Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Alaska Dispatch News has this new and notable article about a local legislative hearing that took place earlier this week. The extended article is headlined "Assembly kills proposal to ban marijuana sales in Anchorage," and here are excerpts:
An ordinance that would have banned commercial marijuana in Anchorage failed after four hours of public testimony and debate in Assembly chambers Tuesday night. The Assembly voted 9-2 just after 10 p.m. to kill the measure. Only members Amy Demboski and Paul Honeman supported the measure.
Demboski introduced the proposal last month, hoping the city would take a “wait and see approach" as state lawmakers craft marijuana regulations. But several Assembly members expressed concern that a ban would disconnect them from conversations regarding marijuana regulations at the state level.
“I’m fearful the message on ‘opt out’ will send key legislators in Anchorage to the sidelines,” said Assemblyman Bill Starr. “That will make my work harder.”
Demboski said her goal in bringing the legislation forward was not to stifle pot in Anchorage, but to begin to move the conversation forward on big topics dealing with the substance, including potential issues at the federal level. She noted it will especially be important to engage with Alaska’s congressional delegation on how to mitigate potential federal impacts. “It’s bringing the conversation forward,” Demboski said.
Bruce Schulte, with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, said he was surprised to see the Assembly kill the measure, noting that co-sponsor Dick Traini ultimately voted against it. Still, he said, it was good to get the public talking about potential impacts of marijuana legalization. “The most resounding message is that we still have a lot of work ahead,” Schulte said.
In hours of testimony in the Assembly chambers at Z.J. Loussac Public Library, most people spoke in opposition to the ordinance. Medical marijuana cardholders wept at the struggle of trying to get their medicine illegally. Many worried about city finances and said the Assembly should not shy away from new revenue in the form of taxable marijuana sales. Some mentioned distrust of officials for considering circumventing Alaska voters' wishes....
In November, Alaskans by a margin of 53 to 47 percent voted to approve Ballot Measure 2, an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. Just weeks after the measure passed, Assembly member and mayoral candidate Demboski introduced the ordinance that would allow Anchorage to take advantage of the “opt out” provision of the measure, which allows communities to ban commercial marijuana. Assembly members Traini and Paul Honeman also backed the measure....
Deborah Williams, who served as a spokesperson for the campaign opposing Ballot Measure 2, said in testimony Tuesday that she sensed hypocrisy in proponents of the measure, who emphasized the local option for communities but seemed to back away from it during the ordinance debate. “There were lots of promises during the campaign,” she said, noting rhetoric about regulation of things like marijuana advertising, edibles and butane hash oil. “This gives you bargaining power for the Legislature,” she said of the proposed city ban.
Jeff Jessee, who also worked on the campaign, worried that there’s so much unknown with regulations that it makes sense to stop marijuana before it gets going. “We need to temper expectations that it will be open season for this industry in Anchorage,” Jessee testified.
But June Pittman-Unsworth, one of several medical marijuana patients who ended up in tears while testifying, said she has no legal way to get it and has no ability to grow it herself. “The state failed me -- don’t let the city fail me,” Pittman-Unsworth said. “This ordinance is premature and open-ended. There’s no date on when to comply. I want you to think about that.”
Rev. Michael Burke of Common Sense on Marijuana in Alaska, a group of business and faith leaders looking to have a voice in the regulatory process, asked the city to hold off on the ordinance, saying it did not pass the “red face” test and said he worries voters will be cynical of leaders because the ordinance is coming so soon after the initiative was passed. Burke said his group and others would work to make sure that responsible regulation is enacted, including addressing issues with treatment, safety and keeping businesses small. “There is a lot at stake here in getting the regulations right,” Burke said.
Monday, December 15, 2014
The state and fate of marijuana reform in Washington DC (as well as elsewhere) was frequently a topic of debate and discussion in Congress as it worked through its recent funding/budget deal. Helpfully, Jacob Sullum has this array new pieces up at Reason convering some of this action, as well as discussing some other notable recent marijuana reform discussions and developments:
Friday, December 12, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable paper authored by Luke Scheuer that I just noticed via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In recent years many states have legalized the use and sale of marijuana for medical or even recreational purposes. This has led to the booming growth of a “legal” marijuana industry. Businesses openly growing and selling marijuana products to the consuming public are faced with some unusual legal hurdles. Significantly, although the sale of marijuana may be legal at the state level, it is still illegal under federal law.
This article explores the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws from a business entity law perspective. For example, managers owe a fiduciary duty of good faith to their businesses and equity holders. One of the ways in which managers can violate this duty is by causing their business to intentionally violate the law. This is a problem for the marijuana industry because its managers constantly and intentionally violate federal law and therefore violate their fiduciary duties by growing and selling marijuana.
This article concludes that the industry’s ability to attract professional stakeholders is harmed by marijuana business stakeholders’ inability to take advantage of key business law protections, such as limited liability. This article proposes a state law exception that allows for marijuana businesses to operate normally under state business entity law, with normal business entity law protections, despite their continuing violation of federal law.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Project SAM and Heritage event to separate "scientific facts from popular fiction" concerning marijuana reform
Today in Washington DC, Project SAM and the Heritage Foundation are co-hosting a notable event titled "Marijuana Policy: Separating Scientific Facts from Popular Fiction." The event is to include keynote remarks by two Republican members of Congress who are both doctors (and I believe ardent opponents of any prohibition reform): Andy Harris (R-MD) and John Fleming (R-LA).
Via this webpage at Heritage, I believe the full event will be webcast starting at 11am EST. (I am hoping the event will be archived there, too, for later viewing.) Here is the description of the event appearing on the Heritage page:
Today, 17 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana, four states have legalized the drug, and 23 states have passed so-called “medical marijuana” laws – despite the fact – that it is properly listed as a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance and the FDA does not recognize marijuana as a drug. Big marijuana is big business and has added Libertarians and some small government conservatives to its traditional liberal base. Public support for legalization has skyrocketed over the decades, from 12% in the 1970s to 51% today, down seven points from last year.
But just as public support has grown, so has the scientific understanding of the real dangers of marijuana. Scores of peer-reviewed studies published in the last two decades show how marijuana affects the brain, heart, lungs and mental health; how marijuana has become more potent and addictive; and how it is nothing like alcohol. Join us as our distinguished experts discuss the pot business, the science behind today’s marijuana, and why Americans should oppose legalization.
UPDATE at 12noon: I am in the midst of watching the Heritage event, and it is terrifically interesting. I will have some follow-up posts once the event is over with some generally commentary. But while the event is on-going, I feel compelled to note and lament that it appears that there is not a single person of color speaking among the eight scheduled speakers. I have been persistently concerned that much of the current debate and discussion of marijuana reform has not included diverse voices and perspectives, and this Heritage event (while otherwise first-rate in lots of respects) is aggravating this concern.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new AP article. Here is how it gets started:
Acclaimed chef Chris Lanter is talking a crowd of eager foodies through a demo on cooking with marijuana. As he prepares steak au poivre, he describes how to deglaze the pan with pot-infused brandy. How to pair marijuana with fine foods. How to make marijuana's skunky tang work for a dish, not ruin it. One catch — there's no actual weed at his demonstration.
Marijuana aficionados paid $250 for a weekend-long celebration of marijuana and food, yet state and city regulations prohibit any "open and public" use of the drug, even at licensed businesses holding private events.
It's a strange dichotomy. The nascent marijuana industry in Colorado is moving well beyond just pot brownies. Dispensaries are doing a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug. But for now, halting attempts at creating a marijuana dining scene have had mixed results.
Colorado may have legalized marijuana, but it still prohibits "on-site consumption," a caveat aimed at preventing Amsterdam-style coffee shops where pot can be purchased and consumed in the same place. Recreational or medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and Washington, DC. ? though each state prohibits on-site consumption and pot sales in bars or restaurants.
As Colorado's recreational industry nears its first anniversary, authorities increasingly are cracking down on attempts to push the pot-dining envelope. The city of Denver, where the marijuana industry is concentrated, wrote 668 tickets for "open and public consumption" through September, up from 117 the year before, when marijuana was legal, but sales were not. And the county that includes Colorado Springs is trying to crack down on so-called "smoke-easys," or private clubs that allow marijuana use, sometimes paired with refreshments.
Even private events at restaurants aren't safe. Denver authorities are using permit codes and alcohol laws to fine and even press charges against people trying to throw private events at which pot foods are served.
The result has been that chefs interested in infusing foods with pot, or pairing regular dishes with certain strains thought to accent a particular flavor, are unable to try it outside catered events at private homes. Even chefs who will talk publicly about doing "medicated" catered house parties, like Lanter, are skittish about sharing details.
Monday, November 24, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new AP article. Here are excerpts:
From new marijuana strains for the holidays to gift sets and pot-and-pumpkin pies, the burgeoning marijuana industry in Colorado is scrambling to get a piece of the holiday shopping dollar. Dispensaries in many states have been offering holiday specials for medical customers for years — but this first season of open-to-all-adults marijuana sales in some states means pot shops are using more of the tricks used by traditional retailers to attract holiday shoppers....
The Grass Station in Denver is selling an ounce of marijuana for $50 — about a fifth of the cost of the next-cheapest strain at the Colorado dispensary — to the first 16 customers in line Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That works out to less than $1 a joint for the ambitious early-rising pot shopper. Owner Ryan Fox says his Black Friday pot is decent quality, and says he's selling below cost to attract attention and pick up some new customers....
Sweets and marijuana seem to go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. Many dispensaries this time of year resemble a Starbucks at the mall, with holiday spices and festive music in the air. One of the state's largest edible-pot makers, Sweet Grass Kitchen, debuted a new miniature pumpkin pie that delivers about as much punch as a medium-sized joint. The pie joins holiday-spiced teas, minty pot confections and cannabis-infused honey oil for those who want to bake their own pot goodies at home.
Even some edibles makers that specialize in savory foods, not sweets, are putting out some sugary items for the holidays. "It just tastes too good, we had to do it," Better Baked owner Deloise Vaden said of her company's holiday line of cannabis-infused sweet-potato and pumpkin pies....
Colorado Harvest and Evergreen Apothecary timed the release of some top-shelf strains of potent pot for the holiday season. Spokeswoman Ann Dickerson says they're "sort of like the best bourbon or Scotch that will be competing on quality, rather than price."...
For the shopper who wants to give pot but doesn't know how the recipient likes to get high, Colorado's 300 or so recreational dispensaries so far have been able to issue only handwritten gift certificates. That's because banking regulations prohibit major credit cards companies from being able to back marijuana-related gift cards the way they do for other retailers.
Just this month, a Colorado company started offering pot shops a branded gift card they can sell just like other retailers. The cards are in eight Denver dispensaries so far, and coming soon will be loyalty cards similar to grocery-store loyalty cards that track purchases and can be used to suggest sales or new products to frequent shoppers.
November 24, 2014 in Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, November 22, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting and lengthy NBC News article. Here are excerpts:
The specter of corporate cannabis loomed large on Tuesday, when the family of Bob Marley appeared on NBC’s Today Show, announcing the creation of Marley Natural. The world’s first global brand of marijuana launched with the support of $50 million dollars in private equity and the same marketing machine that took Starbucks to the masses.
“We see the inevitability of large, well-run companies to sell cannabis,” said Brendan Kennedy, the CEO of Privateer Holding, the Seattle-based company that’s behind the Marley brand. “That train left the station a long time ago.”
Less than a year after Colorado and Washington state opened the first commercial pot markets, and less than a month after two more states voted to follow suit, such frank capitalism has shocked the smiling wise-men of weed and their crusading friends in the legalization movement. Most hoped the market would remain a cottage industry of small-scale growers, collectives and dispensaries. Few expect it will....
Alcohol and tobacco interests are also keeping an eye on the burgeoning market. The alcohol industry in particular has been communicating with representatives of NORML, DPA, and the Marijuana Policy Project, according to sources on both sides of the table.
They want to know whether pot will be a friend or a foe — a complement to their products, or, as some marijuana reformers have argued, an alternative that could sap America’s love of drinking. The marijuana lobby accepts these overtures out of a combination of curiosity, realism, and smart strategy. If a takeover is inevitable, they figure, it’s better to be prepared.
“Beer, wine and tobacco people — I’ve met with them all,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, which is above all a consumer rights organization. He doesn’t love the idea of Big Pot, but he believes it will help guarantee that users get a quality product at a fair price....
St. Pierre hopes to create a “Dionysus lobby,” built on the shared interests of alcohol, tobacco and pot. All three industries want low taxes, the right to advertise freely, and the ability to make convenient sales, he said. But so far the legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington are plainly over-regulated, he added, prejudiced against pot consumers, who should be allowed to buy marijuana as easily and safely as they do beer or wine or a pack of smokes.
“I’ve tried to say, ‘look, none of us should be hiding,’” he said. “All of us are involved in a problematic adult consumer product and all of us enjoy using one or more of these products,” he continued. “What do we want? We can get it down to four words, almost a Wal-Mart bumper sticker: ‘Best product, lowest cost.’”
He said that one of his warmest receptions came from the Distilled Spirits Council, or Discus, which represents the leading producers and marketers of liquor in the United States. One day last July a senior member of Discus called St. Pierre, according to an account of the conversation that St. Pierre emailed to a colleague.
That account along with a follow-up interview with St. Pierre illustrates how marijuana has sent a twinned-bolt of fear and excitement through the spines of alcohol executives. The Discus executive congratulated the industry on its wins at the ballot box, St. Pierre recalled. The executive also assured the marijuana lobby that the nation’s largest liquor makers would not fight legalization as long as the public supported it.
He estimated that a third of Discus board want to get into the marijuana business, a third oppose legalization, and a third believe that the industry should take a neutral position, according to St. Pierre’s recollections. But Discus conveyed a threat as well, a complaint against the way marijuana advocates were demonizing alcohol in their campaigns. “Marijuana is safer than alcohol,” is perhaps MPP’s most used slogan in fact, and the group relentlessly argues that America would be a healthier place if we put down our tumblers and decided to toke.
If such talk continued, the Discus rep said, according to St. Pierre’s recollection, the liquor industry would have no choice but to launch a counter-attack. That, St. Pierre agreed, wouldn’t be good for anyone....
The Beer Institute, which represents the nation’s 2,800 breweries, and the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America also confirmed meetings and calls with the marijuana lobby but denied wanting to get into the business.
All three show signs of the same double vision of marijuana as both opportunity and threat. Earlier this year, Brown-Forman Corp., which owns Jack Daniel's, told investors that the spread of legalization could hurt its sales. The Beer Institute is officially neutral on the question of marijuana legalization. But Chris Thorne, the vice president of communications, seemed to take a shot at the new industry and its claim as a safe alternative to booze.
“We believe that it’s misleading to compare marijuana to beer,” he said in a phone interview. “We are committed to responsible advertising, working with public officials and law enforcement, and supporting communities in the countries where we operate. I don’t think any of that is true for marijuana. There are a lot of unanswered questions about marijuana — questions about its effect on the brain, and on young people — and we think legislators would be wise to look at these questions as they consider the legalization of marijuana.”
But at the same time, the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America may be ready to make marijuana work for it. Earlier this year, in a letter sent to all fifty U.S. attorneys general and governors, the president of the WSWA argued that if a state decides to legalize marijuana, it should regulate it with the same three-tiered distribution system set up for alcohol after prohibition — a move some analysts interpreted as a sign that alcohol companies would be open to moving pot as well....
Tobacco executives, meanwhile, have been studying the marijuana industry for years, according to Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His research has drawn an 80-million page archive of tobacco industry documents, spanning the 1960s to the late 1990s. Many of the documents reference softening pot laws, rising use, and the dual threat/opportunity of a third major vice industry.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
CNN has this notable new commentary authored by Jeffrey Miron urging Congress to follow the lead of states on modern marijuana reform. (Miron is senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in the economics department at Harvard University as well as a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.) Here are excerpts:
Marijuana legalization is a policy no-brainer. Any society that professes to value liberty should leave adults free to consume marijuana.
Moreover, the evidence from states and countries that have decriminalized or medicalized marijuana suggests that policy plays a modest role in limiting use. And while marijuana can harm the user or others when consumed inappropriately, the same applies to many legal goods such as alcohol, tobacco, excessive eating or driving a car.
Recent evidence from Colorado confirms that marijuana's legal status has minimal impact on marijuana use or the harms allegedly caused by use. Since commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009, and since legalization in 2012, marijuana use, crime, traffic accidents, education and health outcomes have all followed their pre-existing trends rather than increasing or decreasing after policy liberalized.
The strong claims made by legalization critics are not borne out in the data. Likewise, some strong claims by legalization advocates -- e.g., that marijuana tourism would be a major boom to the economy -- have also not materialized. The main impact of Colorado's legalization has been that marijuana users can now purchase and use with less worry about harsh legal ramifications.
Yet despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress toward legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured. Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law.
Whether that will happen is hard to forecast. If more states legalize marijuana and public opinion continues its support, Washington may hesitate to push back. But federal prohibition creates problems even if enforcement is nominal: Marijuana business cannot easily use standard financial institutions and transactions technologies such as credit cards; physicians may still hesitate to prescribe marijuana; and medical researchers will still face difficulty in studying marijuana.
To realize the full potential of legalization, therefore, federal law must change. The best approach is to remove marijuana from the list of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal law that governs prohibition.
Standard regulatory and tax policies would still apply to legalized marijuana, and states would probably adopt marijuana-specific regulations similar to those for alcohol (e.g., minimum purchase ages). State and federal governments might also impose "sin taxes," as for alcohol. But otherwise marijuana would be just another commodity, as it was before the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
A more cautious approach would have Congress reschedule marijuana under the CSA. Currently, marijuana is in Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs such as heroin and LSD that, according to the CSA, have "a high potential for abuse ... no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States ... [and] a lack of accepted safety for use." Hardly anyone believes these conditions apply to marijuana.
If marijuana were in Schedule II, which states it as "a high potential for abuse ... [but a] currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," doctors could legally prescribe it under federal law, as with other Schedule II drugs such as cocaine, methadone and morphine....
This "medicalization" approach, while perhaps politically more feasible than full legalization, has serious drawbacks. Federal authorities such as the Drug Enforcement Administration could interfere with marijuana prescribing -- as sometimes occurs with opiate prescribing. Taxing medical marijuana may be harder than taxing recreational marijuana. And the medical approach risks a charge of hypocrisy, since it is backdoor legalization. But medicalization is still better than full prohibition, since it eliminates the black market.
For 77 years, the United States has outlawed marijuana, with tragic repercussions and unintended consequences. The public and their state governments are on track to rectify this terrible policy. Here's hoping Congress catches up.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I am intrigued and pleased to see that the Room for Debate section of the New York Times has gathered some of the leading advocates in the marijuana reform debate to discuss whether and how marijuana reform ought to proceed. Here is the section's set up:
It looks like the use of recreational marijuana is heading down the path of legalization across the country. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia approved legalizing measures on Nov. 4, but with key differences. The District of Columbia, for instance, will repeal all criminal and civil penalties for personal possession and allow limited, private cultivation of the drug. Oregon on the other hand would give its Liquor Control Commission the power to regulate marijuana as it does alcohol.
Some say a profit-driven model for legalization runs the risk of increasing marijuana use, while others argue that a regulated market is the best way to keep use safe for consumers. What’s the right approach to legalizing recreational marijuana?
Here are the contributions, with links via the commentary titles:
Legalization Doesn’t Have to Lead to Commercialization by Mark A. R. Kleiman
Racial Justice at the Core of the Movement by Malik Burnett
A Market Will Benefit Consumers and Society by Steve Fox
A Gateway to Profits by Kevin A. Sabet
The title of this post is the subheading of this notable commentary by Jacob Sullum at Reason.com. Here are a few excerpts:
At a press conference last week, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's congressional delegate, urged her colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the nation's capital on November 4. She was joined by three congressmen, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who said trying to block legalization in D.C. or in Alaska and Oregon, where voters also said no to marijuana prohibition this month, would flout "fundamental principles" that "Republicans have always talked about," including "individual liberties," "limited government," and "states' rights and the 10th Amendment."...
Initiative 71, which passed by a margin of more than 2 to 1, allows adults 21 or older to possess two ounces or less of marijuana, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to an ounce at a time to other adults "without remuneration." It does not authorize commercial production or distribution, although the District of Columbia Council is considering legislation that would. "I see no reason why we wouldn't follow a regime similar to how we regulate and tax alcohol," incoming Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference after the election.
In theory, there are a couple of ways that Congress could try to stop all this from happening. It could pass a joint resolution disapproving Initiative 71, or it could bar the District from spending money to implement the measure. But neither of these approaches looks very promising....
Strictly speaking, "states' rights" do not apply to the District of Columbia, which was created by Congress and is subject to much more extensive federal control than the states are. But as Obama suggests, the arguments for federalism — in particular, the idea that political decisions should be made at the lowest feasible level to facilitate citizen influence, policy experimentation, and competition among jurisdictions — apply to D.C. as well as the states. Given the president's views on the subject, it seems reasonable to assume that he would take a dim view of attempts to nullify Initiative 71.
November 18, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
As reported in this BuzzFeed piece, which is headlined "California’s Attorney General Thinks Legal Weed Is Inevitable," the top lawyer in California had a a lot of interesting and notable things to say recently about marijuana reform. Here are the details:
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a rising star in the Democratic Party, says she’s “not opposed” to her state legalizing marijuana. The state was one of the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, but so far hasn’t legalized it for recreational use, like Colorado, Washington, and others.
“I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I’m the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective,” Harris told BuzzFeed News in an interview in Washington, D.C. “I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized.”
“We’re watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington. I don’t think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said. “I think there’s a certain inevitability about it.”
Harris is one of the few state-level officials appearing at an event on Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, an influential left-wing think tank seen as a feeder institution for the Obama administration. Talked up as a contender to replace Eric Holder as attorney general, Harris, who is one of the Democratic Party’s likely prospects for higher office in California, said that even with legalization it’s important that states have systems in place for regulating use of the drug.
“It would be easier for me to say, ‘Let’s legalize it, let’s move on,’ and everybody would be happy. I believe that would be irresponsible of me as the top cop,” Harris said. “The detail of these things matters. For example, what’s going on right now in Colorado is they’re figuring out you gotta have a very specific system for the edibles. Maureen Dowd famously did her piece on that… There are real issues for law enforcement, [such as] how you will measure someone being under the influence in terms of impairment to drive.”
“We have seen in the history of this issue for California and other states, if we don’t figure out the details for how it’s going to be legalized the feds are gonna come in, and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest,” Harris said....
“I don’t have any moral opposition to it or anything like that. Half my family’s from Jamaica,” Harris said with a laugh.
UPDATE: I just noticed that our Senior Superstar California Correspondent, Alex Kreit, also posted here about AG Harris's comments. His post, titled "Kamala Harris Coming Around on Marijuana Legalization," includes a lot of astute political observations about the importance of what AG Harris is now saying.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by the headline of this new Motley Fool posting, "This Could Be the Make-or-Break Marijuana State." Here are excerpts:
Although state elections are now in the books for another two years, it's not too early to start thinking about which states could be the next to introduce legal marijuana and medical marijuana legislation in the next election. Though we could theoretically see as many as a dozen states bringing some degree of marijuana vote in front of their citizens in 2016, no state has greater make-or-break potential for the marijuana movement than California.
The most populous state in the country, according to The Los Angeles Times, came incredibly close to putting legal marijuana on the ballot in this past election, however it lacked an adequate amount of funding that would have been required to make a run at legalization. The Drug Policy Alliance, the same group that helped get marijuana legalized for adults in Washington and Colorado, and medical marijuana legalized in Massachusetts, has been continuously drumming up support, but all efforts to draft the Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Act have been put off until the 2016 elections.
As you may have figured, the implications for California and the rest of the nation are enormous. As the most populous state, California is poised to become the biggest consumer of marijuana, as well as the biggest generator of tax revenue. Based on data from NerdWallet, California has nearly 25 million people aged 25 and up, of which 6.74% admitting to smoking marijuana within the past month. Out of the 50 U.S. states, only eight had a higher percentage of admitted marijuana users, and in four of those (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska), recreational use is now legal.
In other words, California could be poised to reap more than $500 million in annual tax benefits based on a forecast that calls for a flat 25% tax on marijuana. That's no small chunk of change, and it can go to support the state's ailing education system, or even help pay for the maintenance of its state-run health exchange.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new local article headlined "Momentum to legalize marijuana in California is growing." here are excerpts:
After Tuesday’s election, just one piece of the West Coast remained unwelcoming to recreational pot: California. But with voters in Oregon and Alaska legalizing the use and sale of marijuana — joining Washington and Colorado in inviting retail spreads of cannabis-infused teas and brownies and joints — advocates see fresh momentum behind the slow shift in how the public regards the green stuff and those who enjoy it.
California residents rejected legalization in 2010, with a 54 percent vote against it, but supporters of recreational marijuana are growing more confident about reversing that result in the 2016 election.
“I see a parallel — not a perfect parallel, but a parallel — with marriage equality,” said Ben Tulchin, a San Francisco-based pollster who has watched sympathy for both same-sex unions and marijuana climb. “The first battle you may lose, like in California, but you start a conversation and get the dialogue going. … And you eventually see a very big shift.”
California, alongside Arizona and Nevada, have legalization measures in the works for the 2016 election, when the presidential race is expected to deliver younger voters to the polls who tend to be more supportive of pot. Proponents are considering other states as well. “I got to believe that the wins this week, coupled with the wins in 2012, will provide momentum,” Tulchin said....
Backers in California acknowledge that victory won’t come easy. Although polls show a majority now supports the idea, selling voters on a specific plan gets tricky. Concerns about how the drug will be taxed, and who can sell it, helped sink Proposition 19 four years ago. Even leaders in the medical marijuana community decided they didn’t like the details of the rollout and came out against the initiative. A lack of funding for the 2010 campaign was also an obstacle.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a supporter of the 2016 push for legalization, is chairing a task force to study the issue in a bid to head off problems. “A lot of things weren’t thought through with Proposition 19,” said Newsom, who will be termed out of his office in 2018 and doesn’t see support of pot as hindering his political future. “We want to make sure we have the answers to the tough questions.”
Many Californians are waiting for those answers, including Kevin Reed, the founder and president of The Green Cross, a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco’s Excelsior. He said he’s not sure if his customers and his business will benefit from legalization.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
I am pleased (and not surprised) to see that Professor Franklin Snyder continue to post lots and lots of great new content at Cannabis Law Prof Blog. Here are just some of the great posts worth checking out that provide various perspectives on perspectives after the big election this past week:
Thursday, November 6, 2014
The title of this post is drawn from the headline and substance of this new Washington Post piece. Here are excerpts:
“The stage is now set for 2016, when measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on ballots in at least five states,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which was instrumental in passing legalization in Colorado and bankrolled the successful campaign in Alaska. The group contributed about 84 percent of the nearly $900,000 raised by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, which successfully lobbied for passage of the ballot measure in Alaska.
The five states where MPP has established committees to push similar ballot measures in 2016 are Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. An independent Democratic activist in Mississippi is also pursuing a ballot measure there. The measures there will likely mimic the Colorado model, as the measures in Oregon and Alaska did. (The measure passed by voters in Washington in 2012 is typically viewed by advocates as more restrictive than Colorado’s.)
But the group also plans to work to help shepherd legalization through a state legislature for the first time, with a particular focus on Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maryland. New Hampshire’s state House in January became the first legislative body in the country to approve legalization, though the effort ultimately reached a dead end. That state, Rhode Island and Vermont may see action soonest among that group.
The upcoming push to legalize in those nearly dozen states will no doubt draw heavily on lessons learned during the successful campaigns so far, which fall roughly into two categories, Tvert said. Advocates in Alaska and Colorado felt they needed to focus on disarming fears about the harm of marijuana early by drawing the comparison to alcohol, while Oregon and Washington played it safer by arguing that legalization is safer than prohibition....
In Oregon, the campaign tended to focus on the ills of prohibition, offering legalization as a safer alternative. What worked? Peter Zuckerman, communications director of the successful Yes on 91 campaign, said legalization advocates were smart to avoid marijuana leaf imagery, wear suits when appearing on TV, and pursue endorsements from unusual or unexpected individuals and groups. His group aired ads featuring Washington’s King County Sheriff John Urquhart, local mothers, and a former top state official in charge of mental health and addiction services. Support from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the social media-savvy group of moms backing the measure helped, too, he said. The campaign might have seen more success by starting earlier and encouraging supporters to quote news sources in voter pamphlet statements, he added.
There are lessons to learn from failure, too. While all the legalization measures were approved on Election Day, a measure to allow medical marijuana in Florida failed to gain the 60 percent share of the vote necessary for passage, though it did earn majority support. The campaign there could have promoted the patients who would have benefitted more and been less reactive, said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
“They spent a lot of time trying to undercut the opposition’s arguments about the so-called loopholes in Amendment 2 and from what I saw they really didn’t do enough of a job of telling the story of the patients who are going to be helped by this,” Angell said.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia just voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In a sense, they broke no new ground -- Colorado and Washington already legalized recreational marijuana two years ago. But the passage of these measures is extraordinary in another sense: marijuana legalization no longer surprises anyone. Even the federal government, which continues to ban marijuana, seems unlikely to raise a fuss. Indeed, following similar votes in Colorado and Washington in 2012, the Department of Justice announced that it would refrain from prosecuting marijuana users and dealers who comply with state law, so long as they do not implicate a distinct federal interest (like stopping inter-state shipments of the drug). As control of the Congress shifts to the Republican Party, it seems unlikely that the federal government will do anything but continue to sit on the sidelines for the next two years.
The votes on Tuesday are interesting for two other reasons as well. First, these votes arguably foretell how marijuana laws will evolve in the states over time. The four states and DC that were the first to legalize recreational marijuana were also among the first to legalize medical marijuana: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998, Colorado did so in 2000, and DC first tried in 1999. This suggests that voters might be more comfortable taking the plunge (i.e., legalizing recreational marijuana) after dipping their toes in the pool first (i.e., legalizing medical marijuana). It also suggests that the next states to legalize recreational marijuana are likely to be ones with more mature medical marijuana programs, such as California (1996) and Maine (1999).
Second, the defeat of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida is as unsurprising as the passage of legalization elsewhere. The south has been resistant to marijuana reforms; it remains the only region of the country without a legalization state. To some extent, southern resistance might be due to public attitudes toward marijuana; but it also might stem from lawmaking procedures used in many southern (and some other states) that impede the adoption even of popular reforms. After all, over half (58%) of Florida voters actually supported legalization of medical marijuana; but that figure just was not enough to change state law – the constitutional initiative process requires 60% support, higher than the simple majority needed in many other states, like California. A vote to legalize marijuana elsewhere in the country might not be surprising anymore, but when it happens in the south it will be noteworthy.
November 5, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Current Affairs, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 27, 2014
Dr. Jeffrey Miron, who is director of economic studies at the Cato Institute and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, has just produced this significant new Cato working paper titled "Marijuana Policy in Colorado." The paper is relatively short, though it includes lots of data, and here is its Executive Summary and its closing paragraphs:
In November 2012, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia are scheduled to consider similar measures in the fall of 2014, and other states may follow suit in the fall of 2016.
Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates believe legalization reduces crime, raises revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditure, improves public health, improves traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics believe legalization spurs marijuana use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement. Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been absent.
This paper provides a preliminary assessment of marijuana legalization and related policies in Colorado. It is the first part of a longer-term project that will monitor state marijuana legalizations in Colorado, Washington, and other states.
The conclusion from this initial evaluation is that changes in Colorado’s marijuana policy have had minimal impact on marijuana use and the outcomes sometimes associated with use. Colorado has collected non-trivial tax revenue from legal marijuana, but so far less than anticipated by legalization advocates....
The evidence provided here suggests that marijuana policy changes in Colorado have had minimal impact on marijuana use and the outcomes sometimes associated with use. This does not prove that other legalizing states will experience similar results, nor that the absence of major effects will continue. Such conclusions must await additional evidence from Colorado, Washington, and future legalizing states, as well as more statistically robust analyses that use non-legalizing states as controls.
But the evidence here indicates that strong claims about Colorado’s legalization, whether by advocates or opponents, are so far devoid of empirical support.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Patrick Gleason, who is the Director of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, has this notable new commentary at Forbes headlined "Marijuana Taxes On The Ballot This November." Here are excerpts:
Voter approval of retail marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington State in 2012 presented lawmakers in those state capitals with a difficult task not faced before in the U.S.: how to tax and regulate legal recreational marijuana. As Joe Henchman, Vice President at the non-partisan Tax Foundation has pointed out, “Because marijuana can be purchased as a cigarette, an edible, a liquid, or vapor, all with a wide variety of concentrations, a specific excise tax is untenable.” Since then, Colorado and Washington State lawmakers have imposed onerous and excessive taxes on marijuana; but on Nov. 4, Washington State voters will have the opportunity to tell their representatives in the state legislature to reconsider.
During the 2014 session of the Washington legislature, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 6505, which deemed the marijuana industry to be non-agricultural, thereby removing excise tax protections that apply to the state’s agriculture industry. This redefining of the industry will permit, if allowed to stand, more than $24 million in higher taxes over the next decade than would’ve otherwise been the case. On Nov. 4, Washington residents will vote on Advisory Question Number 8, a ballot measure that would urge the legislature to either maintain or repeal this reclassification of marijuana products as non-agricultural.
Washington State taxes marijuana with a 25 percent assessment on sales from producers to processors, a 25 percent tax on sales from processors to retailers, followed by another 25 percent tax on retail sales. That’s not all. Then there is the Evergreen State’s Business & Occupation gross receipts tax, a 6.5 percent state sales tax, along with local sales taxes. Altogether this brings the estimated effective tax rate on marijuana products to approximately 44 percent. In light of the onerous tax treatment of marijuana products and companies tied to that industry, it would be a positive development for Washington voters to vote repeal on Advisory Question 8 and urge lawmakers in Olympia to reverse the non-agricultural reclassification that will beget such punitive taxation.
But it’s not just at the state level where the marijuana industry faces excessive and unfair taxation. It’s a basic principle of sound tax policy that the code should not pick winners and losers or disproportionately target certain industries or groups of taxpayers. Yet unlike any other business, newly-legalized cannabis dispensaries are not allowed to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses like equipment, rent, and wages from their federal taxable income....
Section 280E of the tax code denies ‘ordinary and necessary’ business expenses as a deduction against income derived from Schedule 1 substances. Unfortunately, tax law does not make any distinction between illegal street drug sales and state-established, legal cannabis dispensaries. These latter businesses comply fully with state law, pay all applicable taxes, and are vigorously regulated. There is no reason why the tax code should deny ordinary and necessary business expenses to legitimate businesses established under state law. The result is an arbitrary and punitive situation where legal employers face very high average effective tax rates that Congress never sought to impose on businesses.
Colorado, like Washington State and the federal government, exorbitantly taxes marijuana. Between the state’s 15 percent wholesale excise tax, a 10 percent state tax on marijuana retail sales, plus traditional state and local sales taxes, the effective rate on cannabis approaches 30 percent in the Rocky Mountain State.
It’s great to have 50 laboratories of democracy across the U.S., and the trials with legal marijuana taking place in Washington and Colorado will be instructive for other states and the federal government. Yet, when such heavy and unreasonable taxation is imposed, it blunts the positive effects of legal cannabis – such as the eradication of black markets and drug cartels – and makes it impossible to fully learn from the experience. Washington voters and members of Congress have the opportunity to help get it right, if they so choose.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
This new Denver Post article, headlined "Proposed Colorado marijuana edibles ban shows lingering pot discord," documents the enduring challenges and debates over the best regulatory frameworks for states which have moved away from total marijuana prohibition. Here are excerpts:
Colorado's health department proposed an industry-spinning ban on the sales of nearly all forms of edible marijuana at recreational pot shops Monday but then quickly backed away from the plan amid an industry outcry and questions over legality.
After a heated, four-hour hearing, the public policy Tilt-A-Whirl ride ended where it began: with lawmakers, regulators and stakeholders still in disagreement — now more than 10 months after the start of recreational pot sales — on the best way to manage marijuana in Colorado. "This is by far the simplest recommendation," state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said of the health department's proposal. "But I don't know if it gets us to where we want to be."
The aim of the state advisory group that met Monday to consider the health department's proposal and several others is to prevent people — mostly kids — from accidentally eating marijuana-infused products. Such accidental ingestions have sent children to the hospital, caused an increase in calls to poison-control hotlines and become one of the key measures lawmakers use in discussing whether legal marijuana sales can fit harmoniously in society.
Sales of infused edibles make up about 45 percent of the legal marijuana marketplace, said Dan Anglin, the chairman of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
The health department's recommendation was one of 11 proposals the group considered Monday. Most suggested the state create clearer labels for marijuana-infused products or require producers to make edible marijuana items in a unique shape or dyed a unique color.
Many of those proposals, though, quickly met with a familiar back-and-forth. One side would offer the suggestion; the other side would bat it down. Stamp a symbol onto edibles denoting the products contain marijuana? Too easily rubbed off, edibles producers said. Improve labeling and require edibles to stay with their packages? Too easily ignored to spread unmarked edibles, groups concerned about marijuana said.
Require producers to dye their products a specific color or airbrush on a symbol? "You can't force a company to use an ingredient they don't want to," said advisory group member Julie Dooley, an owner of Julie & Kate Baked Goods, an edibles producer.
In the debate, there was talk of Sour Patch Kids and marijuana-infused sodas, discussion of the cost of chocolate molds, and these words: "I think soft candy is such a broad category."
Amid this atmosphere, Colorado health department official Jeff Lawrence presented the department's proposed ban on the sales of all edibles except hard candies and tinctures. Lawrence said the disagreement over more-nuanced regulations pushed the department to propose something more sweeping. "If it couldn't be achieved," he said, "we were looking at something that could be achieved."
But the proposal — word of which spread in an Associated Press report before the meeting — quickly met a buzz saw. Industry advocates questioned whether edibles could be banned under Amendment 64, Colorado's marijuana-legalization measure. Singer worried a ban would create a "marijuana Whac-A-Mole situation" where edibles production moved into the black market. Andrew Freedman, the state's marijuana policy coordinator, said the governor's office did not support a ban.
The health department later in the day put out a news release acknowledging that the department did not consider the proposal's constitutionality or ask the governor's office to review it. Instead, the proposal was put forward to generate discussion. "Considering only the public health perspective, however, edibles pose a definite risk to children, and that's why we recommended limiting marijuana-infused products to tinctures and lozenges," Larry Wolk, the executive director of the department, said in a statement.
The discussion seemed mostly over by the end of Monday's meeting, as talk returned to more incremental forms of edibles regulation. Any final proposals from the advisory group will be presented in a report to the legislature next year. The Department of Revenue, which regulates marijuana businesses, must adopt final rules on the topic by 2016.
Monday, October 20, 2014
This lengthy local article from Oregon provides a detailed look at the state of political debate in Oregon just a few weeks before final votes are cast concerning Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The piece is headlined "High stakes in marijuana vote: Legalization measure draws nationwide attention," and here are some excerpts that caught my eye:
The flow of campaign cash from out-of-state donors has shifted south across the Columbia River in support of Measure 91. It has fueled an advertising blitz virtually absent two years ago. Meanwhile, opponents of legal recreational pot are struggling to fill a much smaller campaign war chest.
The measure would let adults 21 years and older legally use, grow, produce and store marijuana and associated edibles and drinks at home within set limits. It would let adults provide marijuana as well as marijuana edibles and drinks within the limits to another adult, as long as no cash is exchanged. It also would direct the state to regulate the legal recreational marijuana industry, including growers, producers and retailers. And it projects the state would collect millions of dollars in pot tax revenue to be divided among schools, law enforcement and treatment programs.
The two sides of Measure 91 cite statistics that they say show Washington’s and Colorado’s laws are either failed or sound policy, to buttress their own chief arguments....
New Approach Oregon has raised nearly $3.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions, according to online campaign finance filings with the Oregon secretary of state’s office. New Approach Oregon sponsored the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot and is the main committee supporting its passage. The money has fueled a wave of statewide ads.
Out-of-state donors have put in big money. Drug Policy Action, the political arm of Drug Policy Alliance, has contributed $940,000. Billionaire investor George Soros is a major financier of the alliance, which has a stated aim of ending marijuana prohibition. New Approach PAC, a committee The Oregonian reported was formed by family members of the late billionaire insurance executive Peter Lewis, contributed $750,000. Lewis, who died in November, personally contributed $96,000....
In contrast, the No on 91 campaign has raised just $168,337, state data shows, with the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and another statewide law enforcement association kicking in almost all the cash.
Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, past president of the sheriff’s association, acknowledged the campaign hasn’t raised a lot of money. He noted, however, the coffers for the respective campaigns would be similar if out-of-state money going to the pro-measure side were excluded. Bergin said the lack of money going into the No on 91 campaign isn’t apathy but a sign that Oregonians are still dealing with financial hardships. “We’ve got to keep mowing the yard and hope we keep the weeds out, no pun intended,” he said....
The most recent poll, conducted by Portland-based DHM Research on behalf of Oregon Public Broadcasting and a Portland television station, found 52 percent of likely voters supported Measure 91 and 41 percent opposed it, with a 4.3 percentage point margin of error.
John Horvick, DHM’s research director, said it has conducted four polls since last year either on marijuana legalization or the measure. The results have been close, with the percentage in favor running between 49 and 54 percent. He said the outcome could hinge on the youth vote, which is less likely to cast ballots during mid-term elections. “You just have to get over that hump,” he said.
Horvick said he doubts the outcomes in Colorado and Washington will influence how voters here cast their ballots. Rather, he said, the attitudes of voters and their friends and family members shaped by “real-life experiences” with marijuana will have more impact than two-year-old election results in The Highest and Evergreen states.
October 20, 2014 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)