Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Legalizing Marijuana: It Changes Policing, But May Leave Racial Disparities"

The title of this post is the headline of this new NPR story, which includes these excerpts:

California is one of five states this year where marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Washington and Colorado paved the way for making recreational pot legal back in 2012. Since then marijuana arrests have plunged in Washington. They've also gone down in Colorado, but not by as much. This raises the question, what is the effect of legalizing marijuana on policing?...

Defense Attorney James Clark's office window looks down on the lake. He says [California police's] "stop and smell" practice happens across the state. In California, the smell of marijuana gives police probable cause to search someone's entire vehicle. If cops find something bigger - guns, stolen property - Clark says that can turn a traffic stop into a felony. "You can imagine that if you're trying to advance your career by searching cars along the freeway, that this is a tool that would be difficult to resist passing up," Clark says. [So now people] are wondering, if recreational pot gets legalized in California, could that be the end of this "stop and smell" practice?

Meanwhile, in Washington state, there have been some changes in policing since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Patrol sergeant Nate Hovinghoff has been with the Washington State Patrol for 11 years and works along the scenic Columbia River Gorge dividing Washington and Oregon, another state that recently legalized pot. "Prior to legalization in Washington state, odor alone was enough to arrest," Hovinghoff says.

If Hovinghoff pulled over a vehicle, say, for speeding and smelled marijuana, that gave him license to investigate further. "In my experience as a trooper, probably 90 percent of my felony arrests, they started with the odor of marijuana," he says.

But once pot was legalized in Washington state, the rules of engagement changed. "Now when I stop a vehicle and I go up and I smell marijuana, if they're 21 years or over it doesn't mean automatically a crime's occurred," Hovinghoff explains. He says as long as the driver of the car is compliant with the law and not impaired, and that's key, it's basically, "Have a nice day."

But folks ... aren't convinced that it will go down like that in California.... In fact, recent data from police stops in Oakland show that African-Americans are more likely than whites to be searched, handcuffed, and arrested.

That question of disparity is very much on the minds of researchers who are tracking the effects of marijuana legalization. Mike Males is with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He released a study earlier this year that's been widely cited. It shows that while marijuana arrests dropped dramatically in Washington state, African-Americans are still two times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses.

"So there's still a large racial discrepancy. It doesn't solve that. It does reduce the overall impact of marijuana arrests, but it doesn't change the racial discrepancy as much," Males says. The bottom line, says Males: "If one of the goals is to reduce marijuana-related arrests then legalization appears to accomplish that." But it may not resolve disparities in how the law is enforced or applied.

A few of many prior related posts:

September 25, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Are all opponents of marijuana reform ultimately suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets?

The question in the title of this post came to my mind as I started heading this morning the great book I first flagged here at my sentencing blog: Harvard historian Lisa McGirr's The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.  The start of the book highlights how many early alcohol Prohibitionist were much more troubled by and focused on the "liquor trade" and "liquor trafficking" rather than just individuals drinking.  

I see, of course, a huge parallel in this sense to the leading modern anti-marijuana-reform group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which repeatedly claims that its advocacy is not driven by support for blanket marijuana prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions, but rather is just concerned about the creation of a legal "Big Marijuana" industry.  As SAM explains here at its website

People often ask us what our biggest fear of legalization is.  The answer is simple: Big Pot....

The tobacco and alcohol industries follow similar patterns while hawking their legal, addictive substances. And we know how that story ends: money-hungry industries, targeting the vulnerable, will stop at nothing to increase addiction and profit. Why on earth would we want to repeat that debacle with cannabis?

I bring this up because I have long said and long believed that my affinity for and support of marijuana reform is part of a "conservative" commitment not only to personal liberty but also to capitalism and free markets. Though I fully understand and respect concerns about the long-term political and practical impact of "Big Marijuana" (and/or Big Pharma and/or Big Oil and/or Big Google), I still firmly believe the long-term political and practical impact of Big Government is and should be more worrisome at least to those who are fans of capitalism and free markets.  Ergo, I think it is fair to at least suggest that all opponents of marijuana reform (and even a good number of marijuana reform supporters) are likely fundamentally suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets.

September 23, 2016 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"If Brangelina broke up over marijuana, what could it mean for their divorce?"

I genuinely try to avoid covering what might be thought of as fluff stories about marijuana.  But this new Guardian story, which has the headline I am using as the title of this post, was just way too juicy to resist.  Plus, the story actually effectively covers some not-so-fluffy legal realities about various connections between marijuana reform and family law.  Here are excerpts:

The stoner dude who refuses to put down the pipe and pick up the Pampers is an archetype that Judd Apatow has made an entire career out of mining. Internet forums and advice columns teem with queries from spouses who feel widowed by their partner’s relationship with weed. So the announcement that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt – and a report by TMZ that Jolie was “fed up” with Pitt’s marijuana and alcohol use – has set off a bevy of speculation that Pitt never fully left behind his 1993 role as a stoner room-mate in True Romance.

Pitt has spoken openly about using marijuana recreationally in the 1990s, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “I was smoking way too much dope; I was sitting on the couch and just turning into a doughnut; and I really got irritated with myself.” But in a 2009 interview with Bill Maher, Pitt said that he had given up marijuana: “I’m a dad now. You want to be alert.”

Allegations of marijuana abuse have no direct bearing on a divorce filing, according to attorney Daniel Beck, who specializes in California medical marijuana law. That’s because California law allows for “no-fault” divorces, meaning a spouse does not have to sue his or her partner for any specific grievance, such as adultery or abandonment. “What I take away from this so-called allegation has more to do with public relations than it does anything else,” Beck added.

However, marijuana use can be a factor in custody decisions, and Jolie is reportedly seeking physical custody of the couple’s six children. “Marijuana, like any other substance, can be abused,” Beck said. “The question is, what is the effect on the children? Even if someone has a medicinal [marijuana] card, if they imbibe with the children in the room, that could be looked at as something that is not in the children’s best interest.”...

Though the legal and social stigma of marijuana use is declining, studies have shown that it can have a negative impact on marriage.  Researchers Kazuo Yamaguchi and Denise B Kandel have found that marijuana use tends to decrease once individuals get married, and that smoking pot while married “greatly increases the rate of becoming divorced”. Anecdotally, a mismatch in marijuana use is often cited as a reason for conflict in relationships....

Diana Richmond, a family law attorney with 40 years of experience in California, said that substance abuse was a very common reason for divorce but that marijuana was rarely the sole cause.  Much more frequently cited are “alcohol, various prescription drugs, and cocaine”, she said, with occasional instances where “marijuana is used in conjunction with other things”.

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California, however, the drug has become a frequent topic in custody battles, said Monica Mazzei Potter, a family law attorney with Sideman & Bancroft in San Francisco.  But, she added, marijuana – whether used medicinally or recreationally – is treated more like alcohol by family law judges than like other drugs, such as cocaine. “I don’t think it’s seen in the same category for family law judges,” she said. “Even if [parents] don’t have a license for it, I’m not seeing it as an impediment for custody issues.”  Parents who use marijuana might lose custody of their children if the case involves abuse and neglect, she said, but added: “I’ve never seen a case where there’s a parent using marijuana responsibly, there’s no abuse or neglect, and a parent has lost custody.”

September 21, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cato Institute releases new policy analysis on marijuana legalization providing a "Dose of Reality"

I am very pleased to see the release of this lengthy new policy analysis published by the Cato institute under the title "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations." Here is its executive summary:

In November 2012 voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Two years later, Alaska and Oregon followed suit.  As many as 11 other states may consider similar measures in November 2016, through either ballot initiative or legislative action.

Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates think legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, bolsters traffic safety, and stimulates the economy.  Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.  Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been largely absent.

This paper assesses recent marijuana legalizations and related policies in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

Our conclusion is that state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes.  We cannot rule out small effects of legalization, and insufficient time has elapsed since the four initial legalizations to allow strong inference.  On the basis of available data, however, we find little support for the stronger claims made by either opponents or advocates of legalization. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.

September 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

California's largest newspapers split on state's recreational marijuana use initiative

Last week, several of California’s largest newspapers weighed in on Proposition 64, the state’s November ballot initiative—also known as the Adult Use Imagesof Marijuana Act—that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle announced support for it. The Times offered the more comprehensive endorsement of the two, writing in part:

In November, Californians will again consider whether to legalize pot, this time with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law? 

 

On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences...

 

The Times urges a “yes” vote. 

The Times and The Chronicle agreed on most of the major points. Marijuana prohibition has burdened more than it has benefited society. Marijuana is already abundantly available in California; cities and municipalities can restrict and even ban marijuana businesses; and, the legislature retains the authority to amend the law. The 2010 legalization initiative was silly, but Proposition 64 fixes most of the previous attempt's shortcomings.

Conversely, The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee (both owned by The McClatchy Group) came out against Proposition 64. The two editorials are strikingly similar—at times they are indeed identical. They claim the aim of legalization advocates is not social justice reform or public health, but big business. Both lament that there is no currently accepted device available to law enforcement to help them detect drivers impaired by marijuana use (although two devices are currently being field-tested). Both worry recreational use will lead to greater exposure of youths to the drug. Both are cynical about the motives of Proposition 64’s advocates, and both conclude with this warning:

[O]nce approved, laws adopted by initiative are all but impossible to roll back without going back to the electorate. For all the spin by backers about how carefully they wrote Proposition 64, the initiative is not fully baked. Or maybe it’s cooked just right for the entrepreneurs promoting it.*

While it's unclear whether old media sources actually retain enough gravitas to persuade readers, the Bees better hope they do because opposition efforts appear to have been futile thus far. Polls continue to show Californians heavily favor legalizing recreational marijuana use. Last week, the USC Dornsife/LATimes poll showed 58 percent of California voters back Proposition 64. Notably, public opposition to legalization actually appears to have declined slightly. In May, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 40 percent of Californians opposed the measure. The most recent numbers show only 34 percent of Californians currently expect to vote against it; and, a California Counts poll released earlier this month found just 26 percent of respondents felt that way.

Regardless of the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers, it’s clear that legalization opponents have failed to gain much traction with Californians. Perhaps the problem stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge the current reality—that, in terms of access to marijuana, the drug is already de facto legal in California. As The Times acknowledges:

The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail. 

 

Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition.

And The Chronicle:

Any serious discussion of marijuana legalization must begin with the acknowledgment of reality: Prohibition is not working. The drug is popular and readily available for recreational use, either through medical marijuana dispensaries, where 18-year-olds can purchase cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, often after a nudge-and-a-wink; or a black market that continues to thrive.

The preceding statements certainly comport with my understanding of the current condition of the marijuana market in California.

Earlier this year, I met a doctor friend for dinner who regularly moonlights for a company that connects potential medical marijuana patients with prescribers. I asked her if she had ever rejected someone seeking a medical marijuana use license. “Of course!” she laughed. But, still chuckling, she added that its exceedingly rare and only happens when patients do not understand what constitutes a qualifying condition under California’s lax medical marijuana statute. When I asked her for an example, she recounted a recent high school graduate who had sought a medical marijuana license for the ankle he had twisted at a recent pick-up soccer match. Tellingly, however, she was not upset that he had tried to get a card. Rather, she was miffed mostly because the young man had not taken the time to “consult the internet” before making the appointment. If he had, she added facetiously, he would have realized that he suffers from recurring migraines. 

Put simply, if they hope to move the needle in their direction, marijuana legalization opponents must not only persuade voters that marijuana legalization will result in future societal harm; but also they must convince the millions of California voters living in marijuana-friendly municipalities that their communities are already suffering from it. With a dearth of data to support that view, convincing voters to change their minds could be a tall order. 

The San Diego Union Tribune has yet to take a position on Proposition 64, and The Orange County Register so far has declined to either support or oppose it. Earlier this year, both The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times came out in support of the measure.

Here are several recent related posts on marijuana policy reform in California:

* In the last sentence The Fresno Bee describes the backers of Proposition 64 as “guys and gals” rather than “entrepreneurs.” 

September 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

If money really can "buy" elections, marijuana legalization in California should pass with nearly 98% of the vote

One of many reasons I find the politics of marijuana reform so interesting is because it can often provide interesting and telling (and often unexpected) lessons that can and should inform what we know and what we think we know about modern politics.   One theme in modern politics and criticisms thereof concerns the role of money in elections and the notion that an issue or candidate that raises enough money will be sure to prevail in an election no matter what the voters really think of the substantive merits of that issue or candidate.   Based on this recent reporting about some recent funding numbers surrounding the California marijuana legalization initiative, if this is true we should expect the pro-reform vote to win by a record-setting landslide:

California law enforcement organizations are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight efforts to repeal the death penalty and legalize marijuana, according to a MapLight analysis.  While five of the 17 measures on the state’s November ballot concern crime and punishment, contributions from police groups are focused on three initiative battles [two on capital punishment and one on marijuana reform], the analysis found....

Police groups have contributed about 45 percent of the funding -- or $114,450 -- to the campaign against Proposition 64, a measure to legalize marijuana. The “no” campaign has raised a little more than $254,000, while supporters of the initiative have contributed about $11.5 million. Under state law, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable by a fine.

I have emphasized the line reporting that supporters of the marijuana reform initiative have in hand roughly 50 times more campaign resources to make their case to the voters. I do not find these campaign resource numbers at all surprising, but I also will not be surprised if it does not come anywhere close to translating into a landslide. (And if you want a firm prediction from me, as of this writing I am thinking that the marijuana reform initiative in California will pass by roughly a 55/45 margin.)

September 16, 2016 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, September 14, 2016

"Legal Cannabis in the US: Not Whether But How?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper authored by Sam Kamin. Here is the abstract:

The 2016 election promises to be a turning point in the history of marijuana regulation in this country.  Although the federal prohibition on all marijuana conduct remains in place, twenty-five states plus the District of Columbia currently authorize the medical use of marijuana and four states plus D.C. have legalized marijuana use by all adults.  Many more states are expected to vote on marijuana law reform this fall and these numbers are almost certain to grow; the end of federal marijuana prohibition may soon be close at hand.

But it is important to remember that federal drug policy – like the state-level drug reform that has preceded it – is not an all-or-nothing choice.  Federal lawmakers will not choose between the current system under which marijuana is prohibited in all circumstances and for all purposes and a world in which there are no limits placed on how marijuana is produced, distributed, and consumed.  

My goal in this essay is to describe the current, tenuous status of marijuana under state and federal law and then to investigate the various alternatives to prohibition available to federal lawmakers seeking to reform the nation’s marijuana laws.  I situate these alternatives on a continuum between the current federal prohibition and a relatively free market model similar to that in place in a state like Colorado.  Each of these models will have pluses and minuses and it is important that lawmakers firmly establish their goals in moving away from the prohibition of marijuana; winners and losers will be chosen in this area far sooner than many realize.

September 14, 2016 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)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crimmigration and cannabis: "Marijuana Is Legal in Colorado — But Only If You're a U.S. Citizen"

ThThe title of this post is an expansion of the headline of this lengthy Westword article by Joel Warner.   Among many virtues in this long-form article is that it includes quotes from one of my former students who examined in my marijuana seminar the connections between marijuana reform and immigration issues.  Here is how the article gets started and some excerpt from its legal discussion:

Claudia didn’t think anything was wrong when United States Customs and Border Protection agents flagged her for an in-depth security screening after the early-morning flight from her native Chile landed at Los Angeles International Airport early on October 8, 2015. “It’s normal,” she says. “Sometimes the officers review people.” Besides, Claudia had never been in trouble in her life....

[Agent] Torres asked Claudia about past trips to the States; in her accented but largely fluent English, she told the agent that she’d previously visited Tennessee, Louisiana, New York and Colorado. At the mention of Colorado, he asked to see her phone. Since the device wasn’t password-protected, he quickly clicked to her photo gallery and began scrolling back several months to her visit from April through June of that year... The agent [eventually] arrived at three photos she’d taken inside Native Roots, a marijuana dispensary on Boulder’s Pearl Street. Looking at the images of glass display cases filled with edibles and jars of marijuana, he asked if she’d tried any. “Yes, I tried marijuana in Colorado,” she replied. “It’s legal there.”

With those words, Claudia immediately placed herself in the middle of a growing clash between state cannabis reforms and U.S. immigration law’s unyieldingly austere approach to marijuana. While cannabis may be legal in a growing number of states, it’s still very much against the law for all non-U.S. citizens to use it — even if few people know that. In fact, over the past decade, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has penalized and deported more people convicted of marijuana-related crimes than ever before. As a result of the inconsistencies between state marijuana laws and immigration law, immigration lawyers are finding themselves stymied by legal predicaments that don’t make any sense — and their clients are suffering. Husbands are being separated from wives, parents from children, because of activities that in many states are no longer crimes. And foreigners like Claudia are finding their lives changed forever when they simply admit that they tried something they assumed was completely legal.

But Claudia didn’t know that when she admitted to trying marijuana; she still thought everything was fine. After Torres had finished going through her luggage, two female agents gave her a pat-down and confiscated her belongings, then led her to a locked, windowless cell with security cameras on the ceiling and miserable-looking people of various nationalities lying on bare metal cots. Only then did she realize that something was very, very wrong....

The most famous example of a marijuana-based deportation might be the U.S.’s failed attempt to bar John Lennon from the country in 1973 because of a past cannabis conviction in England. But it was only later, as the War on Drugs heated up, that U.S. immigration policy became increasingly unforgiving regarding marijuana and other narcotics. These days, any drug offense, save for the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana, is a deportable crime for non-U.S. citizens, including those with green cards. And any offense involving the sale of marijuana — even just peddling $5 worth of the drug — is considered an “aggravated felony” that triggers mandatory deportation.

It doesn’t matter if the conviction doesn’t come with a prison sentence or is expunged through a drug-court program. It doesn’t matter if the convicted individual can prove that his or her expulsion would cause extreme hardship on U.S. family members, a situation that can be used to stop deportation for other crimes such as assault or fraud. If an immigrant is busted for marijuana or other drugs, they’re likely to be taken into immigration custody and deported without any chance of coming back.

While President Barack Obama has long promised to ease the drastic consequences of the drug war, immigrants convicted of drug crimes have faced increased penalties during his time in office. That’s because of the Secure Communities initiative, a program launched under George W. Bush but expanded by the Obama administration that allows immigration agents access to local fingerprint data banks.

The result is more drug-related deportations than ever before. According to a Human Rights Watch investigation of U.S. government data, between 2007 and 2012, drug-possession-related deportations increased 43 percent, and drug-sale-related deportations increased 23 percent. In all during that period, nearly 266,000 people were forced out of the country after being convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, which accounted for roughly one out of every four criminal-conviction-related deportations. More than 50,000 of those deportations were related to a marijuana conviction....

“We are at a really interesting time politically,” says Grace Meng, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the organization’s report on drug-related deportations. “The country is willing to reconsider drug policy and laws, but those same laws passed in the 1980s and ’90s have had really severe immigration impacts — and they aren’t being considered at all.”

According to Alexander Holtzman, a fellow with the Immigrant Justice Corps in New York City who studied marijuana-related immigration sanctions while at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, it’s hard to know exactly how many people are currently being deported because of minor marijuana offenses; most deportation statistics don’t indicate whether a cannabis crime was the cause of someone’s expulsion. (ICE didn’t respond to multiple interview requests from Westword.)

There is some indication that the agency’s stance on marijuana could be shifting, though. In 2014, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that immigrants convicted of minor cannabis crimes should be given a chance to contest their deportation, ICE released a policy noting that marijuana-possession convictions would no longer be an enforcement priority. But it’s clear that at least until recently, cannabis-related crimes were a main priority for immigration authorities. According to ICE deportation records stored and analyzed by Syracuse University, in 2013 marijuana possession was the fourth-most-common offense associated with deportation — above assault, illegal re-entry or any other drug charge. The sale of marijuana was the twelfth-most-common deportation-related crime. Holtzman estimates that slightly more than 6,000 people were deported that year after being convicted of minor marijuana-possession charges.

“If these individuals are deported because of these offenses, then the sanction of deportation strikes me as severe, disproportionate and unjust,” says Holtzman. “Citizens are not similarly punished for identical conduct.”

September 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Marijuana legalization is having an incredible impact on illegal marijuana use"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting new Business Insider article, which includes these excerpts:

With legal allowances for both medical and recreational use on the rise all over the US, the favored illegal drug of Americans has never looked more professional. That's because the business of legal marijuana has never been better. We're talking about a $7 billion market, according to ArcView Market Research (a firm that tracks the legal cannabis trade).

The world of dimebags is long gone, replaced with complex breakdowns of Indica vs Sativa percentages on packaging, flavor profiles, and high-end edibles.  The market for legal weed in the US outpaces Girl Scout Cookies....

than ever, buying cannabis in the US is more akin to buying craft beer or charcuterie.  This is to be expected in places like Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is outright legal.  [And] another effect of the ongoing march toward national legalization: marijuana is growing up.  It looks less like a drug transaction and more like a product purchase. It looks normal.

The ripple effect of this maturation — the move away from baggies on street corners to artfully labeled products on store shelves — is creeping into places where legality is dubious at best.... New York City's recreational marijuana dealers are getting more and more professional in their wares. Some offer edible candy, or tinctures of CBD (a non-psychoactive derivative of marijuana used medically), or high-potency THC wax.

Many are already brands unto themselves, professional packaging and all. We spoke with dealers from several services that all function as retail outlets without physical locations (delivery only); all asked not to be named....

The benefit for NYC's cannabis consumers is clear: more transparency into what they're buying and consuming, to say nothing of consumer choice. People we spoke with from the service say it's a measure of consumer demand as much as it is a measure of availability.

Customers visit places where marijuana is either partially or entirely legal, like California or Oregon, and have their eyes opened to [new] stuff ... And dealers in NYC are increasingly stepping up to that demand, which leads to the bizarre juxtaposition of illegality alongside professional branding we have here.

September 7, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Democrats Hope Marijuana Will Help Elect Hillary Clinton. But experts say it might be a pipe dream."

2016_marijuana_legalization_efforts_countrywide_potlocatorThe title of this post is the headline of this notable new Mother Jones article.  Here are excerpts:

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both viewed unfavorably by the majority of Americans, Democrats are hoping that if the top of the ballot doesn't excite voters this November, maybe the bottom will.  Marijuana liberalization and minimum-wage hikes will get a vote in a handful of swing states for the presidential candidates.  But there's reason to think these issues might not galvanize voters the way they once did.

In previous presidential elections, down-ballot races have helped turn out voters in key states. In 2004, proposed same-sex marriage bans helped President George W. Bush secure reelection.  President Barack Obama appears to have gotten a boost in Colorado in 2012 as residents there voted to legalize marijuana.

Marijuana is on the ballot in nine states this year — five voting on legalization and four voting on medical marijuana — and Democrats hope the measures will be a draw for liberal voters.  The conventional wisdom, says Josh Altic of the nonpartisan political reference site Ballotpedia, is that marijuana measures attract a lot of young voters who support legalization but wouldn't otherwise vote, and that these voters overwhelmingly support Democrats.

In 2012, exit polls in Colorado showed the state defied the typical gender gap, with men more likely than women to vote for Obama.  Pollster Ann Selzer of the Iowa-based firm Selzer & Co. speculates that the legalization vote drew more young men to the polls and helps explain this unusual gender breakdown.  Floridians voted in 2014 on a medical marijuana measure that failed but attracted more than double the number of new young voters that had turned out in 2010, says Ben Pollara, who heads the United for Care campaign, which is supporting another medical marijuana measure in the state this year.

But as support for legal marijuana grows, the vote-yes camp is becoming more diverse.  Multiple polls in the last two years have shown majority support for legalization. A Gallup poll last year found older demographic groups are starting to support legal marijuana, with 64 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 49 in favor along with 58 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64.

Young voters of both parties overwhelmingly support legalization, including 63 percent of Republican millennials, according to a Pew poll from 2014. Millennials favor Clinton, but marijuana ballot initiatives might attract voters of both parties this fall.  "A random person who said, 'Yeah, I'm going to vote for marijuana legalization,' I would no longer assume they were going to vote Democrat," says Altic.

"We're seeing Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, even people from the Green Party be a part of this," says Carlos Alfaro, the Arizona political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which backs a marijuana legalization measure in the state.  "The Democrats see this as a good way to get voters out there, but I don't think it's in any way a partisan issue, just based on the amount of responses we've gotten." Alfaro, a Republican, says many people in the legalization campaign are conservatives and that the state has a real "libertarian streak."

In Florida, Pollara's internal polling shows 77 percent support for the legalization initiative. "You simply do not get numbers like that without having broad support among, basically, every age, demographic, geographic, racial, ethnic group," he says.

Even as the effect of marijuana initiatives on presidential voting grows murkier, Altic expects votes on the minimum wage and gun-related initiatives to remain more partisan.... There are several other swing-state measures that could bring out voters, including a universal health care initiative in Colorado and an anti-union proposal in Virginia.  But experts say it's important not to overstate the influence of any of these measures.  "This stuff is very much on the margins, and it might help a little bit, but the presidential race is the main driver of turnout," says Skelley. "It's tough to say that these things are going to make much of a difference in the end.  But I guess it can't hurt to try."

I agree that with the sentiment that "it's important not to overstate the influence of any of these measures" on the Presidential race, although it will still surely be useful to try to assess after the election numbers come in the fall whether and how marijuana ballot initiatives, especially in notable "swing" states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, might have had an impact on voting patterns in at least some key states. Moreover, and perhaps arguably of greater long-term political significance, is whether any surprising 2016 "down-ticket" results might get attributed to a candidates support or opposition to marijuana reform.

August 29, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Does marijuana legalization at least partially account for the remarkable recent popularity of Colorado Law?

Colorado_law_logoThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable Colorado University news item headlined "Colorado Law receives record number of applications." Here are the details leading to my marijuana-inflused speculation, with my added emphasis throughout the piece:

Applications to the University of Colorado Law School are up 38 percent, setting a record for the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle and the highest median GPA of an incoming class.   With 170 individuals, the University of Colorado Law School’s incoming class of 2019 is the most selective and academically competitive in the school’s history.   The 2016-17 admissions cycle set the school’s record for number of applications and highest median GPA of an incoming class.

This year, Colorado Law received 3,299 applications for the class of 2019 — a 38 percent increase from last year and the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle.  The larger applicant pool allowed for more selectivity, which boosted the median GPA to the highest in the school’s history (3.69). The median LSAT score (162) for the class of 2019 is also higher than that of previous classes.  “I am thrilled that more people have discovered that the experience at Colorado Law is very special,” said S. James Anaya, dean of the law school.  “Our supportive community, dedicated faculty, cutting-edge scholarship, and innovative programs — not to mention our success on the employment front — all make Colorado Law a terrific place to be.”

This year marks the continuation of an upward trend in Colorado Law’s admissions numbers.  In 2015-16, Colorado Law welcomed its largest class ever, at 205 individuals — a 22 percent increase from the previous year.  Applications to Colorado Law increased 10 percent that year, at the same time that law school applications nationwide were down for the fifth year in a row

I am disinclined to assert that hundreds (and perhaps even thousands) of prospective law students are now applying to the University of Colorado Law School just so they can legally relax with cannabis as well as with Coors after a tough week of classes.  But  marijuana reform has surely contributed to the recent success of the Colorado economy and this success surely produces unique benefits and opportunities for law students and junior lawyers.  Especially at a time when prospective law students are focused on employment prospects during and soon after law school, I think it fair to suggest marijuana legalization at least partially accounts for why Colorado Law is  so uniquely attractive to law school applicants during an era when most law school continue to struggle with a significant decline in applications.

(I must note for the record that I had the honor and pleasure to teach a special one-week course on Marijuana Law & Policy as a visiting professor at University of Colorado Law School in January 2016.  For that reason (and especially because of the terrific students I meet at Colorado Law), I certainly have a fond spot in my heart for this institution.  But if I really wanted to make this post entirely marijuana-focused and self serving, I would be inclined to add (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) that there is notable connection in 2016 between extra teaching of marijuana law at Colorado Law and a huge increase in applications there.)

UPDATE: I now realize I need to give credit to Paul Caron for first breaking this story with detailed data in this post yesterday under the (punny?) headline "Colorado Law School Enjoys All-Time High"

August 28, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Noting some (unexpected?) pro-marijuana opponents of some 2016 marijuana full legalization initiatives

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b7c888d83f970bFox News has this effective new article on some of the notable folks who are against marijuana prohibition but also seems to be against full marijuana legalization proposals on state ballots this year. The piece is headlined "Pot Twist: Some marijuana activists urge 'no' vote on legalization," and here are excerpts:

As voters consider marijuana-legalization efforts in several states this November, they can expect opposition from the usual pot opponents like law-enforcement groups and anti-drug activists – but some of the most ardent foes come, unexpectedly, from within the marijuana community itself.

Opponents include some in the medical-marijuana industry, concerned about what a wide-open recreational market would mean for their businesses.  Advocates for recreational marijuana also fear the latest legalization measures come with so many restrictions that pot smokers might be better off, for now, within the existing medical-marijuana system.

All five states considering legalization this November – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – already allow the medical use of pot.  Perhaps the biggest battlefield is California, where voters will consider Prop 64, funded by Napster founder Sean Parker.

“I’m on the record totally opposing this law [California Proposition 64] that does not legalize marijuana,” said Steve Kubby, an original proponent of the 1996 ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana.  Prop 64 would technically legalize pot, but also impose a 15-percent tax on marijuana sales and empower a new bureau to enforce the regulations and issue licenses....  Kubby, who backed an alternate legalization measure that never made it to this year’s ballot, complained the Prop 64 proposal creates tougher punishments for people who have more than an ounce.

California’s marijuana industry is centered in Humboldt County, the redwood-forested coastal region 200 miles north of San Francisco.  Yet a July 12 report in the Humboldt Independent found deep divisions within the California Growers Association, a cannabis growers’ trade group, over the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”  An opinion poll found its members evenly split over Prop 64.  Some growers told the newspaper they feared the initiative would allow big marijuana companies to dominate the entire supply chain.  The group reportedly had threatened to oppose the proposition until drafters included temporary limits on cultivation size.

Dale Gieringer says his group, California NORML, backs the initiative “but we definitely have reservations.”  Medical patients are right to be concerned, he said, because it raises taxes on medical dispensary purchases and gives local governments the right to ban them.  On the plus side, it reduces felonies.  Diane Goldstein, executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), touted the proposal.  “This initiative is the best chance California has to end a failed war on marijuana resulting in the criminalization of almost half a million people in the last decade,” she said.

Such wide differences of opinion from within pro-marijuana circles are playing out in other states, also.  The Massachusetts measure gives existing medical dispensaries preferential licensing treatment, so a number of existing companies have actively supported the measure.  But Dan Delaney, a Boston lobbyist who has helped medical-marijuana clinics seek licenses and is chairman of Safe Cannabis Massachusetts, opposes the measure.  He is particularly opposed to language that limits the ability of local governments to regulate it and said many of the state’s hardcore pro-marijuana activists have joined with the anti-marijuana activists to oppose the measure.  They view it as being “crafted by industry folks.”

There’s another potential foe that marijuana-legalization supporters might not have expected: the alcohol industry.  US News reported in May that an alcohol trade group is funding opposition to the recreational marijuana initiative in Arizona, but that alcohol companies are backing a similar legalization measure in Nevada.  A likely reason: The Nevada proposal gives alcohol distributors first crack at the distribution licenses.

The latest polls show legalization ahead in California and split in Massachusetts and Nevada. It’s behind in Arizona, but was ahead in Maine in May.

August 27, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise? (A Draft)"

The title of this post is the title of this timely paper authored by Michael Vitiello and now available via SSRN.  Here is tha abstract:

California appears to be on the fast track towards legalizing personal use of marijuana.  Proponents of legalization argue that legalization will abate the considerable environmental harm caused by illegal marijuana production.  The article takes a close look at that claim and presents arguments why that claim may be overblown. 

August 27, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Is Big Marijuana Inevitable?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable New Republic piece authored by lawprof Ryan Stoa, which answers the questionwith a "no" and gets started this way (with links from the original):

In November, voters in as many as 12 states will see a marijuana legalization initiative on their ballots. Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. Another 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. The era of marijuana prohibition is rapidly coming to a close.

Unfortunately, lawmakers lack easy answers to tough questions facing the marijuana industry.  Legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, taxation, consumption, security and public health.

In a recent article, I argue that the agricultural sector of the marijuana industry also presents a number of challenges.  One paramount question looms over the rest: Will marijuana agriculture become consolidated, with “Big Marijuana” companies producing vast quantities of indistinct marijuana?  Or, will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and local marijuana strains?

My research shows that Big Marijuana is not inevitable.  On the contrary, a local, sustainable, small-scale farming future is entirely within reach.

 

August 20, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Timely new report on benefits of marijuana reform from West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy

This local article, headlined "Could legalizing marijuana be West Virginia's pot of gold?," reports on this interesting new policy brief released by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy suggests. The article summarizes the themes of the report, which is titled "Modernizing West Virginia's Marijuana Laws: Potential Benefits of Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana and Legalization." This summary comes directly from the first two pages of the full 27-page report:

Over the last two decades, states across the country have modernized their marijuana laws to reflect the growing evidence that doing so will help reduce criminal justice costs, help treat some medical conditions, and boost tax revenues and their state’s economy. As of 2016, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, 25 states (and DC) allow for marijuana to be used for medical purposes, and 21 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. With several states considering ballot measures this November and public support for legalization rapidly growing (53% of Americans support legalization) among all age groups, the number of states taking action to undo restrictions on marijuana is likely to grow.

While most states have taken at least one step toward modernizing their marijuana laws, West Virginia has not. However, bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in West Virginia over the last several years to legalize medical marijuana and tax marijuana for retail sales to adults. A 2013 poll found that a majority of West Virginians supports decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medical use, while 46 percent supported regulating it like alcohol.

As West Virginia continues to be plagued by large budget deficits (a projected $300 million for FY 2018), an undiversified economy with a fading coal industry, and poor health outcomes, modernizing the state’s marijuana laws could be a step in addressing these problems and could help save the state money in the long run.

This report provides an overview of the states that have modernized their marijuana laws in recent years– including decriminalization, medical marijuana, and recreational use – and the implications for West Virginia if it decided to pursue a similar path. It provides an overview of federal and state marijuana laws (Section 1), an estimation of the potential tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana in West Virginia (Section 2), an evaluation of some potential benefits from modernizing West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 3), and recommendations on reforming West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 4).

KEY FINDINGS

  • If marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation. If 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, the state could collect an estimated $194 million.

  • In 2010, it is estimated that West Virginia spent more than $17 million enforcing the state’s marijuana laws. Legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in West Virginia could reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests, especially among African Americans, which in turn, could reduce criminal-justice-related costs.

  • The marijuana industry has the potential to add jobs both directly and indirectly. As of September 2015, Colorado had 25,311 people licensed to work in its marijuana industry and over 1,000 retail marijuana businesses. If marijuana were legal in West Virginia it could also have the effect of increasing tourism to the state, particularly in regions with outdoor recreational activities.

  • Marijuana may potentially have a positive impact on West Virginia’s opioid-based painkiller and heroin epidemic by offering another, less-addictive alternative to individuals who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions.

August 19, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Highlighting why some (many?) of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016 are not certain to pass

Election-2016-Legalization-MeasuresThis new Vice article, headlined "Why Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Could Fail in 2016," reinforces my sense that the results of all the marijuana reform ballot initiatives on so many states this election cycle remain quite uncertain. Here are excerpts:

This was supposed to be the year of Pot-Palooza, when five states are set to hold ballot initiatives that would make marijuana legal for recreational users.  If all passed, it would bring the number of states offering pot for sale to nine, following similar measures that passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014.

Legalization advocates saw it as another potential leap in their march to slow the decades-long war on drugs: The rest of the country would see that the nine legalized states were awash in tax revenues, and that fears of stoned drivers flooding the roads in search of late-night Mallomars had been overblown.  Other states, they imagined, would quickly follow suit, bringing the country ever-closer to its marijuana tipping point, when the federal government would finally be forced to step in and end pot prohibition once and for all.

But as the legalization movement heads into the 2016 election, with the marijuana issue on the ballot in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — the fantasy of a New Green Rush is coming up against unexpected resistance, its momentum slowed by a lack of funding that advocates were not prepared for.   Advocates with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group helping to spearhead the ballot initiatives, say that fundraising is down 25 percent from what they need to compete on Election Day.  "We are polling well in all of the states we are working in,"said Rob Kampia, the group's executive director. "But we know that without advertising on our side, the level of support is going to drop between now and Election Day. The money reminds people why they support this in the first place."

Kampia cited a bill to pass medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010, which had support from nearly two-thirds of voters in early polls.  Without funding or an active campaign to support the measure, though, the initiative ended up passing with just a hair over 50 percent of the vote, and only after write-in and provisional ballots were counted in the days after the election.

Past legalization campaigns — including the statewide ballot initiatives that passed in 2012 and 2014 — were funded in large part by a handful of wealthy philanthropists,including George Soros, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, Men's Wearhouse magnate George Zimmer, and John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix.

In recent years, though, both Lewis and Sperling have passed away, Soros has pulled back on his pot-based philanthropy, and Zimmer finds himself with a diminished fortune after being fired from the company he founded in 2013.  And so advocates, who expect campaigns for the five legalization initiatives and four other medical marijuana ballot measures to cost in the $40-50 million range, are counting on the $7 billion legal marijuana industry to fill the fundraising void. But so far, the industry has mostly taken a pass. "There has been a bit of a free rider problem with this thing,"said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which still receives funding from Soros and other wealthy donors.

"People are making a shitload of money on this stuff without them spending any more to get where we are,"Nadelmann told an audience at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, a bi-annual trade association event, this May.  "They are using the opportunity of legalization to make a fortune without doing anything to create that opportunity. The marijuana reform movement is spread incredibly thin right now.  And the question for 2016 is whether the industry will be there or not."

And so far, they haven't been. At a recent cannabis industry investor summit sponsored by the ArcView Group, which connects investors with entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry, executives boasted that they had helped raise $70 million for marijuana-related start-ups; but the same slide showed that the investor network had contributed less than $1 million for legalization efforts — a discrepancy that activists in the room were quick to point out. "That is 1.4 percent,"Ben Pollara, a Florida political operative, told the assembled investors. "That is just pathetic."

[A]dvocates and political operatives seethe that the businesses and individuals who have directly benefited from their efforts are not contributing to the cause. And in interviews with a dozen marijuana industry leaders about the 2016 legalization campaigns, nearly all of them told VICE that they supported the measures, but had not yet given money to any of the state ballot campaigns. "I support all of these measures morally and emotionally," said Randy Shipley, the CEO of CannaFundr.com. "But most of the people that are doing these campaigns, I am not sure that the money is being spent in the right way. I would like to see more transparency."

Industry leaders gave a variety of other reasons for not donating to legalization efforts: they hadn't budgeted for political spending; that state regulations for legal pot businesses were proving more financially burdensome than expected; they believed the measures were going to pass anyway. Some said that they just didn't want to get involved in politics....

Some industry players seem to prefer the status quo: More states coming on line means more business entering the market; and while most of these are currently smaller startups, large corporations are sure to follow, swallowing those who have been operating in their niche of the market. "People are concerned about what legalization is going to look like for them,"said Michael Bronstein, a consultant for the American Trade Association for Cannabis. "You would think they would say, 'let's get this federal prohibition out of the way.'But they want stability. So many of them have dealt with instability for so long."

Tensions between the burgeoning cannabis industry and legalization advocates are not new. In 2015, for example, an industry-backed legalization measure in Ohio was defeated, after many political activists backed away from supporting it, arguing that the measure unfairly favored a few connected players at the expense of consumers. "I love psychoanalyzing the marijuana industry,"said Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project.  "In one bucket you have people who say they are too poor to donate. In another bucket you have people who just hope someone is going to save them from themselves.  But any business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal."...

If a handful of measures go down to defeat this November, it could also embolden the federal government to end its hands-off approach to marijuana businesses in the four states that have legalized the drug. Since federal law trumps state law, any president at any time could shut down the farms, dispensaries and thousands of businesses that have cropped up in the wake of legalization. "Think about what would happen if Oregon and Alaska went down in 2014 because there wasn't enough money in these campaigns,"Nadelmann of DPA, told the conference and cannabis entrepreneurs. "All of the momentum, all of the ways in which people are thinking legalization is inevitable and the way of the future, imagine what would have happened if we had lost. Colorado and Washington would be seen as flukes. The net value of this industry would be fifty percent of what it is today." "And if California, goes down,"he added. "It sets us back a decade. I don't want to say you are fucked, but..."

August 19, 2016 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)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poll suggests California marijuana legalization initiative on path to win pretty big

Prop64This press release from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which is titled "IGS Poll Finds Support for Gun Control, Marijuana Legalization," suggests that the ballot initiative in California to legalize marijuana could pass by a substantial margin.  Here are some of the particulars:

California voters overwhelmingly support a sweeping gun control measure on the November ballot, including strong majorities of both parties and independent voters, according to a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. On another hot-button social issue that will be on the ballot in the fall, voters also strongly support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the survey found.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey 3,020 respondents from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters, and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age....

Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana use, with regulation by specified government agencies.  Almost two in three respondents (63.8 percent) supported that idea, a level of support extremely similar to last year, when the IGS Poll asked the identical question.  Support included 73.8 percent of Democrats and 62.2 percent of independents.  Republicans opposed legalization, 53 percent to 47 percent, but this was less GOP opposition than was registered by the same question last year.  Last year Republicans opposed legalization by 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.

Support for legalization was highest among African-Americans (71.9 percent) and Latinos (69.3 percent) and lowest among Asian-Americans (57.7 percent).  Support for legalization was also highest among 18- to 24-year-olds, and lowest among those over 65.

The reported movement in these poll numbers for Republicans is an interesting and possibly very important development, and I also found interesting from the reported results that there was not a significant gender gap in support for legalization. If these poll numbers hold up and California's legalization initiative win by a huge margin, I think that fact will just further add evidence that the winds of public opinion aregrowing ever more strongly for the repeal of blanket marijuana prohibition throughout the United States.

August 18, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Marijuana Appellations: The Case for Cannabicultural Designations of Origin"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Ryan Boudin Stoa and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

As the era of marijuana prohibition draws to a close, one can’t help but wonder how the legal marijuana industry will take shape.  The legalization movement is largely driven by ballot initiatives at the state level, and state regulators and lawmakers often lack easy answers to tough questions facing the industry.  Marijuana legalization presents challenges on a number of fronts, including distribution, financing and taxation, consumption, security, and public health.

The agricultural dimension of the marijuana industry presents a number of regulatory challenges as well, with important questions that have not been answered.  One of these questions is paramount: will marijuana agriculture become consolidated and commoditized, producing vast quantities of indistinct marijuana, or will small-scale farmers thrive by producing unique and localized marijuana?

This Article presents the case for American Cannabicultural Areas (ACAs). Adopting a system of appellations (in which designations of origin are legally protected) offers several benefits to farmers, consumers, and regulators.  Appellations protect state and local economies and farming communities, create a market for unique agricultural products, and allow regulatory bodies to establish minimum standards for cultivation to ensure that marijuana agriculture is safe and sustainable.  Challenges to this model are significant but not intractable.  The legal marijuana industry is still in its infancy, but ACAs represent a promising regulatory model for marijuana agriculture.

August 16, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics may have one big problem: Weed"

I have be enthralled by the Rio 2016 Olympics, but I have not had a chance to link the quadrennial fascination with quirky sports to my persistent obsession with marijuana law, policy and reform. Until I saw this Mashable article, which shares a headline with the title of this post. Here is how the article gets started:

Getting blazed and athletic prowess may seem like an unlikely combination, except in the world of competitive skateboarding. Skateboarding is one of five new sports set to make their debut at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — like your uncle who wants to get down with the youth — may not be ready for the anti-establishment nature of skate culture.

Australia's Tas Pappas, one of the world's top skateboarders in the '90s, has suggested the use of marijuana in skateboarding might dissuade athletes from wanting to compete at the Olympics. "I'm wondering how it's going to work as far as the drug testing is concerned, because some guys skate really well on weed and if they have to stop smoking for one competition (the Olympics) it might really affect their performance," Pappas told ABC News.

It's no secret weed and professional sport haven't been the best of friends. Since the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) inception in 1999, cannabinoids have been on the organisation's annual list of in-competition prohibited substances. Australian sporting codes tried to lobby WADA to remove the cannabinoid prohibition in 2012, suggesting the drug wasn't performance enhancing. In response, WADA raised the cannabinoid threshold to 150 nanograms per millilitre in 2013, 10 times its previous limit.

While the relaxed measure reflects changing attitudes to marijuana globally, the current situation means if Olympic skateboarders get caught with a cannabinoid concentration above WADA's threshold, they could be stripped of medals or banned from competition.

August 15, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rounding up reactions to DEA's modest marijuana moves

As reported in prior posts here and here, the Drug Enforcement Agency this past week made only a modest change to federal marijuana policies.  Not surprisingly, the failure of DEA being willing to do a lot more has generated criticisms and various expressions of concern and analytical perspectives.  Here are some of these reactions from various traditional and non-traditional media sources:

  • From Business Insider here, "Here's what the DEA's big decision on marijuana means for users and 'potrepreneurs'"

  • From Forbes here, "DEA's Hypocritical Marijuana Decision Ignores The Evidence"

  • From Marijuana.com here, "DEA No, Clinton Yes: As POTUS, Hillary Would Reschedule Marijuana"

  • From the New York Times here, "Stop Treating Marijuana Like Heroin"

  • From Quartz here, "The DEA's sop to pot advocates won't boost marijuana research very much at all"

August 13, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)