Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, April 20, 2015

New Brookings series starts by identifying "12 key people to watch in marijuana policy"

Regular readers already know that The Brookings Institution has been committed to doing thoughtful and cutting-edge research, reports and blogging on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform.   Today, the front-page of the Brookings website has this announcement and link:

In the past few years, marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics. In this post — the first in the FixGov blog's 4/20 blog series — John Hudak lays out 12 people to watch in the future of marijuana policy.

I very much like John's list of a dozen key marijuana reform players, and here I will note how he introduces his list and a few of its first four notable names:

Marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics, particularly over the past few years. The issue is being debated at local, state, and federal levels, and has captured the attention of media organizations and research institutions nationwide and around the world.

Navigating the policy terrain and understanding what is happening in this fast-paced, dynamic, and changing arena is often tough.  Knowing who is influential can be even more difficult. Because of the expansive nature of the policy conversation there are hundreds of key players making a difference — on both sides of this issue — and that list is seemingly ever growing.

In this post, I list 12 people who each bring something interesting to the table and may play an important role in the future of this policy area.  They may not be the most important, though surely some of the people on this list could be considered so. Nor is this list ranked in order of importance or impact. Instead, it offers a brief overview of how these 12 individuals may help shape the future of cannabis policy....

1. Hillary Clinton, 2016 Presidential Candidate

2. Rand Paul, U.S. Senator & 2016 Presidential Candidate

3. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General

4. Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney General designee

April 20, 2015 in 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 (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What is the "right" price for marijuana (especially to combat a black market)?

The question in the title of this post is the focal point for discussion by a student this week in my marijuana law seminar. Here are some key materials that provide background professional normal on this interesting issue:

2010 Rand Working Paper, "Estimated Cost of Production for Legalized Cannabis"

2005 MPP/Miron Report, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition"

The Price of Weed website/resource

April 15, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Toledo Blade looks deeply into issues and debate surrounding Ohio marijuana reform

Friday, April 10, 2015

Taking stock of modern marijuana markets and state tax realities

This notable new New York Times article about Colorado's tax revenues and marijuana markets details some important fiscal lessons from the first few years of marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts:

Colorado’s marijuana tax collections are not as high as expected. In February 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office projected Colorado would take in $118 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in its first full year after legalization. With seven months of revenue data in, his office has cut that projection and believes it will collect just $69 million through the end of the fiscal year in June, a miss of 42 percent.

That figure is consequential in two ways. First, it’s a wide miss. Second, compared with Colorado’s all-funds budget of $27 billion, neither $69 million nor $118 million is a large number. “It’s a distraction,” Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, says of the tax issue. And despite the marijuana tax miss, overall state revenues are exceeding projections, which may force the state to rebate some marijuana tax receipts to taxpayers.

In the political debate over marijuana policy, fiscal benefits — bringing marijuana into the legal economy and taxing it — have loomed large. The summary of the marijuana legalization question put before voters in 2012 stipulated the first $40 million raised by one of the three taxes on recreational marijuana would be put toward school construction each year. In practice, Colorado is likely to receive just $20 million from that tax this year.

But it’s not just Colorado. When Scott Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal call-in show to discuss state finances in December, callers repeatedly suggested that legal marijuana could fix budget gaps in other states. One asserted, incorrectly, that legal marijuana had increased Colorado’s tax revenues by a billion dollars.

Colorado’s marijuana taxes are part of a broader trend in recent years: States, looking for ways to close budget shortfalls without raising broad-based taxes, have leaned on “sin” revenues: higher taxes on cigarettes, higher fees and fines and higher revenue from gambling. And as they have sought to squeeze more revenue from these sources, they have often been disappointed....

In the case of marijuana, Colorado’s revenue has disappointed because legal recreational marijuana sales have been lower than expected. State officials thought many customers of medical marijuana dispensaries would migrate to the recreational market. But this process has been slow, in part because there is a financial disincentive to switch: Medical marijuana is subject only to general sales tax, while a 15 percent tax is imposed on recreational marijuana at wholesale and a further 10 percent at retail, in additional to the general sales tax.

But Mr. Freedman says the biggest drag on revenue is that so much of Colorado’s marijuana market remains unregulated. A 2014 report commissioned by the state’s Department of Revenue estimated 130 metric tons of marijuana was consumed in the state that year, while just 77 metric tons was sold through medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana retailers. The rest was untaxed: a combination of home growing, production by untaxed medical “caregivers” whose lightly regulated status is protected in the state constitution and plain old black-market production and trafficking....

But even if Colorado got all this right, improved revenues would not be among the most important effects that marijuana legalization has on the state. “Tax revenue is nice to have, but in most states is not going to be enough to change the budget picture significantly,” Mr. Kleiman says. “The stakes in reducing criminal activity and incarceration and protecting public health are way higher than the stakes in generating revenue.”

April 10, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Attention 2016 Prez candidates: swing states swinging toward full legalization of marijuana

As reported in this notable new Time article, "majority of voters in three key swing states support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll."  Here are the basic details: 

The Quinnipiac survey out Monday shows that 55% of voters in Florida, 52% in Ohio and 51% in Pennsylvania support allowing adults to “legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Legalizing medical marijuana is even more acceptable to swing state voters, with 84% of Floridians, 84% of Ohioans, and 88% of Pennsylvanians supporting medical pot.

Florida and Pennsylvania have pending bills to legalize marijuana this year, and it legalization could become a wedge issue in he 2016 presidential race.

The poll included more than 1,000 voters in each state.

April 6, 2015 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Comparing successful state recreational marijuana initiatives and Ohio proposals

In addition to having a notable guest speaking in my marijuana law school seminar this week (basics here), and having one student do a presentation on drugged driving (basics here), another student this week is giving a presentation on textual and substantive similarities between the adult-use recreational marijuana initiatives/regimes that have been enacted in four states to date (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington)  and Ohio's three recreational marijuana proposals.  Links to basic legal information about the four legalization states can be found via this NORML webpage, and the basic text or a summary of the Ohio proposals are here:

 
 
 
 
 
 

March 26, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"2016 Will Be the Marijuana Election"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy Newsweek commentary authored by John Hudak of The Brookings Institute.  Here are excerpts:

In some ways marijuana policy is the perfect issue for a presidential campaign. It has far reaching consequences that both parties have reason to engage. Not to mention, it’s an edgy topic that media just can’t resist....

The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations have responded to state marijuana policies in a variety of ways—from legal challenges to laissez-faire enforcement—but regardless, marijuana has garnered presidential attention. The issue will only become more pressing as more states decide to loosen their laws through decriminalization, medical expansion or outright legalization. Because marijuana is an issue that no president will be able to ignore, it is an issue no presidential candidate will be able to avoid....

Views diverge among Republicans. Some candidates, like Rand Paul, have come closer to embracing legalization—at least those efforts at the state level—in an effort to connect to younger and libertarian voters. Others have been far more open-minded about medical marijuana, either endorsing such systems or appearing comfortable with a hands off approach. Still others, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have taken a more hardline, war-on-drugs approach to the topic.

This diversity is a magnificent thing for Republicans and Republican voters. Among (prospective) candidates who, at times, seem to be policy clones, marijuana offers voters the ability to distinguish positions. As a result, candidates must have positions on the topic....

Marijuana policy will likely play a noticeable role in the general election, too. The issue has implications for states that truly matter in presidential campaigns. Recreational legalization is a reality in swing states like Colorado. Other marijuana measures may appear on ballots in which presidential candidates frequently look for votes (Florida, Maine) or campaign money (California).

In addition, medical marijuana policy — now the law in many places — means that swing state voters will be interested in what their next president will have to say on the topic. The issue engages a variety of issues that reach beyond marijuana itself, posing serious leadership questions for any prospective chief executive. It involves issues of law and regulatory enforcement, federal research policy, medical and pharmaceutical policy, state-federal relations, criminal justice, privacy, agriculture, commerce, small business policy and banking and financial regulations.

March 24, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Calling out political hypocrisy in discussion of marijuana reform

This recent commentary about marijuana reform from The National Memo, which is headlined "Half A Heart On Marijuana Better Than No Heart At All," makes a powerful point about what some politicians say about modern marijuana reform in light of their own admitted history with this drug. Here are excerpts from the piece which caught my attention:

Jeb Bush admits to having smoked pot in high school.  Actually, Bush’s dorm room at Phillips Academy Andover reportedly served as stoner central, where students would smoke hash to the strains of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.”

Kids from modest backgrounds were being jailed at that time for doing far less.  Today, even a minor drug conviction bars one from many jobs, including joining the military. Yet Florida’s former Republican governor evidently doesn’t think his illegal behavior should disqualify him from serving as commander in chief.  Why would he?  The current holder of that job, President Barack Obama, also admitted to smoking pot, as did his predecessor, Jeb’s brother George W. Bush.

If Jeb owned up to the rank injustice and fully supported ending the war on marijuana, that might lighten the hypocrisy factor.  But Bush piously insists that he’s against legalizing marijuana.  If states want to do it, that’s OK, he says.  But that leaves the vast majority of Americans subject to arrest for smoking a joint after dinner.

Here’s an idea.  Why doesn’t Bush volunteer to do the time behind bars that youths from less powerful families were being sentenced to in the 1960s?  He could share a cell with Patrick Kennedy, the former liberal congressman from Rhode Island.

In the wee hours of May 4, 2006, Rep. Kennedy crashed his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill while under the influence of who knows how many controlled substances. He served in Congress for four more years, leaving at a time of his choosing.  Kennedy is now a staunch foe of legalizing marijuana, but, like Bush, has not offered to do his time. Given Kennedy’s decades of addiction, that would be no small piece of change.

Many argue that marijuana at high potency and in great quantity can be harmful.  That may be so, but the same is true of many things we can legally consume.  If states’ rights is the excuse for easing up on the ludicrous drug war, so be it. Any change that makes life less miserable for good people — and saves the taxpayers huge sums — is to be cheered. But oh, the waste!

March 24, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Making the strongest case against marijuana reform in Ohio

17285982-smallDerek Siegle, who is the executive director of the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, has this new commentary piece which makes the full-throated argument against marijuana reform. I am pleased that this commentary was published just a few days before I am going to have the honor of having Mr. Siegle speak to my marijuana seminar. The opinion piece carries the headline "Ohio should not legalize marijuana unless it wants a lot more addicted young people," and here are excerpts:

As I hear discussions regarding both medical and recreational use of marijuana, I feel compelled to provide some facts regarding this topic. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of "medical" marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction."

There are many myths being perpetrated by those in favor of legalization. The use or possession of marijuana is not impacting the criminal justice system, as most marijuana arrests do not involve incarceration....

Marijuana stays in your system for 72 hours. Because of this long life, levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, continue to build in our systems. This is not the case with other drugs, to include alcohol. THC is stored in our fatty cells. Since our brains are 99 percent fat, the THC causes these cell walls to expand and become very thick, which decreases their ability to transmit and receive data between nerve cells.

The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Research demonstrates marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, and less academic and career success compared to their peers....

Potential tax revenue will only cover about 15 percent of the collateral costs to our community: increased drug treatment, emergency room visits, crime, traffic accidents and school "dropouts." Allowing individuals to grow their own will only decrease the tax revenue and increase the availability to others....

Legalization will lead to greater use by our youth. Youth surveys indicate more of our children will try marijuana if it is legal. In states where marijuana is legal, most youths are getting their marijuana from someone who legally obtained it. States with legalized marijuana have seen an increase in youth use. For example, states having the top use among 12- to 17-year-olds are states where medical marijuana is legal. Denver's 8th-grade student marijuana use is 350 percent higher than the national average....

Accidents and fatalities from drugged driving, testing positive for marijuana, will also increase as it has in Colorado.... The increase in murders, robberies, burglaries, number of addicts, number of homeless people, use among our youth, is well documented in Colorado. As the governor of Colorado said, "This is a bad idea."

Because Mr. Siegle is the executive director of a federally funded grant program that provides funding, training and support to drug task forces throughout Ohio, I have requested that he present to my students whatever Ohio-specific data he has about marijuana use/abuse and other drug use/abuse in the Buckeye state.  I would expect, perhaps even hope, that legalization of marijuana in any jurisdiction would lead to an increase in the use of this drug, but there is reason to believe, and certainly hope, that it might also lead to a decrease in the use of other more dangerous (legal and illegal) drugs.

March 23, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, March 20, 2015

If enough signatures now get collected, Ohioans will vote on marijuana legalization in 2015

As reported in this local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio's marijuana-legalization effort clears next hurdle toward Ohio ballot," it now seems even more likely Ohio voters will get to weigh in on marijuana legalization later this year.  Here are the details:

A decision by the Ohio Ballot Board on Friday cleared the way for ResponsibleOhio to start gathering signatures needed to put its marijuana legalization ballot issue before Ohio voters this fall.  The amendment to the state constitution would establish a legal marijuana industry in which Ohioans could purchase weed for recreational and medical uses from retail outlets licensed by the state....

The Ballot Board, chaired by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, agreed Friday that ResponsibleOhio's proposal amounts to one constitutional amendment.  Had the board decided the language contained more than one issue, it could have voted to split them into separate ballot questions.  That would have forced ResponsibleOhio to start the review process all over again.

The next step toward the ballot requires petitioners to collect 305,591 signatures of registered voters.  The total is equal to 10 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial contest. Those signatures must be gathered from at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties, and in each of 44 counties, the total gathered must amount to 5 percent of the 2014 gubernatorial vote locally.  Signatures must be submitted by July.

Campaign spokeswoman Lydia Bolander said Friday that the circulating of petitions will provide ResponsibleOhio with a chance to talk to voters about why it is seeking to change Ohio's laws....  "As we collect signatures, we have to collect in a majority of counties. We'd like to be in every county," Bolander said.  And other events, such as town hall meetings, could be organized down the road.

ResponsibleOhio's amendment would allow 10 growing sites promised to campaign investors.  Entrepreneurs would be able to apply for licenses to manufacture marijuana products and sell weed at retail stores and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent at the wholesale and manufacturing levels and 5 percent at retail locations. Most tax revenue would go to local governments to pay for roads, police and other public services while 15 percent would go toward marijuana research, addiction services and enforcement. Adults over age 21 could also possess up to four flowering marijuana plants and 8 ounces of dried marijuana for personal use -- provided they obtain a license from the state.

The proposed amendment cleared its first hurdle to the ballot a week ago when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified that a summary of the petition language met the proper legal form. DeWine had rejected the group's first submitted amendment, finding at least two places where the summary did not match the proposed amendment.

DeWine has said he personally opposes the idea of marijuana legalization. But he acknowledged that on the second try, ResponsibleOhio's language was proper. "Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred. ... I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law," DeWine said in a letter to the petitioners.

March 20, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable CNBC coverage of cannabis in Canadian and tribal regions

DownloadIt seems that of late I have been getting lots of interesting links to CNBC pieces in my usual review of marijuana headlines.  Here are links to the notable recent CNBC articles and videos on these topics:

Oh, cannabis!

How the pros make legal marijuana

Why pot entrepreneurs are moving to Canada 

Invest in a pot grow house?

Native tribes debate entering legal pot business 

Tribal debate: Should reservations go to pot? 

March 20, 2015 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lots of great new (law student) commentary at Drug Law & Policy

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Effective review of (likely ineffective) lawsuits challenging Colorado marijuana reforms

The Washington Post's Wonkblog has this lengthy new piece detailed the array of distinct lawsuits brought recently by opponents of Colorado's marijuana reforms.  The article, headlined "After losing at the ballot box, marijuana opponents make a hail mary pass to the courts," is worthy a full read, and here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece:

After losing at the ballot box and in the court of public opinion, marijuana opponents are turning to the federal judiciary in an attempt to halt the momentum of marijuana legalization efforts happening at the state level. But legal experts say that plaintiffs in a series of lawsuits brought against the state of Colorado for its marijuana regulation regime face slim chances of succeeding -- if the courts agree to hear them at all....

Most of the cases above are being financed by hardline anti-drug organizations that in recent years have found themselves well outside of the mainstream criminal justice debate.

The sheriffs' lawsuit, for instance, is bankrolled by the Drug Free America Foundation. Among other things, this group advocates for broadening mandatory drug tests for public school students. The Foundation arose from the ashes of "Straight, Incorporated," a coercive "drug rehabilitation" program for teens that faced numerous allegations of abuse and settled out of court to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars before closing its doors in 1993.

And the RICO cases are funded by the Safe Streets Alliance, a tough-on-crime organization that aims to increase prison sentences in an era of deep skepticism over the merits of lengthy prison terms. "This is the last hurrah for a lot of individuals in the anti-marijuana community," according to the Brookings Institution's John Hudak. "It's pretty clear that they’ve lost the battle for public opinion."

March 12, 2015 in Court Rulings, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spotlighting some collateral economic impact of marijuana legalization

Download (1)This notable new CNN money article, headlined "Pot startups cash in on wave of legalization," highlights some of the economic stories emerging in the modern decline of pot prohibition. Here is an excerpt:

The wave of pot legalization hasn't just been a boon for growers. A slew of other businesses are jumping on the bandwagon as well.

"A guy calls me a few weeks ago about a domain name he owns, nugs.com [a reference to marijuana nuggets, or the bud of the plant]," said Jared Mirsky, founder of Online Marijuana Design. "It's a great four-letter domain name, which itself is rare and valuable." Mirsky's Seattle branding firm, which exclusively works with the cannabis industry, is helping him capitalize on it....

Other firms, like Sussex, Wisc.-based Vaportek, have pivoted to work with the marijuana industry. Originally, the company created a machine to control odors in hospitals. The business grew to target fire and flood restoration, crime scenes and, most recently, the marijuana industry. "As soon as it became legal, we knew our products would be a great fit for the industry. And it's a new area to increase our sales," said spokeswoman Sunny Schneider-Christensen.

Vaportek created smaller home vaporizers for individual use as well as larger machines for larger growing facilities. "We're targeting bedroom smokers to big industry growers," she said.

The U.S. market for legal marijuana soared 74% to $2.7 billion between 2013 and 2014, making it the fastest growing industry in the country, according to a report from the ArcView Group, a cannabis-focused investment and research firm. It's expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2015....

"Under full legalization, this could be a $36 billion industry," said ArcView Group's CEO Troy Dayton. "Most people who are getting in won't be marijuana growers or processors. That requires a very specific skillset," he said. "It's like with the Gold Rush. It's a great time to be selling picks and shovels, instead."

WaterPulse, in Longmont, Colo., helps marijuana growers reduce water usage by as much as 70%. Its automatic watering mats, placed underneath cannabis plants, let growers set timers, said Mike Croy, the firm's VP of sales and marketing. "This helps prevents water wastage and allows plants to grow uniformly," he said, adding that marijuana's legalization has generated a lot of interest. "It's become the fastest-growing part of our overall business," he said.

Brother-sister team Kevin and Kathleen Sullivan launched Forever Green Indoors in 2013. The Kirkland, Wash.-based firm sells lighting panels for indoor marijuana farms. Kathleen had run a small business that sold energy-efficient lighting options for businesses. "We recognized an opportunity for our products in the marijuana business," said Kevin. LED lighting is much more effective for growing cannabis indoors -- and considerably cheaper, he said.

"The market demand for LED lighting panels has really picked up in the last six months," he said. Forever Green Indoors has installed about 500 LED panels (each costing $1,400) since the firm launched. "We're not profitable yet, but our pre-orders are growing fast," said Kevin.

Mirsky, who used to design websites for dispensaries, is overwhelmed by the rush of new clients. He started the branding agency five years ago and has already worked with hundreds of clients. Last year he hit $500,000 in sales and is on track to hire eight new employees this year. "Five years feels like 20 years already," he said. "That's how fast everything is moving in this industry."

March 9, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"What, Ohio a trendy pot state?"

Download (6)The title of this post is the headline of this notable new USA Today column which highlights why the discussion of marijuana reform in the Buckeye State may be such a big deal in the coming month.  Here are excerpts:

Is Ohio, long considered the nation's leading political bellwether state, going to pot? If some big-money investors, former sports stars and grassroots activists get their way, voters in November could make Ohio the first state to go directly from a total ban on marijuana to one allowing production and consumption of both medical and recreational marijuana.

And what happens here could reverberate across the country next year when as many as two dozen other states are expected to vote to decriminalize marijuana or to permit its legal production and consumption. It should also put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to resolve the obvious conflict between the growing number of state and local laws legalizing pot and federal law that still classifies marijuana as an illegal and dangerous drug.

The Ohio marijuana juggernaut is notable because, unlike Colorado, Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon, which have legalized weed, Ohio is Rust Belt dull, not known for an edgy living style or as a hotbed of libertarianism.

What's more, polls by Gallup show that support for legal marijuana in the Midwest is a paltry 45%, lower even than the 47% support found in the South. Both the East Coast and West Coast states support legalization by a majority of 57%. (Two countrywide polls in the past 18 months have shown slim-to-solid majority support for national legalization.)...

It could become the hottest cultural issue since the push for gay marriage began, and is likely to generate a range of debates: Will legalization reduce prison populations, and at what cost? Will taxes on marijuana leave state coffers flush or prove to be as oversold as recent projections on gambling revenues? Doesn't it just make sense, really, to control and profit from transactions that will otherwise be engaged in illegally by those who have a yearning for pot?

All legitimate questions, but none that addresses the elephant in the room: How can state and local jurisdictions continue to make something legal that is patently illegal under federal law? Here's how crazy things have become: In cities from Portland, Maine, to Detroit and Flint, Mich., voters have approved possession of small amounts of marijuana. In some cases, local police say they will still enforce state laws prohibiting possession, in others police say they will look the other way.

In December, Congress approved and President Obama signed a spending bill that defunds federal prosecution of medical marijuana sales, yet a U.S. attorney in Oakland continues a campaign to shut down California's largest medical marijuana dispensary.

Obama has not only instructed the Justice Department to not interfere with state laws legalizing marijuana, he also has even encouraged more states to "experiment" with such laws. So what happens if a Republican is elected president in 2016 and he or she orders a new attorney general to stamp out marijuana wherever it is found?...

That's the big picture. Back here in Ohio, if the ballot measure passes, I see a problem for the horticulturally challenged: How can we expect to raise our own marijuana if we can't even get marigolds to grow?

Some prior related posts on Ohio reform discussions:

March 8, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another notable reformer now blogging at Cannabis Law Prof Blog

I am very pleased to see a recent announcement by Frank Snyder at the Cannabis Law Prof Blog welcoming Chris Lindsey as a new co-blogger on the site.  The name of this new blogger should sound familiar to anyone who has seen the documentary Code of the West (which I am showing to my students this afternoon):  Chris was charged with violating federal drug laws as a result of his partnership in a Montana medical marijuana business prominently featured in that documentary.

Chris is off to a flying start as a blogger at CLPB, as these new posts highlight:

March 6, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sherriffs now suing in an effort to shut down Colorado's recreational marijuana regime

This USA Today report, headlined "Sheriffs sue Colorado over legal marijuana," highlights that yet more notable folks continue to press in court lawsuits seeking to end state experimentation with marijuana reforms. Here are the details:

Sheriffs from Colorado and neighboring states Kansas and Nebraska say in a lawsuit to be filed Thursday that Colorado's marijuana law creates a "crisis of conscience" by pitting the state law against the Constitution and puts an economic burden on other states.

The lawsuit asks a federal court in Denver to strike down Colorado's Amendment 64 that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana and to close the state's more than 330 licensed marijuana stores.

Lead plaintiff, Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Justin Smith, calls the case a "constitutional showdown." Each day, he says, he must decide whether to violate the Colorado Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales Jan. 1, 2014, but marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Colorado is "asking every peace officer to violate their oath," Smith said. "What we're being forced to do ... makes me ineligible for office. Which constitution are we supposed to uphold?"

The out-of-state sheriffs say the flow of Colorado's legal marijuana across the border has increased drug arrests, overburdened police and courts and cost them money in overtime. Felony drug arrests in the town of Chappell in Deuel County, Neb., 7 miles north of the Colorado border, jumped 400% over three years, a USA TODAY report tracking the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska found. Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward is one of the plaintiffs.

Police officers monitoring the flow of marijuana outside Colorado say volumes have risen annually. The Colorado-based Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force is still compiling 2014 numbers but expects to see the trend continue, director Tom Gorman said. He said non-residents often strike backdoor deals with legal growers to buy more than they are allowed, then illegally drive, fly or mail the marijuana across state lines. The lawsuit invokes the federal government's right to regulate drugs and interstate commerce and argues that Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana hurt communities on the other side of the state lines. Attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a similar lawsuit late last year....

Supporters of legalization criticize such lawsuits as last-ditch attempts by conservative politicians to derail states' movement toward marijuana legalization. Speaking about the Nebraska-Oklahoma lawsuit in December, Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said police should focus their attention on serious crimes and leave alone people who choose to use marijuana. "These guys are on the wrong side of history," Tvert said.

I fully understand why various law enforcement officials, who seemingly enjoy and benefit from waging a drug war without many limitations or uncertainties, are struggling to deal with the new legal regimes in place in Colorado and other marijuana reform jurisdictions. Indeed, I am especially sympathetic to those sheriffs in non-reform jurisdictions which border reform regions because they have to deal with unique spill-over challenges. But this is a problem that has been long endured by localities with lots of other potential dangerous but legal products like alcohol and guns, and I find a bit troublesome that in this context law enforcement officials are so quick to turn to make novel claims in courts to vent their frustrations with what is really just a small pull-back in the modern drug war.

March 5, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Learning so much already even in first few hours of first Tribal Marijuana Conference

ImagesI feel extraordinarily fortunate to have been invited to participate the nation’s first ever Tribal Marijuana Conference taking place as I write this post from a huge ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino, just North of Seattle.   This post from Canna Law Blog discusses the basics, and this agenda highlights all the informed speakers in the mix who are already making this an amazing event in which I am learning so much.  

For example, right now on the podium now are Thomas Carr, the Boulder City Attorney, and Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, are providing an extraordinary set of insights about local enforcement of local laws in the first two recreational marijuana states. Carr also reported that, because Dunkin' Donuts does not have a store in Boulder, it is easier to get marijuana (and munchies) in Boulder than Dunkin' Donuts (and Munchkins) in some parts of Colorado. Of course, that should not worry public health advocates too much, given that there is good reason to believe Munchkins are perhaps much more addictive and harmful than marijuana.

1403002903506This local article, headlined "Indian tribes looks to marijuana as new moneymaker," highlights some reasons why there are hundreds of persons at this event:

After making hundreds of billions of dollars running casinos, American Indian tribes are getting a good whiff of another potential moneymaker: marijuana.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference is set for Friday on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state as Indian Country gets ready to capitalize on the nation’s expanding pot industry. Organizers said representatives from more than 50 tribes in at least 20 states have registered, with total attendance expected to surpass 300....

Robert Odawi Porter, one of the conference organizers and the former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, said tribes have “a tremendous economic diversification opportunity to consider” with marijuana commerce. He said the event would bring together “trailblazers” in the industry who will help tribal leaders understand the complex issues involved.

While it’s unknown how many tribes ultimately will seek to take advantage of the change, one analyst warned that any tribe expecting to hit the jackpot might be in for a surprise, particularly as the supply of legal pot in the U.S. increases. “People keep forgetting it’s a competitive market,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. “And it’s cheap to grow.”

In Washington state, where retail pot stores opened in July, Kleiman said pot growers who sold their product for $21 a gram only a few months ago are now getting $4 a gram. “The price of marijuana is the price of illegality,” he said.

But the issue is generating plenty of buzz among tribal leaders. On Monday, tribal officials at the National Congress of American Indians winter meeting in Washington, D.C., attended a closed breakout session with two U.S. attorneys to discuss the implications of legalized marijuana....

Even though the talks are in the early stages, many tribal officials are pleased that the Obama administration is giving them the power to proceed. “The position of the administration is a strong indication of their commitment and acknowledgment of tribes’ sovereignty, jurisdiction and governmental authority,” said W. Ron Allen, chairman and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.

Marijuana is a divisive issue among tribes, with many tribal officials worried about high rates of drug addiction among American Indians. Last year, the Yakama Nation decided to ban marijuana from its reservation in south central Washington state. The Tulalip Tribe, located just north of Seattle, voted to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Justice to try to legalize medical marijuana.

Legalization opponents fear that more tribes will want to begin selling marijuana without understanding the risks. “I worry about this being a big expansion and I worry that the potential consequences – health, safety and legal – have not been properly communicated to them,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group.

Regardless of what tribes decide to do, he warned that the situation could change with the election of a new president in 2016. “I don’t see this ending well for anyone, especially if a new administration decides to enforce federal law,” Sabet said. “The thing people should remember is that marijuana is still illegal – on tribal lands and otherwise – even if the law isn’t being equally enforced.”

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, another of the planned speakers at Friday’s conference, said allowing tribes to legalize marijuana will move pot sales “into the light of day.” And he predicted there would be little change in the amount of pot sold on reservations. “Here’s the worst-case scenario: that a tribe just decides they want to be the epicenter of marijuana production, they want to undercut the state system, they want to be a mecca, if you will,” Holmes said. “I’ve heard no tribe say that. . . . We seem to be able to co-exist quite nicely.”

Kleiman said the tax issue would be one of the toughest to sort out as tribes ponder whether to join the industry. “It’s a big deal for people who are trying to make sense of marijuana policy, because if the tribes are exempt from state law, then the states can’t actually tax and regulate,” Kleiman said. “That would be catastrophic. It’s not a big deal for the tribes because there’s no money in it.”

February 27, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poll shows, after a few years of experience, Colorado citizens still strongly support legalization

As reported in this Politico piece, headlined "Poll: Colorado residents still back legal marijuana," a new poll suggests significant experience with a marijuana legalization regime has strengthened in-state support for this major marijuana reforms. Here are the details:

More than two years after Coloradans voted to allow recreational marijuana use, the state’s residents continue to stand firmly behind keeping the drug legal, a new poll found.  The survey, commissioned by Quinnipiac University, found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while only 38 percent are against it.

The result featured significant gender and age disparities.  Voters ages 18 to 34 favored it overwhelmingly, 82-16 percent, while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older were against it, with only 46 percent in support.  Likewise, men supported the measure by a margin of 63-33, while women only favored it 53-44....

Thus far, the Obama administration has decided not to intervene in states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, despite federal regulations outlawing the drug. Colorado’s marijuana legalization is currently being challenged in federal court by neighboring states that claim a legal pot industry next door has rendered them unable to enforce their drug laws at home.

The Quinnipiac survey was taken between Feb. 5-15 among 1,049 Colorado voters. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

February 25, 2015 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spotlighting the diverse nature (and job-growth impact) of modern marijuana entrepreneurs

One of many reasons I find the emerging marijuana industry so interesting is due to the diverse and unpredictable nature and background of those interested in marijuana businesses. This reality is well covered today in this notable local New York story headlined "From Wall Street to moms, business of marijuana attracting diverse set of entrepreneurs." Here are highlights:

Rachel Jones, 24, is a stay-at-home mother from Syosset, Long Island who quit her six-figure job and started her own business hoping to ride the marijuana wave. “I see myself as an entrepreneur,” Jones said.

Her business experiment Juana Box launches in just a few weeks, shipping boxes of smoking accessories – glass pipes, rolling papers, vaping pens – across the nation. However, the one key ingredient missing is marijuana.

This new mom currently markets tobacco use only to those over 19, but she’s poised to blow her business, partnering with marijuana growers and dispensaries, anticipating recreational pot will soon be sold in New York and across the U.S. “In a few years this could be a factory and I could be hiring other stay-at-home mothers,” Jones said.

From one woman entrepreneurs to well-funded multi-million dollar businesses, marijuana is no longer just a pipe dream. From growers to CEO’s, this business, estimated to be at $46 billion by 2016, is expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years.... Bethanny Frankel of Real Housewives fame, plans to use her Skinny girl cocktail fame to launch a Skinny Girl marijuana – guaranteed not to give you munchies. Even Wall Street wants in....

Leslie Bocksor started a hedge fund company dedicated to pot. He expects it will soon cap out and he’ll need to open another and says business opportunities are mind-blowing. “They are incredibly excited to be investing in it,” Bocksor said. “We haven’t seen an opportunity like this that even compares since the birth of the internet back to the mind to late 90’s.”

“People are spending money on cannabis–hundreds of millions of dollars,” Bocksor said. “They’re probably spending three times as much as that on flight, on rental cars, on hotels and restaurants and on shopping. The economic impact is extraordinary.”

And all those businesses need workers.

February 23, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)