from a helicopter, state police stormed the property of an 81-year-old grandmother and medical marijuana patient in Amherst in order to tear up the single plant. Last July, Massachusetts National Guard personnel and state police stormed the property of Martha’s Vineyard resident Paul Jackson, an 81-year-old former cancer patient who grows the plant for medicinal tea. They confiscated four plants. Question 4 would put an end to such outrageous waste of criminal justice resources....
The marijuana business already exists, it’s just in the shadows where exploitation takes place. It is time to bring the underground economy into the light, where we can regulate it and address it as a public health matter, with education and controls. Remember the "Let's make smoking history" education campaign? That did far more than prohibition to make once-ubiquitous cigarettes uncool.
We can’t wait for the Legislature to fix the law. They have had multiple opportunities to do so and failed to act. Despite widespread calls for public health approaches to substance abuse, most politicians still fear being labeled “soft on crime” at reelection time. Criminalizing marijuana has failed, because criminal law is too blunt a cudgel for an issue that calls for a public health education approach. A yes vote on Question 4 is a vote for public health and social justice.
November 2, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new piece by John Hudak at the Brookings FixGov website. I recommend the piece is full for all political junkies, and here are excerpts:
Much attention has been paid to the fact that several states are voting on marijuana initiatives this November. Five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—will vote on recreational legalization. Four more states—Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—will have medical marijuana on their ballots. In many places, polling is tight and there are no sure bets on passage (not even in the Golden State).
The presence of these initiatives on ballots is important in and of itself, and passage would mean tremendous drug policy changes in any state that votes to approve its initiative, but they could also have significant ripple effects on other elements of this year’s election. How might the ballot initiatives affect voter turnout, the outcomes of other races, or the accuracy of polling in these states?...
From a policy perspective, differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are significant. Medical markets are smaller, access to the product is more limited, and overall public support is higher for medical marijuana. That broader support also makes it harder to identify concrete and significant differences of opinion across demographic groups. For recreational marijuana, where support nationwide stands at around 60 percent divisions exist and they are significant. We know that Democrats support legalization at higher rates than do Republicans (and about the same as Independents). Men support legalization at higher rates than women. We also know that the younger you are, the more likely you are to support legalization. For instance, voters under the age of 30 support legalization at around 80 percent, while fewer than four-in-ten voters 65 and older support it....
For medical, it makes sense that differences are muted because overall support is higher. What adds to that trend is the product’s broader consumer base. While there are plenty of young medical marijuana patients in states that have passed reform, it is not necessarily a “young person” issue. Patients who swear by the therapeutic benefits of marijuana span age groups and, in fact, many qualifying conditions disproportionately affect voters aged 30 and over — think MS, ALS, arthritis, cancer, etc. Similarly, you don’t have to be young to be convinced by a relative or friend that medical marijuana is helping them. For voters of all ages, seeing is believing.
Having recreational marijuana on the ballot matters for more than just these initiatives in and of themselves. Advocates put the initiatives on the ballot in even numbered years — especially presidential election years because turnout is significantly higher. However, there is some evidence from 2012 that marijuana initiatives have coattails, too. Those coattails have meaningful effects up and down the ballot.... As I have written previously the 2012 initiatives in Colorado and Washington had unique impacts on turnout in those states.... Marijuana legalization impacted who turned out in 2012 and we should believe it may have similar effects in 2016.
It is no secret that when liberals turn out and younger voters turn out, it helps Democrats, ... [and] legalization initiatives have [had] a clear Democratic benefit. Reform supporters and those behind ballot initiatives strategically time measures to happen during presidential years in order to capitalize on the increased turnout. Yet, we know that the initiatives themselves can dramatically transform turnout and can have significant effects on other races as well.
With five recreational legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, what might it mean for the election generally? First, there is a clear Democratic benefit to these initiatives. In some states that may not matter, though. California and Massachusetts have ballot measures but they are not competitive in the presidential election and California’s Senate race is not competitive. In Maine, Arizona, and Nevada, however, there are competitive presidential contests. In the latter two, there are also competitive Senate races. Even though none of the candidates have embraced legalization, Hillary Clinton and Democrats across those ballots may see a bump because of changes in turnout. Democratic-leaning voters, who otherwise might have stayed home, could turn out to vote on marijuana reform. Some may leave other parts of the ballot blank, but Democrats could see a meaningful benefit overall. In a race that is close, a few thousand votes here or there could force an incumbent Republican Senator to pack up his office or shift a state’s electoral votes from red to blue....
If turnout among those under the age of 30 and among self-described liberals explodes in those five states [voting on reform initiatives], it could transform the outcome of many other races. It may also mean that the actual effect of Cannabis Coattails could lead pollsters to underestimate both support for Democrats and the support for the initiatives themselves. This really is not the fault of pollsters; it is a problem that stems from a lack of data. However, 2016 will provide additional data on the effect of marijuana initiatives on the composition of the electorate and the benefit for Democrats, so that the next time we face a similar situation — and 2020 will almost certainly have more legalization initiatives — pollsters will be better informed when designing poll samples and generating results.
None of this is to say that marijuana legalization initiatives will have a disruptive effect on the election. However, if Nevada’s Democratic Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto, narrowly defeats Joe Heck, or if Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick outpaces John McCain, or if Hillary Clinton manages to hold the electoral vote awarded from Maine’s Second Congressional District, it may not be a hard-fought campaign that made the difference. Such wins might occur because cannabis has a coattail effect — and even candidates who oppose legalization may find that marijuana was the medicine their campaign needed.
November 1, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new Roll Call article with this full headline: "Marijuana Legalization Could Get a Boost in a Democratic Senate: Advocates hope for better reception to sweeping pot bill, now stalled." Here are excerpts from an article that effective reviews the federal marijuana reform landscape a week before a very important election for marijuana reform:
Marijuana legalization advocates hope that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT., can push through a sweeping bill if he becomes Judiciary Committee Chairman under a Democratic-controlled Senate (Douglas Graham/Roll Call)
The momentum toward marijuana legalization — already accelerated this year by a raft of state ballot measures — could get an even bigger boost if Democrats win control of the Senate. That’s partly because the controlling party will choose the chairman of the committee that determines whether a sweeping marijuana proposal advances or dies.
The so-called CARERS Act has stalled in the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who, in the past, has staunchly opposed legalized marijuana. The Democrat next in line to take the gavel, Patrick J. Leahy, has shown more interest. He said in 2013 that federal officials should not “waste their time” prosecuting marijuana crimes in states where it is legal. He also comes from Vermont, which has led the country in legalization efforts.
Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-legalization group, called Grassley’s reticence to take on marijuana-related measures an “obstacle” to legalization. “If Sen. Leahy takes the gavel, we are a little more optimistic,” he said....
When the CARERS Act was introduced in March 2015, it was considered historically significant. Most key marijuana-related votes had taken place on the House side, through incremental changes tucked into unrelated bills. But here was the Senate, proposing one of the most comprehensive pot-related bills ever. CARERS focused solely on medical use — considered an easier sell. But it tackled many of legalization advocates’ biggest issues.
The bill would make it easier to research the medical benefits of cannabis and to buy and sell medical marijuana in the growing number of states where it is legal. It would also make it easier for veterans to access medical marijuana. Its original sponsors indicated a promising bipartisan appeal: Republican libertarian firebrand Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker, of New Jersey. And it quickly attracted a list of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle — including Charles E. Schumer of New York, a future shoe-in for majority leader under the Democrats, and Lindsey Graham, a conservative senior senator from South Carolina.
But the bill first had to pass through Grassley, who has linked lax marijuana laws and enforcement to the epidemic of opioid and heroin use. Grassley has held two marijuana-related hearings, one on researching its medical benefits, and another on cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that is thought to ease symptoms of epilepsy. The CARERS Act would remove cannabidiol, or CBD, from the Controlled Substances Act, facilitating research and patient access. Grassley expressed support for that part of the measure, but he made it clear that his interest is limited to medical potential. “Legitimate, medical research shouldn’t be confused at all with smoking marijuana for recreational purposes, which the science tells us can be harmful and addictive, especially for young people,” he said at a July hearing.
Grassley supports research into medical marijuana and its constituent parts, but opposes other parts of the bill, according to spokeswoman Jill Gerber. She pointed out that few Judiciary Committee members had co-sponsored the bill, an indication, she said, that there might not be enough support to pass it even if Grassley scheduled a vote. Indeed, some of the other committee members, including Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, and Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, have been outspoken in their opposition to legalization. (Sessions said in April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”)
But advocates have been tallying the potential votes on their side and are coming up with a different conclusion. CARERS co-sponsors Graham and Schumer sit on the Judiciary committee and others have made statements that indicate they could be persuaded, the Drug Policy Institute’s Collins said. “This is not something that Leahy would have to shove down representatives’ throats and then they would have a knock-down, drag-out fight on the floor,” he said.
Legalization advocates viewed the marijuana hearings as a sign that Grassley had softened his position. But they said the bill’s prospects would be better under Leahy. They noted that the Vermont senator showed support for states that have legalized marijuana when he chaired the committee the last time Democrats controlled the Senate. Leahy held a hearing on drug policy in 2013, saying state laws legalizing marijuana “should be respected.” Leahy did not respond to a request to comment for this story.
The CARERS Act sponsors expect to reintroduce the bill in the next Congress and were optimistic about its chances, according to a Democratic staffer with knowledge of the bill. “Attitudes about medical marijuana are shifting quickly,” Booker said in a statement. “Election Day could represent another big step forward. I expect the momentum behind the CARERS Act to grow."
A companion bill introduced on the House side has 42 co-sponsors, including 14 Republicans. Advocates say it has a good chance of passing even if Republicans maintain control of the House, which most projections indicate is the most likely outcome in November. Other marijuana-related legislation has passed with increasing bipartisan support every year since 2014, when the House adopted an amendment to an appropriations bill prohibiting the use of federal money to enforce marijuana laws in states that have legalized it for medical use.
Legalization advocates are also optimistic that the Democrats next in line to head the Banking and Finance committees would help advance bills aimed at easing financial restrictions on pot-related businesses. Both are front-line issues in the legalization movement that are also addressed in the CARERS Act. Federal laws make it difficult for businesses that sell marijuana to get loans or open bank accounts, forcing them to do most of their transactions in cash. They are also prohibited from taking tax deductions for their expenses....
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Banking Committee’s top Democrat, has expressed reservations on marijuana-related issues in the past, but he said last year that he supported legalized medical marijuana. (Ohio legalized medical marijuana in September.) And Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, sponsored bills this term that would make it easier for marijuana-related businesses to advertise and to take tax deductions.
But that’s not the only reason marijuana advocates are calling the 2016 election a pivotal one. “For those of us who are crusading [for] the end of this failed prohibition of marijuana, this could well be the turning point,” said Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who was campaigning in Arizona for that state’s marijuana ballot measure. Dozens of marijuana-related bills in the House and Senate could get a better reception in the coming Congress, regardless of which party controls the Senate and House, advocates say.
Five states, including the political bellwether of California, will vote to allow adult recreational use, potentially bringing to nine the total of states with full legalization plus the District of Columbia, and potentially bringing the percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal to as much as 25 percent from 5 percent. An additional four states will consider medical use this election. At present, more than two dozen states allow it. A Gallup poll released this month showed a record high of 60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization.
“What happens with these nine states on the 8th could propel a breakthrough in Congress and its going to be a huge signal to the other folks around the country,” Blumenauer said. Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, had a similar interpretation. “The reality is, after Nov. 8, there is going to be a significantly larger number of members of Congress who have constituents who are affected by the way the [federal] government approaches cannabis policy,” she said.
November 1, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 30, 2016
The title of this post is the punny, but spot-on, headline of this local article from Maine. Here are excerpts:
The difficulty of testing for marijuana intoxication and the complexity of Maine’s drug-testing laws are creating uncertainty among state officials and employers about the workplace impacts of a legal marijuana market. “It’s uncharted territory to a great extent,” said Julie Rabinowitz, director of policy, operations and communications for the Maine Department of Labor.
As Maine residents prepare to vote on marijuana legalization Nov. 8, state labor officials are meeting with their counterparts in Colorado and preparing to answer questions from employers about how passage of Question 1 would affect their drug-testing policies and efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace. State labor officials plan to offer courses on how to spot impairment in the workplace, and they say it’s unclear whether employers will be able to continue screening prospective workers for marijuana use.
However, backers of the legalization measure say the proposed law leaves in place protections for employers, who would still be able to implement drug-screening requirements, maintain drug-free workplace policies and fire employees who show up for work intoxicated.
No state east of the Rockies has legalized marijuana, but Maine and Massachusetts – as well as Arizona, California and Nevada – will vote Nov. 8 on proposals to establish recreational cannabis markets. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all legalized marijuana for adult use. While Maine already has higher marijuana use rates than most other states and is home to a burgeoning medical marijuana program, the potential increase in access to the drug raises questions for employers about how it would affect workplaces.
Although Maine employers will still have the right to prohibit employees from working while impaired – whether it’s by alcohol, marijuana or other drugs – there is no agreed-upon testing standard for marijuana impairment. Unlike a positive test for alcohol in the bloodstream, a positive test for marijuana doesn’t prove impairment because it could be the result of cannabis use weeks before the test.
And the referendum raises doubts about whether employers will continue to be able to reject job applicants who test positive for marijuana use that is no longer against the law, according to the Department of Labor. The department has sought guidance from Colorado about how a recreational market could affect employers that drug-test employees or maintain drug-free workplace policies, and labor officials are still sorting through the Maine initiative and how it interacts with existing state law related to drug testing. Employers, meanwhile, say they are taking a wait-and-see approach as they look for guidance from state officials on how to deal with employees who show up for work stoned....
The ballot initiative does not require employers to allow the use of marijuana in the workplace or prohibit them from disciplining employees who are under the influence, said Alysia Melnick, policy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
“Question 1 doesn’t change Maine employers’ rights to keep and maintain a drug-free workplace,” Melnick said. “Maine is and will continue to be an at-will state, meaning employers can terminate employees for just about any reason. If an employer had concerns about an employee’s performance or an employee was impaired on the job, they would continue to be within their rights to terminate that employee.”
Melnick said the initiative says that employers cannot discriminate against employees who use marijuana, but that doesn’t mean they have to hire them if they can’t pass a drug test. “If someone is not performing their job well or seems impaired or is doing anything else that would cause an employer to fire them, they’d still be allowed to let them go,” she said. “What they can’t do is fire someone solely on their use of marijuana outside of the workplace.”
Even if passage of the referendum would not prohibit pre-employment drug screening, employers may find themselves walking a fine line between respecting employees’ rights to do what they want on their own time and a desire to maintain a work environment free of people using marijuana, according to labor experts. That could leave employers in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide between tightening policies on positive test results to keep users out of the workplace or loosening them to avoid losing qualified employees.
That becomes tricky, according to labor officials and employers, because it can be more difficult to assess impairment from marijuana use than from the use of other substances, such as alcohol or opiates. A positive marijuana test indicates only that someone has consumed in recent weeks, not whether he or she is actually impaired in the workplace.
With alcohol, a breath test can be used to determine if someone is above the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content that is considered the threshold for impairment. But there is no agreed-upon blood-content level for tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – that would determine impairment. THC can stay in a person’s system for weeks after consumption, and regular marijuana users could have high THC levels but not be impaired.
Given that state law now prohibits recreational marijuana use, some employers have considered any positive test a reason not to hire a job candidate. But if recreational marijuana use becomes legal, drug screening gets complicated. “Human resources officials are still in two modes: catch-up and reaction,” said Jim Reidy, a New Hampshire attorney who specializes in labor and employment law and is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management. “We’re in an interesting time when there’s a culture clash between individual rights and the rights of an employer to govern its rules of conduct and its expectation with regards to employees. We’re in a culture war between individual rights and the rights of the employers.”...
Maine labor laws allow employers to drug-test employees with approval from the state Department of Labor, but the regulations around testing are complex and exclude most Maine employers from implementing random testing policies. The number of Maine companies that drug-test employees is surprisingly low, even though the numbers have increased over the past decade, Rabinowitz said.
Of the state’s roughly 40,000 employers, about 500 do some form of drug testing, including pre- and post-hiring tests. There are fewer than 200 companies that do random drug tests of employees. That number is especially low because companies with fewer than 50 employees are not allowed to randomly test employees. Some companies – particularly those that employ commercial truck drivers or federal contractors – are required by federal law to drug-test employees.
In 2015, the state recorded the highest percentage of positive drug tests since regulated testing began in 1989. Last year, a total of 26,258 tests were administered, with 5 percent – or 1,308 tests – coming back positive. A total of 1,093 of those tests, or 84.1 percent, were positive for cannabinoids, according to the Department of Labor. While more than 500 companies do some form of drug testing, that doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to determining if an employee is impaired by marijuana while on the job, Rabinowitz said. “If you are smoking marijuana and test positive, but you smoked it recreationally on the weekend, how do I differentiate that from someone who smoked that morning and came to work high? It becomes a critical issue if marijuana is legalized recreationally,” Rabinowitz said. “It becomes a real difficult standard for an employer to enforce.”...
Colorado’s experience with marijuana in the workplace appears to indicate Maine has little reason for concern. After Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012 and commercial sales began in 2014, nothing changed in terms of employer rights with drug testing, said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for the state. Employers can still drug-test employees and put in place drug-free workplace policies.
In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that businesses can fire employees for the use of marijuana, even if it’s while they’re off duty. Freedman said he is not aware of any widespread concerns about drug testing in Colorado. He said about 13 percent of adults use marijuana, which is roughly the same as before legalization, suggesting there is no greater risk of workers being high while on the job. At the same time, however, he also has heard comments from employers that it is now harder to hire people around the age of 25 because they can’t pass a drug test....
Maine labor officials said they have looked to Colorado’s experience and contacted officials there for advice. But, they said, there are important differences between labor and employment laws in the two states and that Maine could run into problems not experienced out West. Colorado doesn’t have the same limitations around drug testing that exist in Maine, for example, and it does not require employers to report to the state if they drug-test employees or job applicants.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this provocative article authored by David Schlussel now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Note suggests that "white individualism" has characterized many campaigns for the legalization of recreational marijuana, including in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. "White individualism" implicitly suggests that white, hard-working, middle-class, marijuana consumers are deserving beneficiaries of legalized marijuana. The white-washed framing of legal marijuana omits and implicitly reinforces marijuana prohibition’s racist legacy.
Marijuana criminalization was originally justified through racist propaganda; the war on drugs has been enacted through coded racial appeals; and marijuana enforcement has disproportionately fallen upon black and brown people. White individualism in marijuana legalization campaigns has tended to correlate with policies that favor white entrepreneurs rather than policies that redress past harms of prohibition, such as the expungement of criminal records.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
This new Toronto Star article reports on a notable new report about the economic potential presented by marijuana reform in Canada. The piece is headlined "Recreational weed could be a $22.6B industry: study; Sales of legalized recreational marijuana would surpass combined sales of beer, wine, and spirits, it says." Here are excerpts:
Legalized recreational marijuana promises to spark a $22.6-billion industry in Canada, eclipsing combined sales of beer, wine, and spirits, a new study suggests. The Deloitte report — titled Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities — being released soon concludes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legalization of cannabis next year could jolt the economy.
“There hasn’t been anything like this — and granted it wasn’t legislated — but you think of the dot-com … flurry,” Mark Whitmore, vice-chair of Deloitte, said in an interview Wednesday. “It has that kind of feel to it. There’s a lot of froth, a lot of interest in this space and a lot of people think there’s going to be an opportunity,” said Whitmore.
Deloitte estimates that satisfying the recreational weed market will mean producing 600,000 kilograms of marijuana annually — far more than the existing 36 licensed producers grow for medicinal purposes.
The consulting firm warns there will be challenges as recreational pot is legalized. “Of course, there will be a practical consideration to take into account when setting marijuana prices that goes beyond what the market will pay,” the 11-page study says. “The challenge will be to set a price point that balances the goal of creating and sustaining a legitimate market (while eliminating ancillary criminal enterprise) with that of not promoting excess consumption.”
In partnership with RIWI Corp., Deloitte surveyed 5,000 Canadians this past summer — including 1,000 identified as recreational marijuana users — and calculated that the base retail market alone would be worth $4.9 billion to $8.7 billion annually. The ancillary market — growers, infused product makers, testing labs, and security — would increase that to between $12.7 billion to $22.6 billion. With tourism revenue, business taxes, licence fees and paraphernalia, Deloitte estimates the market will be even greater than $22.6 billion....
Federally, Trudeau has former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan leading a task force to examine how his government should proceed. McLellan’s panel of experts will report back before Nov. 30 with a blueprint for federal legislation to be introduced next spring. The Deloitte study said regardless of what the new law looks like, it “presents a bold new landscape for Canadian businesses and governments alike.” “What this new landscape might look like remains unclear,” the report says.
The RIWI-Deloitte survey found 40 per cent favour legalization, with 36 per cent opposing it, and 24 per cent undecided. “This will make it challenging to create a broadly accepted regulatory environment,” the report says.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Disappointingly, New York Times editorial board tepidly notes how "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots"
More than two years ago, as first reported here, this seemingly historic new New York Times editorial called for the legalization of marijuana under the bold headline "Repeal Prohibition, Again." At the time, I had thought this action by the Gray Lady's editorial board would mean that the marijuana reform movement would have a high-profile and powerful media champion and advocate.
Disappointingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), while the NY Times editorial board has been a a high-profile and powerful media voice on a number of other modern criminal justice reform issues, the Times editorial pages has been anything but bold (and has often just been silent) in the last two years on a wide range of notable state and federal marijuana reform issues. In 2016, for example, which has arguably been the most significant year (and after this election will be surely the most consequential year) in the modern history of the reform of state and federal marijuana laws (and which the New York Times has covered extensively as news), the NY Times editorial board until this week had put forward only one single editorial advocating for marijuana reforms. (In telling contrast, the NY Times editorial board has had at least a dozen editorials advocating against forcefully capital punishment in 2016. )
I would think that if the editorial board was still truly committed to its advocacy in 2014 that the US should "Repeal Prohibition, Again," that it would be saying a whole lot more on this topic during this critical year. Against that backdrop, I am disappointed (but I suppose not too surprised) that this new New York Times editorial headlined "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots" is marked more by reporting than by advocacy. Here are excerpts:
People in nine states, including California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana. These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the next president and Congress to overhaul the country’s failed drug laws. This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969.
The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.
So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative consequences predicted by opponents. For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from schools have gone down in recent years. There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and fatalities in Colorado or Washington.
On Election Day, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will consider proposals to allow recreational use. In California, which approved medical use in 1996, polls show that the measure is likely to win. In Massachusetts, a recent poll showed 55 percent of likely voters supporting legalization. In Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, residents will vote on medical marijuana. If Florida voters say yes, other Southern states that have been resistant to liberalizing drug laws could reconsider their prohibitions, too.
Passage of these proposals should increase pressure on the federal government to change how it treats marijuana. The Obama administration has chosen not to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington. But this bizarre situation can’t last — even as more states legalize the drug, state-licensed marijuana businesses remain criminal operations under federal law. Even if they are not prosecuted by the federal government, this conflict in their legal status creates immense problems....
States are driving the change in marijuana policy because they see the damage created by draconian drug laws on communities, families and state budgets. It’s time the federal government acknowledged these costs and got out of the way of states adopting more rational laws.
When I saw the headline for this editorial --- which, as I suggested before, seems to be mostly a report of reality and fails to do much editorializing --- I at least expected it to mention and link to the New York Times' prior 2014 editorial calling for the US to "Repeal Prohibition, Again." I do not believe that the New York Times has changed its editorial stance on this front, but they seem now almost intent to make sure nobody remembers their bold advocacy two years ago.
Moreover, this "editorial," while seemingly eager to note that "negative consequences predicted by opponents" of reform have not materialized, entirely fails to note or highlights that all of the positive consequences predicted by supporters of marijuana reform have come to pass: huge new tax revenues are being collected, economic development has been considerable, arrest rates have gone down dramatically, and adults have safe and legal access to their preferred medicine or recreational drug. Simply saying at the end here that the federal government should get "out of the way of states adopting more rational laws" (which the Obama Administration has largely done, though Congress could and should do it more formally) is about the weakest tea support for reform I could imagine.
I suppose that when a paper's nickname is the "Gray Lady," I was foolish to expect or hope it would act or advocate like even a young smart conservative advocate (whom polls show support medical marijuana reform 10 to 1 and full marijuana reform 3 to 1). Still, I feel now as though the 2014 editorial headline really should have been "Repeal Prohibition, Again.... but do not expect the Gray Lady to really try to help make that happen anytime soon."
October 20, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 17, 2016
This new C/Net article, headlined "Innovation is the budding theme at marijuana summit: Everything from high-tech advancements in edible weed to big-data analysis can be seen at this year's New West Summit in San Francisco," highlights why so many interesting folks find the futue of the marijuana industry so interesting. Here are excerpts:
The New West Summit at the Hyatt hotel in downtown San Francisco looked similar to other business conferences held there throughout the year. Men and women in business suits hurried around, people huddled in corners talking shop, and unembellished booths showed off varied graphs and charts.
But every once in a while, conference goers got hit with a strong waft of marijuana. That's because this summit was all about weed. At their booths, companies displayed glass urns filled with buds, cannabis-laced chocolate bars and different kinds of vape pens and bongs. Yet among the firms touting this typical pot paraphernalia, there were other kinds of businesses dealing in marijuana: tech startups.
"This plant has been illegal and underground since the invention of technology," said Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside, one of the world's largest medical cannabis dispensaries. "This conference represents the intersection of Bay Area startup culture and cannabis."...
By 2020, New Frontier forecasts, the industry will be worth $20.5 billion (and some estimates put that figure a lot higher). That type of escalation makes the weed business one of the fasting-growing industries in the US. It's no wonder startups are getting into the game.
A meander around the New West Summit gives a sense of where the business side of the industry is heading. There's Grownetics, for instance, which uses a machine-learning algorithm to help farmers grow bigger buds more sustainably. There's Fleurish Farms, which has invented a contraption that it says captures 99.7 percent of the sun spectrum to let people grow pot plants indoors at a higher efficiency than they could in a greenhouse. "It captures the sunlight from all angles," said Fleurish Farms CEO Jonathan Cachat. "This reduces the environmental imprint of indoor cannabis production."
Even edible marijuana is seeing innovation. Besides gummies, lozenges and chocolates, some companies showed off marijuana-infused dissolvable breath strips, while others had topical sprays with exact dosing per pump. "We're coming to a point where we're starting to see edibles that are lower dosed," said Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva Confections. "It's that person that's looking for a glass of wine in the evening, that person that isn't looking to get blasted."
As the weed industry becomes more professionalized, it's caught the eye of more investors. In 2015, investors dropped $360 million into marijuana-focused startups, and so far this year they've invested $137 million, according to PitchBook, a research firm specializing in venture capital. That's a lot compared with just four years ago; in 2012 investors put only $7 million toward funding weed companies.
UPDATE: This new Business Insider article also speaks to emerging realities in a growing legal marijuana industry, and it includes these interesting points:
The marijuana industry is growing up in front of our eyes. As drug transactions move from back alleys and clubs to legal dispensaries, the culture around pot changes. In an effort to be taken more seriously, industry insiders find more sophisticated language to describe their trade. Slang no longer has a place in the industry vernacular. Entrepreneurs tell me they much prefer the scientific name for the plant, cannabis.
In the exhibit hall, purveyors showed their wares: high-tech vaporizers from companies like Firefly and Pax Labs, a marijuana-infused health products line from Fleurish Farms, and reports from business intelligence platform Headset. I spotted few companies with names that reveal the industry they operate in, and plenty advertising health and wellbeing.
A recent investigation by the Marijuana Business Daily underlines this trend. In an analysis of over 3,000 state-licensed marijuana companies, the publication found that companies use wellness-oriented words, such as "organic" and "herbal," in their names far more often than slang. The Marijuana Business Daily did not include businesses in California and Michigan, which do not issue licenses at the state level. "Farm," "green," "leaf," "bud," "garden," and "organic" are among the most popular words used in company names.
As Marijuana Business Daily writer Eli McVey points out, this hasn't always been the case. In the mid-2000s, before Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational weed in 2012, words like "ganja" and "dank" popped up more frequently. But as the national conversation around marijuana turned to issues around public health, rather than criminalization, the industry adopted a new vernacular around wellness and healing people.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
This Hartford Courant article, headlined "Massachusetts Marijuana Vote Could Mean Legalization Across New England," highlights reasons why I expect the recreational marijuana legalization initiative vote in the Bay State to have important ripple effects well beyond the state's borders. Here are excerpts from the piece:
As a multimillion dollar fight over recreational marijuana in Massachusetts races toward the finish line, both sides of the debate in Connecticut are keeping a close eye on a vote that could open the door to legalization across New England.
Massachusetts is one of five states where measures to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will also vote on the issue. An affirmative vote in Maine or Massachusetts would bring legal recreational marijuana to the region for the first time, putting new pressure on those in the state that oppose expanded marijuana use.
Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor's Prevention Partnership, said her group wasn't yet willing to shift the dialogue from opposing recreational marijuana use to figuring out the best way to regulate it. At the same time she acknowledged how legal cannabis across the border would complicate that fight. "We're staying focused on opposition," Spineti said. "But I do believe that if Massachusetts approves it, it will be much harder to oppose it here."
There's also the question of people crossing the border to buy marijuana. Something Spineti said some Connecticut employers have raised concerns about.
It's been almost two years since a public opinion poll asked Connecticut voters about marijuana legalization. In that March 2015 Quinnipiac Poll, 63 percent of voters said they supported allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.... A legalization and taxation bill was introduced last year [in Connecticut] and had about a dozen Democratic co-sponsors. An informal informational hearing was held with experts on both sides offering testimony before interested legislators.
Proponents of the bill said Connecticut would be losing out on valuable tax dollars if it wasn't the first state in New England to move forward with recreational marijuana legalization. State Rep. Vin Candelora, a Republican from North Branford who opposed the bill, said lawmakers shouldn't see tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana as a solution to the state's budget problems. He called it "blood money."...
Rep. Edwin Vargas, a Hartford Democrat who supported the marijuana legalization bill, said money that is funding criminal enterprises would instead be directed toward state government. Drug dealers would see their business undercut, he said, and fewer youths would be arrested for dealing.
"I knew all along this was going to sweep the states after the success in Colorado," Vargas said. Colorado, the first state to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use, brought in $130 million in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. "The only thing I feel bad about is we could have been first in the area and established the industry here. The one that establishes the industry first has a huge advantage."
At the University of Massachusetts last week, Rick Steves, an author and travel host who helped with the marijuana legalization effort in his home state of Washington, talked about the tax benefit. But he also made a civil liberties and criminal justice argument. "I'm a hardworking, kid-raising, church-going, taxpaying American citizen," he told the crowd of about 100 students and residents. "If I work hard all day long, want to go home, smoke a joint and just stare at the fireplace for three hours, that's my civil liberty."
Steves said marijuana could be regulated like alcohol. He didn't buy arguments by opponents who say it's a gateway drug, or that legalizing marijuana will lead to increased use by youths. "The opponents of these initiatives and moves to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, they cherry-pick their problems and they don't recognize that the major problem is with us right now — its called the status quo. We're arresting hundreds of thousands of people every year for nonviolent marijuana crimes. They're not rich white people, they're poor people and people of color. That's a real problem."
Steves acknowledged the difficulty getting marijuana legalized through a legislative effort rather than by ballot. Lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island had bills that progressed further than Connecticut's but neither were adopted. But public opinion is shifting. A national Pew poll released last week showed 57 percent of adults were in favor of legalizing marijuana use, up from 32 percent 10 years ago. "Politicians are realizing that the days when somebody could condemn you as being soft on drugs are slipping away," Steves said. "I don't think the issue is are you soft on drugs or are you hard on drugs. Now the issue is are you smart about drug policy reform?"
But even in Massachusetts most of the political establishment has shied away from supporting the ballot initiative. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healy and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both Democrats, are against it. As is U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy. The "yes" campaign has fought back with television advertising and a substantial campaign war chest, including more than $3 million in contributions from a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis reform advocacy group.
October 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, October 14, 2016
The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance have released this notable new report titled "So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C." The website provides this summary of the short report's contents:
In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).
The report’s key findings include:
Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.
Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.
Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.
Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.
October 14, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 13, 2016
The Pew Research Center has this new posting headlined "Support for marijuana legalization continues to rise," reporting on the results of its latest polling. Here are the particulars:
The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.
The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.
Young adults have disproportionately driven the shift toward public support of the drug, though support is rising among other generations as well. Millennials – those ages 18 to 35 in 2016 – are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71% today, up from 34% in 2006), and are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.
Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively). More than half of Gen Xers (57%) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21% in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56%) also support legalization, up from just 17% in 1990.
The Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults, also finds persistent partisan and ideological divides in public opinion on marijuana legalization. By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.
Republicans are internally divided over marijuana legalization. By a wide margin (63% to 35%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. By contrast, 62% of conservative Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana use, while just 33% favor it. The differences among Democrats are more modest. Liberal Democrats are 23 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to favor legalization (78% vs. 55%).
As past Pew Research Center surveys have found, Hispanics are less supportive of legalizing marijuana than are whites or blacks. Hispanics are divided – 49% say the use of marijuana should be illegal, while 46% say it should be legal. Identical majorities of whites and blacks (59% each) favor marijuana legalization.
I do not find the age-based and party-based polling particulars to be at all surprising, but I do find it quite notable and interesting that this poll suggests Latinos are slightly more likely to oppose than support marijuana legalization. I suspect that this finding could and would be even more interesting and telling if the Latino responses were broken down further by age, as I suspect older Latinos might continue to recall and fear the anti-Mexican/Latino biases that were integral to a whole lot of anti-marijuana policies and rhetoric until very recently.
The interesting Pew Center finding about Latino views on marijuana legalization also provides still further reasons to pay particular attention this election cycle to the marijuana reform ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and California and Florida. In addition to wondering whether exit polling in those states might confirm the likelihood of large blocks of Latino voters ending up on the "no" side of reforms, the traditionally different Latino origins that distinguish Latino population in different states might reveal still further deep insights into whether there are actually an array of distinct policy views on these issues among distinct groups of Latinos.
October 13, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)