Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Come see great panel on "Marijuana Policy in America" at "Laboratories of Democracy: Drug Policy In The United States"
The second part of the title of this post is the title of this exciting event taking place in Washington DC next week that I have had the honor of helping to plan. The event will include a panel discussion on the opioid crisis and a panel discussion on marijuana reform, and here is the event's full description:
Drug use and substance abuse are circumstances that no longer impact only a small percentage of our population. In 2016, over 20 million Americans dealt with a substance use disorder, and the CDC estimates that more than 10 percent of the American population use some form of illegal drug each month. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 58 percent of those in state prisons and 63 percent of those sentenced to state jails meet the medical criteria for drug dependence or abuse.
The Ohio State University’s newly established Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC), with support from the Charles Koch Foundation, will host Laboratories of Democracy: Drug Policy in the United States. This important event will bring together leading academics, members of law enforcement, policymakers, think tank scholars, community advocates, media figures, and other influencers from different spheres and perspectives to discuss the diverse and challenging policy questions that have emerged in the drug policy area.
The event will be held at The Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC on September 25, 2018 from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The experts speaking at this event have used their knowledge to propose positive drug policy solutions to tackle the difficult problems faced by our country, and the program will engage attendees in an action-oriented discussion on how our country can move forward with positive solutions to addiction and substance abuse.
Monday, September 17, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today delivered these remarks at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration event titled "Ideas to Impact: A Dialogue to Address Drug-Impaired Driving." Here are excerpts:
It is especially important that we get the word out about this because currently there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. Some even seem to suggest that marijuana and other drugs do not pose accident risks.
In recent years, a number of states have repealed their prohibitions on marijuana use. As a result, too many people think that marijuana is legal and that it is even legal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
That’s wrong. Federal law has not changed and drugged driving laws have not changed. Drugged driving is illegal on every inch of American soil. People need to understand that.
There is another common myth out there, as well: that marijuana doesn’t impair driving. That’s also wrong. Marijuana use slows reaction time and inhibits motor coordination and decision-making abilities. That makes driving much more dangerous.
The bottom line is this: if you’re driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, then you’re risking your life — and the life of everyone else on the road.
One European study found that drivers high on marijuana were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal crash as a sober driver.
Here in this country, the Governors Highway Safety Association put out a report back in May that says that — of those who are tested for drugs or alcohol — more drivers killed in car accidents last year tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. And by far the most common drug was marijuana, not opioids. Nearly a quarter of all drivers killed in car accidents who were tested had marijuana in their system — twice as many as tested positive for opioids.
In recent years, it has been getting worse. According to last year’s version of the report, the number of drivers killed in car accidents who tested positive for marijuana increased by nearly one-fifth from 2006 to 2016.
According to the Denver Post, the number of drivers killed in car accidents in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2016. And so, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died of drug overdoses in recent years, another several thousand have died because of drug-impaired driving — either their own or that of someone else.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The latest issue of the International Review of Psychiatry has a collection of interesting looking articles with titles like "Marijuana matters: reviewing the impact of marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, & exploring policy implications and barriers to research" and "Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds make haste: leveraging methodology from research on tobacco, alcohol, and opioid analgesics to make rapid and policy-relevant advances in cannabis science." There are too many interesting looking pieces to cite them all here, but I can quote the start of the editorial introduction:
The allowance of cannabis to be used as a medicine in the absence of adequate data to inform basic clinical decision-making is rooted in compassion for individuals with life-threatening illness, or substantially debilitating illness, and no other course for treatment. However, this relatively simple tenet has now morphed into a large-scale for-profit industry that is fraught with public health concerns. Access to cannabis has been expanded to include treatment for a multitude of health conditions, many of which are neither life-threatening nor debilitating, and for which effective alternative treatments exist. Data from which to determine the risk-benefit for an individual considering the use of cannabis is sparse at best. Quality control issues abound in this industry as there are no established standards for cultivating, processing, testing, or labeling cannabis products. There is also concern over advertisements and product labeling that include misleading or unsubstantiated health claims, as these products have not been vetted by traditional drug development methods. The speed in which cannabis policies are changing is rapid, and the fact that these are happening as a direct result of legislation or by voter referendum is reckless given the absence of consensus standards and, in many cases, appropriate regulatory oversight. The impact of revised cannabis laws, both with respect to medicinal use for a variety of health conditions, and for non-medicinal (aka ‘recreational’) use of cannabis by adults, will likely have a substantial impact on psychiatry.
This special issue of the International Review of Psychiatry is focused on cannabis science, but with a very targeted theme of cannabis regulatory science. Recently in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was granted regulatory authority over all nicotine and tobacco products. This was a landmark event, and has engendered a bolus of thoughtful, policy-oriented research that has already resulted in tobacco regulations which are likely to positively impact public health in the US and abroad. Studies have included careful scientific evaluation of the impact of nicotine on cigarette reinforcement and self-administration, packaging and flavoring on youth initiation, the harm reduction effects associated with nicotine delivery devices other than cigarettes, and other important topics. The parallel need for a cannabis regulatory science is urgent. Novel products and cannabis delivery devices are rolling onto the shelves of dispensaries at a rapid rate, product development appears to be geared towards high potency/high dose products, and it is all being carefully marketed to increase consumption. Contributions in this issue highlight lessons learned from tobacco, alcohol, and opioid regulatory science that are relevant to cannabis, detail important factors surrounding tobacco and cannabis co-use, and detail the potential impacts of regulatory changes on cannabis use in the workplace.
September 12, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 7, 2018
Elon Musk often generates a lot of media attention, especially from news outlets like CNBC. But this CNBC article, headlined "Elon Musk smokes weed, sips whiskey on Joe Rogan's podcast," reports on the reasons he is making a lot of news today:
Billionaire Elon Musk took viewers by surprise late Thursday when he smoked marijuana and drank whiskey during a live interview. The Tesla chief executive was speaking with comedian Joe Rogan, an advocate of legalizing weed, on his live internet show when he was handed the joint....
"Is that a joint? Or is it a cigar?" Musk asked Rogan before being told it was a cigarette containing marijuana, which is legal in California, and tobacco. Asked whether he had tried it before, the entrepreneur said: "Yeah, I think I tried one once."
"You probably can't because of stockholders," Rogan said, to which Musk retorted: "I mean it's legal, right?"....
Musk insisted he was not on weed at the time during an extensive interview with The New York Times. The executive shocked investors when he said he was considering taking the firm off the stock market at $420-a-share — 420 being a popular code term for cannabis.
"It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419," he told the Times. "But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There's a reason for the word 'stoned.' You just sit there like a stone on weed."
Traders are concerned the company may still need a capital injection to help with its cash burn problems. Tesla shares were down 1.2 percent Friday in premarket trade.
These subsequent CNBC stories suggest that Musk will continue to garner attention for his marijuana use (but not his whisky drinking):
Chris Talyor at is already troubled by where this is going, as evidence by this new Mashable piece headlined "OK, everybody: Stop pot-shaming Elon Musk"
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Though regular readers might be a bit tired of my eagerness to reference my recent extended article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," I am not at all tired of the idea that marijuana reform should always focus on criminal justice concerns and that new revenues emerging from the new marijuana industry out to be committed to criminal justice needed. So I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to develop this Issue Brief through the Scholars Strategy Network to stress key parts of my longer work under the headlined "How States Can Ensure That Today's Marijuana Reforms Also Ameliorate Harms Inflicted On Past Offenders." Here is an excerpt from this short commentary:
A new criminal justice institution could be funded by the taxes, fees, and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and assigned the mission of developing policies and practices to minimize the economic and social burdens that persist for those previously convicted of marijuana offenses.
Ex-offenders are often saddled with collateral sanctions at the local, state, and federal levels and have to deal with the widespread availability of their criminal records. These challenges justify the establishment of a permanent restorative institution in every jurisdiction, funded by fractions of the new resources generated by the legal marijuana industry and associated taxes.
A new Commission on Justice Restoration could be a public agency mandated to address the cumulative undue harms of prior convictions. The Commission could provide a much-needed clearinghouse and site for analyzing hard-to-collect data about the collateral consequences of convictions, and provide a centralized and impartial forum for statewide policymaking to redress these collateral consequences, to conduct and disseminate research on the fiscal and social costs of these collateral consequences, and to advocate for steps that can be taken to reduce long- term harms.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
This new piece by multiple authors appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides an interesting snapshot of marijuana use and users based on a survey administered in October 2017. The piece is titled "Smoking, Vaping, and Use of Edibles and Other Forms of Marijuana Among U.S. Adults," and here are some of the notable findings:
Among all respondents, 14.6% reported marijuana use in the past year and 8.7% reported use in the past 30 days. The prevalence of marijuana use in the past year was 20% (95% CI, 17.9% to 22.2%) in states where recreational use is legal, 14.1% (CI, 12.6% to 15.6%) in states where medical use is legal, and 12% (CI, 10.7% to 13.4%) in states where no use is legal.
A total of 12.9% of respondents reported smoking marijuana, 6% reported using edibles, 4.7% reported vaping, 1.9% reported using concentrates, and 0.8% reported using topicals. Overall, 6.7% reported using multiple forms in the past year. Prevalence of any use was inversely related to age, with persons aged 18 to 34 years reporting the highest use.... Men were more likely than women to use marijuana in any form and to use multiple forms (Table 1). Reported use was similar among racial groups.
Among persons who used multiple forms, 53% reported smoking and using edibles whereas 31% reported smoking and vaping. The prevalence of use of edibles was 11% (CI, 9.4% to 12.6%) in states where recreational use is legal, 5.1% (CI, 4.1% to 6.0%) in states where medical use is legal, and 4.2% (CI, 3.4% to 4.9%) in states where no use is legal. Baked goods/pastries and candies were the most common forms of edibles used by U.S. adults.... A limitation of our study is that those who participated in an online survey cohort may differ from those who did not, limiting generalizability. Respondents also may have underreported rates of use.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
I just came across this recent research available on-line in "preprint" with the same title as this post and authored by a collection of researchers. Here is its abstract with its significant conclusion highlighted:
Background and Aims:
The evolving legal status of cannabis in the United States and other countries necessitates the development of evidence-based regulatory policies to minimize risks associated with cannabis misuse. A prominent public health concern is whether legalization will lead to an expansion of the illegal cannabis market, with illegal cannabis acting as an economic substitute. Empirical data on this data on this issue is virtually nonexistent. This study used a behavioral economic approach to investigate substitutability of legal and illegal cannabis in legalized catchment areas in the U.S.
Adult cannabis users (N=740; Mean age = 33.8; 52% female; 73% Caucasian) were recruited using an online crowdsourcing platform from U.S. states with legalized recreational cannabis. A modified substitution-based marijuana purchase task assessed cannabis consumption from concurrently available legal (e.g., a dispensary) and illegal (e.g., a dealer) sources. Participants indicated the amount of cannabis they would consume from each source while prices of the two options were either held constant ($10/gram) or escalated ($0-$60/gram). Consumption values were used in demand curve modeling to generate quantitative indices of price sensitivity and elasticity.
Both legal and illegal fixed-price cannabis options had significant positive cross-price elasticities (ps < .001). However, the legal alternative had a substantially greater effect on consumption and elasticity of illegal cannabis (∆elasticity = 0.0018; F(1,37) = 148, p<.0001) than the opposite scenario (∆elasticity = 0.0002; F(1,37) = 47, p<.0001), indicating asymmetric substitution. Demand for legal cannabis was significantly greater than illegal cannabis (p< .0001).
Cannabis users treat legal cannabis as a superior commodity compared to illegal cannabis and exhibit asymmetric substitutability. Cannabis price policies that include higher consumer costs for legal cannabis relative to contraband would not be expected to incentivize and expand the illegal cannabis market.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Taking the problem of marijuana addiction seriously and thinking seriously about dynamic policy responses
I have recently seen a number of thoughtful pieces about marijuana addiction, and it seems worthwhile to do a quick round-up here:
From Annie Lowrey at The Atlantic, "America’s Invisible Pot Addicts: More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead."
From Jonathan Stea at Slate, "Cannabis Addiction Is Not Heroin Addiction. That Doesn’t Make It Any Less Real. A large minority of people have trouble with cannabis, and for those people, it’s important to find help."
From Rachel Browne at Vice News, "Inside Marijuana Anonymous, the group for people addicted to weed"
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
New executive director for MPP, Steve Hawkins, spotlights how marijuana reform and criminal justice and racial justice are interconnected
Long-time readers know that my interest in marijuana law and policy is based in my work and research concerning the criminal justice system. Stated differently, I think the marijuana reform movement is fundamentally a criminal justice reform movement. This new press release from Marijuana Policy Project announcing the hiring of Steve Hawkins as is new Executive Director serves, thought a personnel move, to highlight ways in which marijuana reform and criminal justice and racial justice can and should be connected. Here is a little from the press release:
The nation’s largest organization dedicated exclusively to marijuana policy, the Marijuana Policy Project, announced Tuesday it has hired Steve Hawkins to serve as its next executive director. The announcement comes after a months-long candidate search that included several exceptionally qualified candidates.
“We are thrilled to welcome Steve Hawkins as the new executive director of MPP,” said Troy Dayton, chair of the MPP board of directors. “Steve has a strong track record in the field of criminal justice reform, and he knows how to build a movement toward meaningful social change. We were not only impressed by his expertise and experience, but also his strong convictions regarding the injustice of marijuana prohibition.”
Hawkins has been at the forefront of the criminal justice reform movement for three decades as an advocate, policy strategist, nonprofit leader, and foundation executive. He has extensive experience overseeing campaigns to advance policy change through public education, stakeholder mobilization, engagement with government officials, and development of strategic alliances with business leaders, law enforcement officials, scholars, faith leaders, victims’ advocates, and other key voices. “The country is moving in the right direction on marijuana policy, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Dayton said. “Steve is the perfect choice to oversee that work and lead MPP into the future.”
Hawkins began his career as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenging racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He later served as executive vice president of the NAACP, spearheading its efforts to end the police practice of “stop and frisk” in New York City and successfully encouraging the NAACP board of directors to adopt a policy in support of marijuana decriminalization. He also previously served as executive director of Amnesty International USA, as a program executive for the Atlantic Philanthropies, and as a senior program manager at the JEHT Foundation, where he directed early investments of substantial resources into advocacy efforts to end mass incarceration, including groups working to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession. Most recently, Hawkins was president of the Coalition for Public Safety, the largest national bipartisan effort to reform the justice system at the state and federal levels. A more detailed biography of Hawkins is available on the MPP website.
“Throughout my career, I have witnessed the counterproductive effects of the war on marijuana and its especially devastating impact on communities of color,” Hawkins said. “MPP has been at the vanguard of changing public perceptions and public policies surrounding marijuana, and I am proud to join this incredible team of advocates at such a critical moment in the movement to end marijuana prohibition.”
Monday, July 30, 2018
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new Hill piece authored by Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Here are excerpts from his accouting:
Nine states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — have legalized the adult possession and use of marijuana. In the coming months, some or all of these states will likely be joining them.
Voters this November will decide the fate of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. If passed, the voter-initiated measure will permit those over the age of 21 to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales....
Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to legalize marijuana use and sales in the Garden State — a pledge he reiterated in his 2019 budget address when he stated, “[T]he only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults. … [F]rom the standpoint of social justice, and from the standpoint of protecting our kids and lifting up our communities, I could not arrive at any other conclusion."...
Proponents of a statewide ballot initiative to legalize the adult use of marijuana in North Dakota recently turned in over 19,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office in an effort to place a measure before voters this November. State officials must certify 13,452 of those signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.... In 2016, nearly two-thirds of state voters approved a ballot measure regulating medical cannabis access. However, state officials have yet to make the program operational. Activists have acknowledged that regulators' failure to swiftly implement the 2016 measure was the impetus for the 2018 campaign.
Ongoing legislative efforts to reform the Empire State’s marijuana laws received a significant boost this month when a state-commissioned study issued by the New York Department of Health called for the plant’s legalization....
Sooner State voters in June approved one of the nation’s most liberal medical cannabis access laws, and they may have the opportunity to enact even broader reforms this fall. Days away from an August 8th deadline, local activists are estimated to be just a few thousand signatures shy of meeting statewide requirements to place an adult use legalization measure on the November ballot.
Sixty-one percent of Delaware voters believe cannabis ought to be legal for those over the age of 21. And a majority of state representatives agree with them. In June, a majority of House lawmakers voted in favor of legislation to legalize marijuana use and retail sales. However, because the legislation imposed new taxes and fees, state rules required it to receive super-majority support. Lawmakers are anticipated to take up similar legislation again next year.
As I see it, full legalization is only likely in Michigan this year, though it is possible the New Jersey legislature will get this done before too long. If New Jersey does enact full legalization, that would increase the odds of neighboring New York and Delaware moving forward with legalization. But the odds still seem long to me for lots more full legalization states until the 2020 cycle. That major election year I expect we could see full legalization votes in at least a half dozen states, including big ones like Arizona, Florida and Ohio
July 30, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, July 23, 2018
Late last week the Auditor General of Pennsylvania released this notable report on “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana” that reads a bit more like an advocacy group's document than something that would emerge from a state government office. But, as this press release about the report reveals, the Auditor General of PA seems real eager to have access to a new revenue source:
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said Pennsylvania is missing out on $581 million per year in revenue by not regulating and taxing marijuana — money that could fund critical initiatives that affect Pennsylvanians’ lives. “Repeated polls have shown that a majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legalized. In Pennsylvania, it’s 56 percent,” DePasquale said during a news conference with Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.
“Today, I’m releasing a special report that shows the staggering amount the state could reap in tax revenue if legislators simply did what their constituents want them to do: regulate and tax marijuana for adult use.”
The 14-page special report, “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana,” compiles national research data, which show that an average of 8.38 percent of the commonwealth’s adults (21 and older) currently use marijuana at least monthly — a total of 798,556 adults. In Colorado and Washington, where marijuana has been legal since 2012, adult users spend an average of $2,080 annually. If Pennsylvania’s 798,556 adult users spent the same amount, they would create a $1.66 billion retail industry.
Assuming Pennsylvania taxed the growth, cultivation and sale of marijuana at 35 percent, the state would collect roughly $581 million in tax revenue annually. If Allegheny and Philadelphia counties were allowed to add 1-2 percent local tax, they could collect an additional $3.8 million and $6.9 million, respectively. “Imagine what that $581 million could mean for Pennsylvanians,” DePasquale said. “Not only would it help balance the state budget, but it would also mean increases to initiatives that affect Pennsylvanians’ lives, such as greater access to opioid treatment and better health care access for veterans and children.”
DePasquale became the first statewide elected official to endorse regulating and taxing marijuana in March 2017. “With our neighboring states all looking at legalizing marijuana, now is the time for Pennsylvania to do the same,” DePasquale continued. “Legislators must act now so that we can be competitive and not lose potential revenue to other states.”
July 23, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Prominent US Representative for Ohio now advocating that "marijuana should be legal in all 50 states"
CNN recently published this recent commentary advocating federal marijuana reform that is particularly notable because of its author: Tim Ryan, a Democrat representing Ohio's 13th congressional district who is co-chair of the House Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus (and who at least once had aspirations to be a party leader in the House). Here are excerpts from the commentary:
The year Donald Trump was elected President, more Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. Moreover, the ACLU found that even though African-Americans use marijuana at similar rates to white Americans, they are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession....
As co-chair of the House Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, I've been hesitant to support legalizing marijuana in the past. But after meeting with countless Ohio families and youth whose lives have been irreparably harmed by a marijuana arrest, I find the social and economic injustices of our marijuana policy too big to ignore. I firmly believe no person should be sentenced to a lifetime of hardship because of a marijuana arrest. It is morally wrong and economically nonsensical. That is why I am calling for an end to marijuana being used as an excuse to lock up our fellow Americans.
Marijuana should be legal in all 50 states. Across the country, nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana. Voters in Michigan and Oklahoma will be voting on marijuana initiatives this November, and efforts are underway in Missouri, Arizona, Nebraska and Utah to get legalization initiatives on the ballot. While I support these states for leading by example, this is an issue that affects every corner of our nation. You should not be able to legally buy a product in one state, just to be arrested for the very same act in another.
Studies have shown that marijuana legalization could save $7.7 billion in averted enforcement costs and add $6 billion in additional tax revenue -- a $13.7 billion net savings. Not to mention the reported 782,000 jobs it could create on day one. Think of what our country could do with that money: rebuild our highways, bridges, and railroads; provide our communities with the resources they need to respond effectively to substance abuse and the opioid epidemic; and create jobs....
Congress can change this by passing the Marijuana Justice Act. This legislation would remove marijuana's designation as a Schedule I drug -- those classified as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It would also eliminate all criminal penalties for an individual who imports, exports, manufacturers, distributes, or processes with intent to distribute marijuana. To create economic opportunity in communities devastated by mass incarceration, the bill creates a $500 million community reinvestment fund to provide job training for the nascent legal cannabis industry.
The War on Drugs failed the American people. It is time for us to take the necessary steps to right our nation's wrongs. We cannot afford to leave people behind and money on the table. If we are truly a nation that believes in second chances, our federal marijuana laws must change. America is speaking. Congress must act.
July 23, 2018 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 (3)
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article that was authored by Sean Klammer and got its start in my Marijuana Law and Policy seminar a few years ago. Here is the article's introduction:
On November 3, 2015, Ohioans went to the polls to vote on Issue 3, a ballot initiative to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize adult marijuana use. Though other states had legalized medicinal marijuana prior to eliminating prohibition, ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee (PAC) behind the initiative, believed it could skip this preliminary hurdle. The group worked tirelessly for almost two years to ensure that Issue 3 would become law. Had it succeeded, the organization would have possessed the blueprint to end prohibition in many other states, if not the entire country. Yet, despite favorable polling in the months leading up to the election, it became clear that the PAC had miscalculated. On election night, the initiative was soundly defeated, with Ohioans voting against legalization at a rate of two to one. The State would have to wait until at least the 2016 presidential election to get another chance at legalization.
Part I of this Essay reviews the history and key players behind ResponsibleOhio as well as the initiative’s path to the ballot. Part II summarizes the text of Issue 3 and assesses relevant provisions. Parts III and IV highlight the debate between marijuana activists and prohibitionists, and Part V analyzes why the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. Part VI notes that even though Issue 3 did not pass, it led to acceptance of medical marijuana in Ohio and thus set the stage for full legalization in 2020. Finally, the Essay concludes in Part VII with a reflection on the lessons learned from ResponsibleOhio and gives suggestions on how to best frame a marijuana legalization campaign to appeal to voters in the next presidential election.
July 17, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, July 13, 2018
New York Health Department issues big report concluding benefits of marijuana legalization outweighs potential costs
As the New York Daily News puts it here: "The New York State Health Department is high on the prospects of legal marijuana." Here is what they mean:
In a long-awaited report released Friday, the Health Department concluded the “positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts” and recommended that state officials move forward with the legalization of recreational pot use.
Such a move, however, should only happen after the development of a “well-thought-out” regulatory structure and public education campaign to inform the public about the benefits and risks associated with pot use, the report said. “It is imperative that a regulated marijuana program contain all necessary safeguards and measures to limit access for individuals under 21, minimize impaired driving, provide education and tailored messaging to different populations, and connect people to treatment if needed,” the report stated.
The report, which was ordered by Gov. Cuomo in January, found that a regulated marijuana market could have several benefits for New York, including increased quality controls, consumer protections and tax revenues. With New York’s current market for illegal marijuana estimated to tally between $1.74 billion and $3.5 billion annually, the report estimated that the state could see tax revenue of between $248 million and $677.7 million, assuming tax rates of between 7% and 15%. The report recommended an initial tax rate of between 7% and 10%.
The report also stressed that legalization of marijuana could have significant criminal justice impacts, noting that a large percentage of those arrested for marijuana-related offenses are minorities. It recommends that “NYS expunge the criminal records of individuals with marijuana-related offenses.”
Health officials also concluded that there’s little evidence that legalization would lead to increased marijuana use and said it also has the potential to reduce use of opioids.
Advocates for legalized marijuana hailed the report and urged state officials to follow through on its recommendations....
Cuomo on Friday said he would “put together a group” to come up with a “full program” for legalization. He noted that the report recommends that people be at least 21 to purchase pot, but doesn’t answer such questions such as who could sell it, where, and the quantity that can be sold. “That to me is the devil in the details,” he said.
Cuomo had previously opposed legalization of marijuana but ordered the Health Department to study the issue because of the steps nearby states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, were taking steps to legalize the drug. “Those are our two border states,” he said Friday. “You have more control and there’s a possibility for revenue when you regulate it and in this context, where you have New Jersey and Massachusetts legalizing it, it’s not really an option of preventing it because you can go over a bridge and over a border.”...
Despite the report’s findings, it is unlikely lawmakers will take any steps until at least next year since the Legislature has already adjourned for the year. The state Senate’s ruling GOP conference has also expressed opposition to legalizing pot.
“Our Senate Majority is focused on making New York more affordable for hardworking taxpayers, helping businesses create new jobs for the middle class, and keeping families and communities safe,” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said in May. "Let others focus on legalizing drugs and what that would look like. Affordability, opportunity, security — those are our priorities for the remainder of the year.”
The full report, which I think is quite nicely done, as well as an extended executive summary and related materials are available via this NY Department of Health webpage and at these links:
- Cover Letter Marijuana Legalization Impact Assessment
- Marijuana Legalization Impact Assessment
- Summary Marijuana Legalization Impact Assessment
The title of this post is the title of this new Perspectives piece appearing in the The New England Journal of Medicine and authored by Rebecca Haffajee, Robert MacCoun and Michelle Mello. I recommend the piece highly in part because of its terrific graphic under the heading "U.S. Marijuana Policy Milestones, 1970–2018." Here is part of its text:
The present state of conflicting laws seems unstable and suboptimal for rational drug control. Federal regulation that accommodates and reinforces state medical marijuana regulatory regimes would result in a safer, more reliable, more accessible supply of marijuana products. Congress, because it answers to the people and represents the states, appears the most likely branch to move on marijuana policy; it could even be encouraged to act by Canada’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana. Federal courts are increasingly hearing challenges to marijuana’s Schedule I status but have so far been unwilling to deem Congress’s scheduling determination irrational and therefore unconstitutional.
In Congress, rescheduling marijuana by amending the CSA is one attractive option. The executive branch, too, can reschedule CSA substances, but the mechanisms are time consuming and unlikely to attract interest within the current administration. Because considerable evidence now supports marijuana’s therapeutic benefits in reducing chronic pain, nausea, and vomiting in patients with cancer, as well as multiple sclerosis–related muscle spasms, there is a compelling argument that marijuana is more appropriately designated as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug. Rescheduling would facilitate further study of products for FDA approval, but would not automatically change the severity of penalties for marijuana crimes or alter international treaty obligations, enshrined in the CSA, to ensure that all psychoactive substances are used only for legitimate medical and scientific purposes.
Congress could also remove marijuana from the CSA schedules altogether. This dramatic action could be coupled with legislation authorizing FDA oversight of marijuana products. Whether marijuana’s psychoactive effects preclude this move away from regulation as a controlled substance would provoke considerable debate. Subjecting marijuana products to FDA approval would hinder access initially but ultimately foster a robust system for regulation and research. FDA oversight of marketing would also improve product safety and consistent promotion across states.
The [proposed] legislation [sponsored by Senators Gardner and Warren] represents a third option designed to respect states’ rights — codifying the approach articulated in the Cole Memorandum by amending the CSA to exempt marijuana activities that are lawful in the jurisdiction where they occur. This solution would be more permanent than attorney-general guidance or agreements between states and the attorney general regarding enforcement, which shift with the political winds, and would therefore promote stability for medical users and suppliers. But it would not facilitate research into marijuana harms and benefits, bring products within the FDA’s purview to ensure safety and efficacy, alleviate interstate health risks, or address potential conflicts with international treaty obligations.
We think this third option, which addresses some pressing conflict-of-law concerns such as unpredictable criminal enforcement, is preferable to the current blurred vision of the future of marijuana policy. Ultimately, a more comprehensive federal regime that perhaps resembles Canada’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana could affirmatively promote health and safety through research and regulation.
July 13, 2018 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, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
Ever since Election Night 2012 once it was clear that voters in Colorado and Washington were eager to pioneer a new approach, my thinking about marijuana reform always gravitates back to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famous description of the virtues of federalism in terms of a state being able to, "if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." Part of serving as an effectively "laboratory" in this context, of course, is having result from a "novel social and economic experiments" that other states can seek to learn from.
The point of this post prelude is to compliment a big new series of articles in the Detroit Free Press a few months before Michigan voters will be asked to decide whether to embrace full marijuana legalization in the state. The lead article in this series, the first of those linked below, sets up the start of its learn and compare coverage with this note: "With Michigan having nearly double the population of Colorado — 9.9 million to 5.6 million — and an already well-established market of 289,205 medical marijuana cardholders, both supporters and opponents of legalizing marijuana wonder (and worry) whether Michigan is on the same path as Colorado."
I recommend all the pieces in this series, but the "5 surprising things" piece has these not-so-surprising questions from a reporter after a Denver visit (click through for the "answers" though I have reprinted the final one)
Where’s the fire?
Where’s the money?
Where’s the advertising?
Where are the baggies?
Where, oh where, is the outrage or the joy?
Marijuana has become second nature for Colorado: Everyone seems kind of blasé about the proliferation of pot in the state. No one seems particularly up in arms about the legalization or overjoyed by the success of the business. The state bureaucrats say it’s too early to say whether the presence of legal weed is a nightmare or a boon for the state’s economy and the police say there’s not much difference — and not much of a spike in crashes — between a driver impaired by booze or one high on marijuana. The businesspeople are happy with their still relatively new industry, but plagued by the uncertainty of how marijuana is treated by the federal government.
July 13, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Ira Robbins now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Federalism is a vital tenet of our Republic. Although federal law is the supreme law of the land, our Constitution recognizes the integral role that state law plays in the national scheme. Like any pharmaceutical drug that withstands rounds of clinical testing, state law functions as a laboratory in which Congress can evaluate and potentially adopt novel policies on a nation-wide basis. Most of the time, federal and state law exist harmoniously, complementing one another; other times, however, the two systems clash, striking a dissonant chord.
In the United States, state marijuana laws are currently on a crash course with federal marijuana law, exemplifying the discordant consequences our dual-system of laws sometimes generates. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use, yet under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of federal law. Mere confusion concerning the legality of marijuana is not the only consequence, however. One notable casualty ensuing from the battle of the mutually exclusive federal and state marijuana laws is the deprivation of rights belonging to the unsuspecting, average citizen.
The CSA establishes a schedule of drugs, and various federal regimes — such as entitlement programs and welfare benefits — impose compliance with the CSA as a necessary antecedent for conferral of those benefits. For example, although possessing a firearm is a fundamental right under the Second Amendment, citizens who wish to lawfully smoke marijuana can no longer avail themselves of this fundamental right. Section 922(g)(3) of the Gun Control Act prevents users of Schedule I drugs pursuant to the CSA — irrespective of state law — from possessing or owning a firearm. Marijuana, despite its lack of potential for addiction, plethora of medical benefits, and disconnect from violence, has always been a Schedule I drug — essentially deemed more addictive and dangerous than methamphetamine, a Schedule II drug. Unknowing, ordinary citizens are consequently caught in this legal black hole, contemplating how conduct can be both lawful and unlawful.
This Article proposes a simple solution to a complex problem: deschedule marijuana. The Article first surveys the past, observing that the Nixon Administration’s placement of marijuana in Schedule I rang of racial undertones, and then examines the present, noting the majority of states that have legalized medicinal marijuana and the numerous anecdotal reports of its alleviating properties. Further, enforcing § 922(g)(3) against individuals who consume marijuana lawfully pursuant to state law simultaneously overreaches and under-reaches, failing to target the violent criminals that Congress initially sought to apprehend. Thus, the federal government’s insistence on maintaining marijuana in Schedule I undermines principles of federalism and prevents law-abiding citizens from fully exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm.
July 11, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, July 2, 2018
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting recent posting at Marijuana Moment titled "How North Dakota Could Fully Legalize Marijuana In November. Here are excerpts:
Under an effort that has so far gone mostly unnoticed by drug policy reform observers across the country, North Dakota voters could have the chance to approve a ballot initiative in November that would fully legalize marijuana and create a pathway to exonerations for those with past cannabis convictions.
Just two years ago, North Dakota voters passed a medical marijuana legalization measure with 64 percent support. But the program’s rollout hasn’t been smooth — leaving prospective patients without access to dispensaries and barred from home cultivation — and so a small team of anti-prohibition organizers at Legalize ND decided to write a new initiative to help patients and adults consume and grow cannabis freely.
The organization hasn’t received financial backing from national advocacy groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project or the Drug Policy Alliance, Eric Owens Sr., who wrote the initiative, told Marijuana Moment in an interview. Instead, it’s relied on a steady flow of grassroots support and word-of-mouth to collect signatures in support of the measure. Owens said Legalize ND has collected more than 16,000 signatures so far, but the group is expecting to turn in about 20,000 to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office on July 9.
The state requires 13,452 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify for the ballot. The signatures must first be verified before the initiative officially qualifies. “We’re thousands over the required amount,” Owens said. “When people talk about grassroots, this really, legitimately was grassroots. Nobody was there because nobody cared about us in North Dakota.”...
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Legalize ND, which is expecting to face opposition from one of the largest employers in the state, Sanford Health, as well as the highway patrol and the prosecutors association. That said, internal polling from the organization indicates strong support for the initiative, Owens said. “We don’t have money to fight them with TV or radio, we’re just going to be common sense and let people know through social media. The people — plain and simple — they got screwed out of their medical marijuana and they want revenge.”
Though North Dakota might not seem the most likely contender to become one of the next states to fully legalize marijuana, voters elsewhere have already delivered cannabis reform surprises in 2018: Oklahomans approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana [in late June]....
Local political commentator Rob Fort predicted in a column this week that “barring some major problem with the petitions this issue should be on the ballot.”
I still think is was a very big deal that last week voters in deep-red Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved a broad medical marijuana ballot initiative (details here and here). But if voters in deep-red North Dakota were to this year approve a recreational marijuana reform initiative, I suspect that even folks like Jeff Sessions and Kevin Sabet would see the political inevitability of nationwide marijuana reforms.
Of course, with limited funding and significant in-state opposition, I would be inclined to predict that a full ballot initiative would fail in North Dakota. Polls generally show roughly a 50/50 split on support for full legalization among more conservative voters, whereas medical marijuana is usually support 3 to 1 in this group. But I have to think a very thoughtful campaign could stress not only the thwarting of the will of the voters on medical marijuana, but also the coming of full legalization regimes in Canada (which is just a couple of hours drive from just about every major ND city). Perhaps a kind of "Blame Canada" campaign could help carry a full legalization initiative in this unique context.
July 2, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
The title of this post is the headline of this effective new Vox article that reports on the big marijuana reform news from the big country up north and details some of the likely echoes for Canada's neighbor and the rest of the world. I recommend the entire piece, and here are excerpts:
Canada has become the first wealthy nation in the world to fully legalize marijuana. The Senate approved Bill C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act, on Tuesday. The measure was already approved by the House of Commons, so the Senate’s approval means it’s now set to become law.
The measure legalizes marijuana possession, home growing, and sales for adults. The federal government will oversee remaining criminal sanctions (for, say, selling to minors) and the licensing of producers, while provincial governments will manage sales, distribution, and related regulations — as such, provinces will be able to impose tougher rules, such as raising the minimum age. The statute largely follows recommendations made by a federal task force on marijuana legalization. Canadian and provincial governments are expected to need two to three months before retail sales and other parts of the law can roll out.
None of this may seem too shocking in the US, where already nine states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 29 states have allowed it for medicinal purposes. What sets Canada apart, though, is it’s doing this as a country. Previously, the South American nation of Uruguay was the only one that legally allowed marijuana for recreational purposes.
Canada, like the US, is part of international drug treaties that explicitly ban legalizing marijuana. Although activists have been pushing to change these treaties for years, they have failed so far — and that means Canada will be, in effect, in violation of international law in moving to legalize. (The US argues it’s still in accordance with the treaties because federal law still technically prohibits cannabis, even though some states have legalized it.)...
In moving forward, the Canadian government is now walking a fine line: It’s hoping to legalize marijuana to clamp down on the black market for cannabis and provide a safe outlet for adults, but it’s risking making pot more accessible to kids and people with drug use disorders. It is taking a bold step against outdated international drug laws, but it could upset countries like Russia, China, and even the US that have historically adopted a stricter view of the treaties. And while Canadian lawmakers may feel marijuana legalization is right for their country, there’s a risk that legal Canadian pot will spill over to the US — perhaps causing tensions with Canada’s neighbor and one of its closest allies. Whether Canada is successful in its legalization attempts will depend on how it strikes a balance between these concerns. And depending on how it pulls this off, it may provide a model to other countries interested in legalization — including the US....
Legalization carries risks too. It could lead to more use and misuse by making pot cheaper and more available. Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at New York University’s Marron Institute, estimates that in the long term a legal marijuana joint will cost no more to make than, say, a tea bag — since both products come from plants that are fairly easy to grow. It would also be available to anyone (of legal age) in retail outlets after legalization — meaning it would no longer require a shady or secretive meeting with a drug dealer. Those are benefits for people who use marijuana without problems, to be sure, but easier access could also pose a risk for people who can’t control their cannabis consumption.
Although marijuana isn’t very dangerous compared to some drugs, it does carry some risks: dependence and overuse, accidents, nondeadly overdoses that lead to mental anguish and anxiety, and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes. Still, it’s never been definitively linked to any serious ailments — not deadly overdoses, lung disease, or schizophrenia. And it’s much less likely — around one-tenth so, based on data for fatal car crashes — to cause deadly accidents compared to alcohol, which is legal....
Canada is striking a balance unlike that of the US’s legalization experiments so far. So far in the US, the eight states that have legalized pot sales have done so with a model similar to alcohol. (Vermont has only legalized possession, not retail sales.) Basically, they’re setting up their systems to allow a for-profit pot industry to flourish, similar to the alcohol industry.
Drug policy experts, however, often point to the alcohol industry as a warning, not something to be admired and followed for other drugs. For decades, big alcohol has successfully lobbied lawmakers to block tax increases and regulations on alcohol, all while marketing its product as fun and sexy in television programs, such as the Super Bowl, that are viewed by millions of Americans, including children. Meanwhile, alcohol is linked to 88,000 deaths each year in the US.
If marijuana companies are able to act like the tobacco and alcohol industries have in the past, there's a good chance they’ll convince more Americans to try or even regularly use marijuana, and some of the heaviest users may use more of the drug. And as these companies increase their profits, they’ll be able to influence lawmakers in a way that could stifle regulations or other policies that curtail cannabis misuse. All of that will likely prove bad for public health (although likely not as bad as alcohol, since alcohol is simply more dangerous).
There are policies that can curtail this, some of which Canada’s plan will allow. For example, Canada’s measure restricts marketing and advertising. In the US, this is generally more difficult because the First Amendment protects commercial free speech. (Tobacco marketing is largely prohibited due to a massive legal settlement.) But in Canada, the restrictions could stop marijuana companies from marketing their product in a way that targets, say, children or people who already heavily use cannabis....
Canada’s bill also lets provinces entirely handle the distribution and sales of marijuana — up to letting provincial governments directly manage and staff all pot stores by themselves. While state-run liquor stores aren’t unheard of in the US when it comes to alcohol, it’s widely seen as risky in America with marijuana: Since cannabis is illegal at the federal level, asking state employees to run marijuana shops would effectively ask them to violate federal law. But since Canada is legalizing marijuana nationwide in one go, it can do this — and several provinces are expected to take up this option.
The promise of government-run marijuana shops is that they could be better for public health. In short, government agencies that run shops are generally going to be more mindful of public health and safety, while private companies are only going to be interested in maximizing sales, even if that means making prices very low or selling to minors and people with drug use disorders. Previous research found that states that maintained a government-operated monopoly for alcohol kept prices higher, reduced youth access, and reduced overall levels of use — all benefits to public health.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
This local article sums up some developing marijuana reform news from New York that seems likely to have national ripples:
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill are expected to announce a new plan Tuesday on how police deal with people caught with marijuana. Sources tell CBS2 that police will soon issue a summons instead of making an arrest. It applies to people smoking or in possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.
“The goals are to reduce unnecessary arrests, which is something we’ve been doing overall — 100,000 fewer arrests overall in 2017 than 2013, crime going down consistently in that time frame. We want to build on that,” de Blasio said on NY1. But sources say there will exceptions, which include if the person is on parole or probation or behind the wheel and an arrest would be at the discretion of the officer.
The announcement comes as the New York State Health Department is also set to issue a recommendation to legalize marijuana state-wide, six months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the department to study the effects of legalizing marijuana. “We have neighboring states that have legal marijuana. When those facts change, we need to look at things differently,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. “That’s the decision, at this point, to have a regulated legal marijuana program for adults.”
While the report has not yet been finalized, Zucker said its authors reached their conclusion after a thorough review of the legal, medical and social implications of legalization. “We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons,” Zucker said. “When we were done we realized that the pros outweighed the cons.”
Though a new NYC arrest policy could have a real impact real quickly, I see the forthcoming report by the New York State Health Department to be especially notable and perhaps quite consequential. I would be inclined to expect a state health department to be concerned about the public health consequences of legalization and to see potential health "cons" to generally outweigh other "pros." I think that if the New York State Health Department articulates the pros and cons of full legalization in a powerful way that really speaking to public health and safety issues, this forthcoming report could become a template for marijuana reform advocacy in a lot of areas beyond New York.
June 19, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)