Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Two notable new accounts and accountings of modern marijuana industry

This afternoon brings two interesting new pieces about the state and fate of the marijuana industry from the business media. Here are the headlines, links and a few key passages from the articles:

From MarketWatch here, "Marijuana experts question how industry will mature as rapid growth continues but full legalization lags":

Right now the industry is experiencing growing pains.... Certain markets have become so crowded and competitive it’s gotten tougher for businesses to turn a profit.  The Marijuana Business Daily, which conducts an annual survey of marijuana retailers, wholesale cultivators and infused product manufacturers, said about 55% of those queried said they had reached break-even or turned a profit within the first year of starting their business.  That’s down from 70% who, when polled last year, said they achieved that first-year milestone.

Recreational sales of marijuana ballooned 80% to $1.8 billion in 2016, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily, and in 2017 recreational sales are expected to surpass medical sales for the first time.  The industry currently employs anywhere from 165,000 to 230,00 people, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily.

Investments in the industry are increasing in size, frequency and scope.  Major institutional investors are still steering clear of the market because it’s federally illegal, but individual investors are showing interest.  Last year, private equity firm Tuatara Capital raised an industry record $93 million to invest in marijuana businesses.

From CNBC here, "How the Trump administration is affecting the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry":

Projections vary among industry analysts, but the numbers are substantial.  Marijuana Business Daily predicts retail sales will hit $6.1 billion for 2017 and the industry could have a maximum economic impact of some $68.4 billion by 2021; GreenWave Advisors predicts $7.7 billion for 2017 and $30 billion by 2021 if recreational and medicinal cannabis is legalized nationwide.

Capital has also flooded into the space — nearly $1 billion from 2012 through 2016, according to GreenWave Advisors, citing data from Pitchbook.  What's more, Marijuana Business Daily finds that investors report plans to increase the size of their investments this year.  The average investor or firm involved in the industry has put around $450,000 in cannabis companies to date, with each investment coming in around $100,000.  But this year, they plan to invest around $500,000 on average in marijuana businesses.

"The Trump Administration has not yet changed our strategy, because there's been a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of action," says Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Canopy Accelerator, an investment fund for early stage cannabis companies.  It has invested over $6.5 million since early 2015 in more than 64 companies.  "A lot of investors are becoming more aware that they have an impact on what the administration might decide or not decide to do based on how they present themselves as a business-friendly environment, creating jobs and having positive effects on society," Rea says.

May 18, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interesting look at how religion and religious groups might support or oppose marijuana reform

Genesis-129-Bible-Jesus-Religion-cannabis-17234763584

This lengthy new BuzzFeed News article, headlined ""Can Cannabis And Christ Coexist? These Devout Southern Christians Think So," provides am interesting and effectively review of some issues that arise at the intersection of marijuana reform and religion.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some extended excerpts:

Lydia Decker couldn’t miss the man in the motorized wheelchair as he whirred down the aisles of a West Texas grocery store. As someone with lung problems herself, she noticed his oxygen tank and wondered about his illness and his meds. They got talking, and Decker mentioned Genesis 1:29, the organization she heads that uses religion to preach the value of medical cannabis. This was one conversion that wasn't going to happen.

“Oh, that trash!” Decker remembered the man saying as she tried to reason with him in the pharmacy aisle. The nurse with the man “politely” asked Decker, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to leave. She did, but not before handing the nurse a Genesis 1:29 business card, which features a map of Texas covered with a large cannabis leaf and the words “One Mission End Prohibition!”...

Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she's endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”

Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.

Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May. “People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,'” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”

The South is the last frontier for cannabis law reform. And it is no coincidence that it is also the most religious region in the country, according to Pew Research. It’s a place where interpretations of God’s word can be as powerful as law, and where preachers have long proclaimed the evils of marijuana. So as pot takes hold for medical use in more than half the country, and for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, both are nonstarters in much of the South. Only Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia have full medical marijuana programs, and recreational use is not even on the horizon.

The president of the organization that represents the largest evangelical group in the US won’t budge on calling marijuana a sin. “The scripture speaks against drunkenness, and marijuana is a mind-altering substance with the purpose of achieving, essentially, what the Bible would describe as drunkenness,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

To get the votes they need, pro-legalization groups can't just preach to nonbelievers; they also need to court people of faith, says Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that is behind most of the cannabis laws in the country. Support from religious groups has become as key as support from law enforcement groups, addiction specialists, and parent groups. “I know that most of the major policy reform organizations are working on that right now — trying to build coalitions with faith-based groups,” Fox said.

After all, marijuana has never been more popular with young people — recent polls show the 18–34 crowd overwhelmingly in support of legalization. At the same time, young people’s church attendance is dropping. As much as pro-pot groups need religious support, religious leaders need to hold onto their flocks, and sometimes that means loosening opinions on controversial issues.

In Utah last year, the Church of Latter-day Saints weighed in on competing medical cannabis bills and made the unprecedented move of expressing support for one, albeit by backing the stricter of two pieces of legislation. And a group of Muslim undergraduate students at the University of South Florida, where medical marijuana was on the state ballot, tackled the question of whether cannabis use is haram last year during an event called "Contemporary Issues in Islam: A Discussion on Medical Marijuana.” Some faiths have expressed varying degrees of support for medical marijuana, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Unitarian churches. In New York, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries had the cannabis blessed by a rabbi. And globally, to respect the traditional use of cannabis by Rastafarians, Jamaica legalized cannabis for religious use in 2015.

But to bring cannabis to the region of the US where states are deeply red and religious and where pot is both a social taboo and a ticket to jail, Decker and others are harnessing their devotion to their faiths to evangelize for it....

Still, religious opposition continues to influence drug policy throughout the region. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke out against the nine legalization initiatives put before voters in November. “I think when it comes to marijuana I’m, of course, for criminal penalties for marijuana use and for continuing criminalization of marijuana,” Moore told BuzzFeed News, specifying, though, that he is not in favor of the “incoherent mass incarceration that we’ve had as a result of the drug war.”

The Catholic Church has also come out against legalization; in 2014, Pope Francis remarked that "drug addiction is an evil” and “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called 'recreational drugs,' are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” The Catholic diocese in Arizona and Massachusetts came out against legalization in fall 2016. While this “didn’t swing the pendulum in Massachusetts,” where legalization squeaked through in November, “it very well could have in Arizona,” where legalization failed, Fox said.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Risky Business? The Trump Administration and the State-Licensed Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this short essay authored by Rob Mikos and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he opposes legalization of marijuana, a drug he considers “only slightly less awful” than heroin.  Such comments have fueled speculation that the Trump Administration might soon launch a new war on weed.  In this short essay, however, Professor Mikos suggests that the Trump Administration’s impact on state reforms and the state-licensed marijuana industry is likely to be tempered by three potent forces: (1) political support for state reforms; (2) practical limits on the DOJ’s enforcement capacity; and (3) legal doctrines that weaken the DOJ’s ability to turn back the clock on state reforms.  The essay discusses each of these constraints in turn and ultimately suggests that the Attorney General might pursue less draconian tactics, like anti-marijuana media campaigns, to curb the rise of the marijuana industry and the harms he attributes to it.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

In praise of Canada's commitment to data concerns and collection in marijuana reform efforts

ThAs reported via this local piece, headlined "Feds hope pot-by-numbers effort helps extinguish illegal marijuana trade," it appears the folks to our north are deeply and wisely committed to collecting and analyzing lots of data as marijuana reform efforts unfold. Here are some of the details:

The federal government is hoping to find strength in numbers as it tries to stamp out the illicit marijuana market.  Government officials are collecting data — everything from the street price of pot to how often people light up — to arm themselves in the fight against organized crime's presence in the trade, internal Public Safety Canada documents reveal.
The Liberal government has tabled legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use, with the aim of keeping pot out of the hands of children while denying criminals the hefty profits.
Officials had already identified 45 specific categories of information they would need to gauge the success of the new policy.  Of these, Canada collected data to calculate about seven, some partial information on a further 17 and little to no figures on the remaining 21 categories.  The wide variety of missing data includes a measure of the fire hazard posed by grow-ops, overdose statistics, the scope of crop-eradication efforts and effects of marijuana use on school performance.
The government plans to monitor patterns related to cannabis use, especially among young people, on an annual basis through the Canadian Cannabis Survey.  In March, Health Canada began the two-month survey, involving some 10,000 Canadians, said a department spokeswoman.  The planned questions most relevant to organized crime were related to the type, quantity and frequency of pot consumed, where it is being obtained, the purchase price and contact between users and police, say March notes released by Public Safety through the Access to Information Act.
"In a regime of legal recreational cannabis, price data in the illicit market is still important," say the notes.  "This is because the behaviour of consumers of cannabis, such as switching between markets, will be influenced by price."  Some research results are already trickling in.   A study commissioned by the department pegged the cost of high-quality black-market cannabis in the 2011 to 2015 period at $7.69 a gram.  Research also found that a 10-per-cent drop in the price of pot could cause a four-to-six per cent increase in the amount consumed. 
Officials want accurate figures on the sheer amount of marijuana Canadians use to help with basic supply-and-demand modelling that will paint a fuller picture.  They note such data exists in studies of legal and contraband tobacco, allowing criminologists and economists to build solid models.  Another key to understanding the price of pot is information about law-enforcement efforts, the notes say.  "For example, if more resources are dedicated to combatting grow-ops in one particular area, it would be expected that the enforcement would affect the price of marijuana in that area, as well as the areas surrounding it."

Notably and encouragingly, last year Public Safety Canada produced this very effective document about marijuana reform and data issues titled "Cannabis Performance Metrics for Policy Consideration – What Do We Need to Measure?".  This news article and that prior document suggests the folks up north are asking all the right kinds of questions and will be collecting all the right kinds of data for effectively analyzing the impacts of marijuana reform in Canada.

May 11, 2017 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 8, 2017

"The Marijuana Industry Is Getting Super-Sized"

Medicinal-marijuana-business-dailyThe title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article.  Here are excerpts:

Retail sales for legal marijuana are growing so big and so fast that the industry is having to super size their operations. Growing and producing marijuana products is now happening on an industrial scale.

Retail sales in the U.S. from 20 jurisdictions were $6.5 billion, but according to Greenwave Advisors that number is projected to grow to $30 billion by 2021. In order to meet the demand for customers, the growers and makers of infused products are having to scale up their operations. More automation, more square footage and the ability to manage this fast growth is separating the mom & pops from corporate cannabis.

Berto Torres, Chief Operations Officer at GFarmaLabs in California has been with the company since it started with four grow lights and had a canopy of 3,000 square feet. They now have 700,000 square feet under management. Torres said the company's growth boomed after they made the jump to branded products and specifically after they won a Cannabis Cup award for chocolate truffles in 2014. “It created so much demand, we had to scale up,” he said, “We needed to organize ourselves and run and function like a normal corporate company.”... Of course success in the cannabis industry immediately comes with accusations of “going corporate.” “We were accused of selling out by having a consistent product,” said Torres. “I think we're one of the few companies that's been able to create a successful blending of both worlds.”

One of the companies that is helping the cannabis industry scale up in volume is Convectium. While some industrial equipment companies refuse to work with the cannabis industry, Convectium has jumped at the opportunity. “If this was a stagnant industry, slow growth would be okay. Cannabis is growing so fast, you get passed by if you don't automate,” said Danny Davis, a Managing Partner at Convectium. He added that a laid back chill attitude in this business won't work. “Aggressive is a solid attitude to have in cannabis.”

For example, when it comes to filling a cannabis oil cartridges for vaping some small companies fill them by hand using a syringe. Davis said it takes a company an hour to fill 100 cartridges in that manner. His machine can fill 100 vape cartridges in 30 seconds. “The demand for machines is 5 times what it was from one year ago,” he said. “We truly believe that the only way to scale is to add technology and standardization.” Like the people that criticize G Farma for going corporate, Davis said there are many operations that are resistant to change. “They don't trust technology,” he said. “Many of the companies out there are primitive, even the big ones, but they will learn they had better scale quickly.”

Kiva Confections is one of the biggest infused edible companies in California that has successfully grown. Co-founders Kristi Knoblich and Scott Palmer started with a couple of workers and now Kiva employs 85 people, with products in 1,000 dispensaries. The business began in their kitchen, but the fast growth has them moving to a 30,000 square foot facility. “We're looking at large scale equipment to prepare for the recreational market.” said Palmer. Kiva is also in Nevada and Arizona and has plans to expand to Colorado, Illinois and Hawaii....

The days of local growers selling out of backpacks to dispensaries wasn't that long ago, but it is definitely over. Growers must produce large volumes of consistent flower. Producers must be able to sell branded product that is the same from state to state and meet the demand of hundreds of dispensaries. Scaling up will be the new challenge for the biggest players in the marijuana industry.

May 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Highlighting possible hiccups when a marijuana business wants to give away profits to charity

This new local article out of Colorado, headlined "Why Colorado nonprofits are taking a risk accepting donations from pot businesses," highlights yet another was that federal marijuana probation makes it a bit more difficult from a marijuana company to try to do good while doing well.  Here are excerpts:

When is a donation not necessarily something you want to take straight to the bank? Kaya Cannabis, in Denver, is donating a portion to medical marijuana sales to three nonprofit organizations.  "Nothing is simple in cannabis, I've learned," said Amanda Gonzalez, CEO of Kaya Cannabis.  "Many non-profits are part of national organizations or their of board of directors is just a little bit more conservative and nervous about what's still a relatively new industry."

Kaya medical marijuana customers are given a copy of their receipt to put in a basket in front of one of three charities [including] Rocky Mountain MS Center...  "The MS Charity that we are giving to, it was a yearlong process with their board of directors to make sure that they were able to accept these kinds of donations," said Gonzalez....

In Colorado, marijuana is legal.  In the eyes of the federal government, it's still illegal, essentially making donations from a pot shop, drug money.  "Some nonprofits want the waters tested a little bit more," said Gonzalez.

"There is still some legal risk that a nonprofit would need to evaluate, but from the experts we've talked to, it seems small at this point," said Renny Fagan, CEO of Colorado Nonprofit Association.

The Colorado Nonprofit Association sent out an annual survey last year that asked about marijuana industry donations.  One in 10 nonprofits had actively sought out contributions, but two-thirds would consider accepting a donation if offered.

"If the nonprofit receives federal funds through a contract or grant, that contract or grant will probably prohibit a violation of federal law as a condition of receiving those funds, so for those nonprofits, they should not accept donations from a marijuana retailer," said Fagan.  "Most nonprofits do not directly receive federal funds, and so for them, the issue of whether to accept sponsorship or donations from the marijuana industry, really comes down to, how does that fit with their donor base overall and is it consistent with their mission."

May 4, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Detailed new review of "State of Marijuana" by Colorado Springs Gazette

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National District Attorneys Association releases report on "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors' Perspective"

UntitledIn this post a few months ago, I praised the  National District Attorneys Association for forming a diverse working group to address modern marijuana laws and polices.  As detailed in this local article, though, it does not seem all the diverse perspectives reflected in the working group resulted in a nuanced position paper from the group:

District attorneys from across the nation recently backed a position statement that declares that marijuana legalization has increased access by children and that supports federal enforcement.  The perspective – ironically released by the National District Attorneys Association on April 20, the 420 day of marijuana celebration – could help guide policy direction by the Trump administration, which has signaled a possible crackdown.

“Legalization of marijuana for purported medicinal and recreational purposes has increased access by children.  For all of these reasons, it is vitally important to do all we can to prevent access to marijuana by youth in America.  Their health, safety and welfare demand no less,” the perspective states.  It suggests that “marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”  The opinion goes on to say that alcohol is different because “alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn that marijuana does.”

The perspective cites “scientific studies” that show cannabis can be addictive, especially for children, and initial evidence of child hospitalizations due to “unintended exposure to marijuana.”   The perspective in many instances draws upon information provided by the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.

On federal enforcement, the NDAA white paper states that there should be a consistent application of federal law across the nation “to maintain respect for the rule of law.”

The statement has split Colorado district attorneys, especially on the issue of impacts to children. In Colorado, the experience has been the opposite. The latest Healthy Kids Colorado Survey from 2015 found that teen cannabis use has not increased since legalization.  Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, in February on national television reiterated those statistics.  “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use, if anything it’s come down in the last year, and we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers,” Hickenlooper said on “Meet the Press.”

It’s a thorny subject for Colorado prosecutors, where legalization has often left district attorneys in an uncomfortable situation. While cannabis is legal in Colorado, it remains illegal on the federal level and in many states.

Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, was one of four people from Colorado on a policy group along with prosecutors from other states with “positions all over the spectrum,” he said.  “Nowhere does that document say an individual office or any state organization takes a specific position,” Raynes said.  Raynes said he finds the NDAA statements to be “innocuous and general in nature.”

“The only other statement one could make is that federal drug policy should be applied inconsistently across the nation,” Raynes said. “That would be absurd.”

But Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who leans to the left on criminal justice reform and who sat on the NDAA panel, took issue with the perspective of the association. He said the association is “dominated” by conservative prosecutors from the rural South.  “They don’t tend to be people on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform,” Garnett said.  He added that his participation on the working group was “pretty painful.”  Prosecutors wanted to send a letter to Hickenlooper demanding that he close down all legal marijuana businesses in Colorado.  The governor would not have even had the authority to make such a move.

“If anything, use is going down by children,” Garnett said, adding that NDAA is a conservative group without a lot of experience in the regulated legalized marijuana industry.  There’s a lot of urban myths out there about what’s going on in Colorado from people who don’t really know, and some of that is promulgated by the DEA and the prohibition groups who are funded pretty heavily to continue marijuana prohibition, They tend, on occasion, to distort the reality of what’s going on in Colorado.”

The relatively short report from NDAA is titled "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective," and it can be accessed in full at this link.

April 26, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making the latest full-throated pitch for Congress to finally do something on marijuana reform

Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML, has this new Daily Caller commentary headlined "It’s Time For Congressional Action On Marijuana Policy." Like many other calls for congressional action, I doubt this piece will actually prod any politician into action. But it is a worthwhile read as a sign of the federal reform advocacy times, and here are excerpts:

West Virginia recently became the 30th state to authorize the physician-recommended use of marijuana or marijuana-infused products.  An additional fourteen states permit patients to access products containing cannabidiol, a specific chemical compound available in the cannabis plant.  And this past January, scholars at the National Academy of Sciences determined that there exists “conclusive evidence” that the herb is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases.  Nonetheless, federal law continues to declare that neither marijuana nor any of its organic constituents possess any “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”  This sort of Flat Earth contention no longer passes the smell test.

That is why it remains exceedingly curious and excruciatingly frustrating that members of Congress steadfastly refuse to amend federal law in a manner that comports with this new reality.  Ninety-four percent of US voters now believe that medical cannabis therapy ought to be legal and regulated, according to survey data provided last week by Quinnipiac University, and the overwhelming majority of Americans now reside in jurisdictions that have amended their laws in a manner that recognizes the therapeutic utility of the cannabis plant.  It is high time that federal lawmakers do the same, and do so soon.

The failure of Congress to amend federal marijuana laws places the millions of patients who rely on these state-sanctioned programs at legal risk.  That is because an existing federal provision protecting these programs could potentially expire later this week. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”  In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package through April 28, 2017, at which time the budget — and the Amendment — will expire unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

In recent years, strong majorities of Congress have voted in favor of keeping this budgetary provision in place and it is vital that they do so again, especially now that the incoming administration has threatened to increase anti-marijuana enforcement efforts in states that have legalized it.  Yet Congress can do far more.

Several bipartisan pieces of legislation are pending before the House and Senate that would rectify the existing, and ultimately untenable, conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.  Among these, SB 777 | HR 1810 would amend the federal tax code in a manner that acknowledges the legitimacy of state-licensed marijuana businesses, HR 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, and HR 715 would reclassify marijuana and cannabidiol under federal law in a manner that for the first recognizes their therapeutic utility.

In addition, both HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and HR 1227 provide states with the flexibility and autonomy to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.  More than seven out of ten voters, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, support allowing states — not the federal government — the power to arbitrate pot policy....

[W]e know enough about the relative safety and efficacy of cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow adults the option to consume it and to allow states the autonomy to regulate it as best they see fit. It is time for members of Congress to acknowledge this reality and to amend federal laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.

April 25, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?

4-24-17-COTWThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Marijuana Business Daily article headlined "Colorado marijuana sales off to strong start in 2017." Here are excerpts:

Colorado’s marijuana industry – one of the most mature in the nation – continues to thrive, posting record-setting sales figures through the first two months of 2017. Combined sales of medical and recreational marijuana in January and February 2017 totaled over $235 million, up 30% from the same period in 2016.

The increase is good news for marijuana businesses in Colorado, although it’s too soon to know if sales will continue at such a strong clip throughout the rest of 2017. While MMJ sales are up slightly so far in 2017, sales of recreational marijuana have increased substantially. January 2017 rec sales were 38% higher compared to January 2016, while February 2017 rec sales were a whopping 48% above those in February 2016. In fact, February 2017 ranks as the second-highest monthly total for recreational marijuana sales in the Colorado program’s history, falling just short of the $88.2 million sold in September 2016.

The sales figures are especially striking because they come amid a time of historically low wholesale marijuana prices, meaning that a 48% increase in sales represents an even larger increase in consumption....

Generally speaking, two market forces fuel rising sales:

•Increased spending by existing users.

•New consumers entering the market.

As for what’s happening in Colorado, it’s likely a mixture of both. Considering the Trump administration’s relatively unfriendly stance toward recreational marijuana, it’s conceivable that more out-of-state visitors are visiting Colorado to stock up on product that may no longer be available in the coming months.

This phenomenon has been on full display in the firearms industry. Gun sales spiked during the Obama administration when many believed their Second Amendment rights were being threatened. But since president Trump took office and the perceived threat has subsided, firearm sales have sharply declined.

For consumers who have stuck to their black-market dealers, lower prices may have persuaded some to finally make the transition to the legal side of the industry. For consumers already purchasing marijuana legally from a rec store or dispensary, lower prices may be encouraging increased consumption.

April 24, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Why Women Founders Are Ruling Legal Marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article from the May 2017 issue of Inc Magazine.  Here is an excerpt:

There's some evidence that women are finding it easier to break into cannabis than other sectors of corporate America. One 2015 survey of 630 marijuana professionals found that women held leadership roles in 36 percent of those businesses, compared with 22 percent of U.S. companies generally, according to the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily, an Inc. 500 company that was co-founded by two women -- Cassandra Farrington and Anne Holland. "I hit that glass ceiling at 100 miles an hour," Farrington, a former Citigroup employee, says. "There's no question this is a huge area for entrepreneurship, and there are so many women fed up with the corporate arena" who find marijuana more appealing.

Like Farrington, many of the women already running marijuana-focused businesses have extensive -- and seemingly boring -- résumés at banks, hedge funds, law firms, consultancies, insurance giants, and other traditional, highly regulated corporations. They not only know how to cut through the red tape -- they welcome it. "I just got up one morning and read all the Colorado rules," shrugs Peggy Moore, who spent 33 years working for United Health Group before becoming the CEO of Denver-based pot bakery Love's Oven. "After dealing with all of the insurance industry's regulations, it wasn't that complicated."

Another lengthier article in the same issue is titled "How the Queen of Legal Weed Is Targeting the Chardonnay Crowd."  Here is how it starts:

Nancy Whiteman still mourns those candied, spice-dusted almonds.  "They were so good. They were so stinking good," she sighs longingly.  And so stinking hard to make -- legally. Because Whiteman, the unlikely co-founder and co-owner of the most successful specialized candy business in Colorado, didn't stop with the curry powder and sugar and salt.  She also dredged those almonds through syrup infused with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

After all, that's what her seven-year-old company, Wana Brands, makes: treats that can get you really, really high.  The Boulder-based business, which Whiteman runs with her ex-husband, ended last year as the best-selling purveyor of marijuana-infused edibles in its home state of Colorado, according to industry data firm BDS Analytics.

Whiteman may have begun her legal-pot career rummaging through weed-extraction videos on YouTube and testing recipes in a kitchen that was "one step up from an Easy-Bake oven," but Walter White she is not.  Nor is she even Mary-Louise Parker's Nancy Botwin, the housewife-dealer of Weeds.  A 58-year-old mother of two, Whiteman presents as more sales rep than drug lord: russet hair in a sensible bob, a sly sense of humor tucked beneath a Northeastern reserve, and the professionally tidy business casual of someone who started her career in suits.  "Whatever your stereotype might be of somebody in the marijuana business, I'm probably not it," Whiteman, a former insurance marketing executive, wryly acknowledges. "I think a lot of times people are just surprised."

April 19, 2017 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Examining interaction between the marijuana legalization and crime rates, accidents and other feared harms

I am saddened by reality that this week is the final week of my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, which means it will be the last week of student presentations. One presentation this week is exploring "the interaction between the legalization of marijuana and crime rates, crash fatalities, etc." Here are the links this student has assembled in preparation for his presentation this coming week:

Empirical article published in March 2014, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006"

Cato policy analysis published in September 2016, "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations" Empirical article published in December 2015,

"Impacts of Changing Marijuana Policies on Alcohol Use in the United States"

April 19, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Denver Post rounds up series of "Perspectives on Cannabis"

The Denver Post, as highlighted here, this past weekend had a section of its "Sunday Perspective" focused on marijuana reform. Included among the section's contributors were "former Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, L’Eagle grow and dispensary owner Amy Andrle, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting, and former teachers turned science-based marijuana curriculum developers Sarah Grippa and Molly Lotz." Here are the headlines of the pieces with links:

April 17, 2017 in 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 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another look at banking problems and alternatives for the marijuana industry

As noted in this prior post, this past week a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar presented on the law, policies and practices surrounding banking activities for the marijuana industry.  But this issue is so big and important, another student also spent the semester looking at this topic, and here are additional resources he sent my way in preparation for his coming coverage of the issue in class:

My paper is on the intersection of the marijuana laws and the banking industry but also details attempted risk management and solutions via technology. Technologies such as cryptocurrencies and third party payment apps such as Paypal and Venmo have all toed the line of anti-money laundering statutes.  Likewise, I address third party apps that perform due diligence for the banking industry by way of seed to sale tracking systems and point of sale systems thereby reducing risk for the banks.

The following are articles relevant to my paper.  I did not want to send FinCEN guidance or the 2014 Cole Memo as they have already been posted here.

An article detailing the secrecy of big banks working with the marijuana industry and suggesting that the banking woes may not be as deep rooted as once thought.

A link to podcasts from past Crypto Cannabis Conferences discussing cryptocurrencies in the marijuana industry.

An article which details one of the many tech startups attempting to reduce risk for banks by performing due diligence in compliance with FinCEN guidance and the Cole memos.

An article describing an alternative payment system for the marijuana industry

April 14, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bill to legalize marijuana unveiled in Canada

OhcanadaAs reported in this National Post piece, headlined "Liberals introduce long-awaited bills to legalize marijuana by July 2018," legislative leaders in Canada have finally put forward a full bill to legalize marijuana in that nation.  Here are the basics: 

The federal Liberal government has finally launched its long-awaited effort to legalize recreational marijuana, setting in motion a host of sweeping policy changes for public safety and health across Canada.

The suite of bills — which would establish 18 as the minimum legal age to buy pot — was introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Health Minister Jane Philpott and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

A government news release promises a “strict legal framework” for the production, sale, distribution and possession of pot, and says selling cannabis to a minor would for the first time become a specific criminal offence.

It also promises “significant penalties” for those who engage young Canadians in “cannabis-related offences” and a “zero-tolerance approach” to drug-impaired driving....

The bills are sure to come under heavy scrutiny in the coming weeks and months as Ottawa and the provinces and territories hash out the finer jurisdictional details of major issues like distribution and law enforcement.  Health Minister Jane Philpott says criminalizing cannabis has not deterred use among young people, noting products like alcohol and tobacco are legally available with restrictions.

Once passed, the Liberal bills introduced today would make Canada the first member of the G7 to legalize marijuana for recreational use across the country.

There are lots of reasons this is a very big deal, though I do not know enough about Canadian politics to predict with any certainty whether it is really likely that marijuana will be fully legal and a consumer product in just a little over a year.  Particulars aside, if Canada is truly on a certain path to full legalization in the not-too-distinct future, I think marijuana-reform-friendly states that border Canada – particularly Michigan, New Hampshire and Vermont – have yet another reason to seriously consider full legalization in order to avoid the likelihood of lots of US citizens heading up north to get legal marijuana. 

April 13, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Governors of first four legalization states write to AG Sessions and Secretary Mnuchin in support of Cole Memo

As reported in this Huffington Post piece, "Governors from four states where recreational marijuana is legal for adult use sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday urging them to respect state cannabis laws." The full relatively brief letter is available at this link, and here are some key passages:

As governors of states that have legalized marijuana in some form, we ask the Trump Administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.  The balance struck by the 2013 Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo) has been indispensable – providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections.

We understand you and others in the administration have some concerns regarding marijuana.  We sympathize, as many of us expressed apprehensions before our states adopted current laws.  As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies.

The Cole Memo and the related Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance provide the foundation for state regulatory systems and are vital to maintaining control over marijuana in our states. Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.  Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses.  This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity.  The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.

April 3, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Diving into issues presented by marijuana in the workplace

As readers know from recent posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students deep into their class presentations and we have a big final few weeks afoot. One student this coming week is looking at labor and employment law issues, and here are the materials this student has prepared for background on this topic:

Briefing on "Legal Issues: Marijuana In The Workplace"

Article on "Marijuana Use and Its Impact on Workplace Safety and Productivity"

Article on "Medical Marijuana and the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know Now"

Press report on "Colorado Supreme Court says companies can fire workers for using medical marijuana in their off-hours"

April 2, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Marijuana Policy Within Professional Sports -- Arguments For and Against League Acceptance and Player Use

In my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, there is often interest in exploring how professional sports leagues deal with marijuana issues (and the issue changes dynamically nearly every year).  This year is no different, and  I am excited to review the materials and hear the presentation of this year's student addressing the topic that serves as the title of this post.  Here are several links to articles sent to me by the student in preparation for his presentation:

National Football League, Policy And Program On Substances Of Abuse

Article on "MLB, NBA, And NFL’s Policy On Cannabis

Article on "NFLPA: Marijuana policy in NFL is "a CBA issue, not a law-enforcement issue'"

Commentary on "Why the NBA’s Marijuana Policy Is Superior to the NFL’s"

Article on "The NHL's Attitude Toward Marijuana Might Surprise You"

Article on "The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?"

Article on "The Green Team: 18 of the Biggest Cannabis Advocates in Sports"

April 1, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Should anyone get excited about the new "Path to Marijuana Reform" bills just introduced in Congress?

The question in the title of this post was my first reaction to this big new Cannabist story headlined "Bipartisan 'Path to Marijuana Reform' bills introduced to decriminalize, protect, regulate cannabis industry."  The piece has the subheadline "Three marijuana-related bills address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation," and here are the basics:

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced a package of marijuana reform bills aimed at protecting and preserving existing state-based programs while laying framework for the federal regulation of cannabis. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, announced the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” a bipartisan package of three marijuana-related bills that address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation. Included in the package is the reintroduction of legislation from Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, to regulate marijuana like alcohol.

“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Wyden said in a statement, referencing the legalization efforts in his home state and those made elsewhere. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

The Path to Marijuana Reform includes the following bills, according to the announcement from Wyman and Blumenauer:

The Small Business Tax Equity Act — Create an exception to Internal Revenue Code section 280E that would allow businesses compliant with state laws to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana. Currently, under 280E, people and businesses cannot claim deductions or credits for the sale of Schedule I or Schedule II substances. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is a cosponsor of Wyden’s Senate bill and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act — Remove federal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law; ensure access to banking, bankruptcy protection, research and advertising; expunge the criminal records for certain marijuana-related offenses; prohibits residents of marijuana-legal states to be required to take a marijuana drug test for positions in the federal civil service; and easing barriers for medical marijuana research.

Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) — Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act; impose an excise tax regime on marijuana products; allow for the permitting for marijuana businesses; regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Rep. Polis is sponsoring a portion of this legislation in the House.

I am pleased to see additional federal legislative action in this space, but I have little reason to be hopeful that these reform bills will have any more chance of moving forward than a host of other like marijuana reform bill that have previously been put forward in recent years. I am certain that the pro-reform results of so many 2016 ballot initiatives helps keep the marijuana reform momentum moving, but I do not think this momentum has yet built to the point that anyone should get excited about these new bill becoming law anytime very soon.

March 30, 2017 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 (1)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Terrific Harvard School of Public Health panel on "Marijuana: The Latest Scientific Findings and Legalization"

Marijuana-web-missed-1-636x358Though other commitments prevented me from watching the event live, I am grateful to have been able to find (and find the time) to watch an hour-long panel discussion on marijuana research and reform today as part of as The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  I watched the full video via this page at The Huffington Post, which provides this "preview":

Twenty-eight states and the nation’s capital allow for the legal use of medical marijuana.  The drug is legal for recreational use in eight states and Washington, D.C. But with a new administration in office signaling a crackdown on recreational use, including an attorney general personally opposed to the drug, states are gearing up for a marijuana war.

While medical marijuana has been scientifically proved to ease pain, but the jury is still out on the drug’s other health benefits. A recent study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Marie McCormick, found as much.  Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, will be joined by McCormick and other policy and research experts for a panel discussion on marijuana’s health benefits and legalization. 

This page at the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that the video will be posted there soon as well, and it provides this additional summary of the event:

California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada became the latest states to legalize recreational marijuana, bringing to 28 the number of states that have okayed the drug for medicinal use, recreational use, or both. Even more states have rules that allow certain kinds of cannabis extracts to be used for medical purposes. At the same time that state legalization is increasing, the Trump administration is signaling that it may ramp up enforcement of federal drug laws, even when they come into conflict with state laws allowing recreational marijuana use. State and local governments may find themselves on uncertain legal ground. Meanwhile, policymakers navigating this new landscape are also working largely without the benefit of a solid foundation of scientific evidence on the drug’s risks and benefits. In fact, a new National Academy of Medicine report describes notable gaps in scientific data on the short- and long-term health effects of marijuana. What do we know about the health impacts of marijuana, and what do we still need to learn? This Forum brought together researchers studying marijuana’s health impacts with policymakers who are working to implement new laws in ways that will benefit and protect public health.

March 24, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)