Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Less encouraging new data from Monitoring the Future study concerning teenager marijuana use (but good news regarding other drugs)

In this post earlier this week, titled "Encouraging new data from National Survey on Drug Use and Health concerning teenager marijuana use," I noted my personal skepticism of contentions that teen marijuana use would go down in the wake of marijuana legalization. But, as detailed in that prior post, some new numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests this could be the reality in at least some legalization states for now.

But, as detailed in this new press release, headed "Marijuana Use Edges Upward," another set of new data does not tell a story quite so rosy with respect to use of marijuana by youngsters. Here are the basics:

Marijuana use among adolescents edged upward in 2017, the first significant increase in seven years.  Overall, past-year use of marijuana significantly increased by 1.3% to 24% in 2017 for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined.  Specifically, in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades the respective increases were 0.8% (to 10.1%), 1.6% (to 25.5%) and 1.5% (to 37.1%).  The increase is statistically significant when all three grades are combined.

“This increase has been expected by many” said Richard Miech, the Principal Investigator of the study. “Historically marijuana use has gone up as adolescents see less risk of harm in using it.  We’ve found that the risk adolescents see in marijuana use has been steadily going down for years to the point that it is now at the lowest level we’ve seen in four decades.”

The results come from the annual Monitoring the Future study, now in its 43rd year.  About 45,000 students in some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this U.S. national study, designed and conducted by research scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.

This increase in marijuana drove trends in any illicit drug use in the past year. In both 12th and 10th grade this measure increased (although the increase was not statistically significant), while use of any illicit drug use other than marijuana declined (although the decrease was not statistically significant). In 8th grade neither of these drug use measures significantly changed, although they both increased slightly.

As this blurb highlights, a decline in the use of other illicit drugs emerges from this 2017 data, and also "cigarette smoking by teens [for] all measures (lifetime, 30-day, daily, and half-pack/day) are at historic lows since first measured in all three grades in 1991." Though there is research to suggest an increase in marijuana use by teens is not a positive public health story, a reduction in the use of cigarettes and other illicit drugs certainly is. These stories may or may not be causally connected, but all these data reinforce for me how intricate (and perhaps conflicting) data may be about the impact of marijuana reforms on teen behaviors and public health.

Prior recent related post:

Encouraging new data from National Survey on Drug Use and Health concerning teenager marijuana use

 

December 14, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Encouraging new data from National Survey on Drug Use and Health concerning teenager marijuana use

I think even the most avid advocate for marijuana reform recognizes that it might not be great for teenagers to be regular users of marijuana (brain science research makes this point as well).  Thus, advocates for legalization have been heard to assert that teen use of marijuana could go down if legalization was coupled with sustained public advocacy against teen marijuana use.  I have been personally skeptical of the contention that teen use would go down in the wake of marijuana legalization, but some new numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests this could be the reality in at least some legalization states for now.   The new data from NSDUH is available here, and here are some different press accounts of the encouraging data:

From Marijuana Moment here, "Teen Marijuana Use Down In Most Legalized States, Federal Data Says"

From The Cannabist here, "Teen marijuana use in Colorado down post-legalization: The latest results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health align with data collected by Colorado"

From The Denver Channel here, "Marijuana use among Colorado teens declines again, government report shows"

From Washington Post here, "Following marijuana legalization, teen drug use is down in Colorado" 

December 11, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Examining issues surrounding "Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana"

As mentioned in a prior post, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is hitting its homestretch and the last group of students are delivering presentations on a marijuana-related topic of their choosing.  One student for the next class has this provocative title for her presentation:  ""Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana: Legalize or Criminalize?" 

Here are links to background information regarding the topic from the student:

New York Times article from 2014, "Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana"

H. Robbe study from 1998, "Marijuana's Impairing Effects on Driving are Moderate When Taken Alone But Severe When Combined with Alcohol"

Rebecca Hartman & Marilyn Huestis review from 2013, "Cannabis Effects on Driving Skills"

Alfred Crancer et al. study from 1969, "Comparison of the Effects of Marijuana and Alcohol on Simulated Driving Performance

November 27, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Canadian agency wisely getting a running start on measuring economic and social impacts of recreational marijuana reforms

Legalize-canada-flag-redAs detailed in this official release, titled "A cannabis economic account – The framework," the national agency Statistics Canada has just announce how it is "preparing Canada's statistical system to capture the associated economic and social implications of the prospective legalization of cannabis." Here are the details via the release:

On April 13, 2017, the Government of Canada tabled legislation in the House of Commons to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis for non-medical purposes. If legislation is approved by Parliament, the drug's new status might come into effect by mid-2018.

Currently, the non-medical use of cannabis is not captured by the statistical system and there is a lack of available information from which to compile reliable estimates. Once cannabis is legalized, the majority of the production, sale and use of cannabis should move from 'underground' to 'above ground,' making it easier to capture and report. Statistics Canada is therefore preparing the statistical system to be able to capture the economic and social activities related to the non-medical use of cannabis.

Given the non-medical use of cannibis in Canada, it is incumbent upon the agency to try to measure the production, sale and use pre-legalization—despite the obvious difficulties of doing so—as well as post-legalization to provide Canadians, governments and businesses with as clear a picture as possible of the economic and social consequences of the legalization.

Today Statistics Canada is releasing a paper describing the framework it plans to use to estimate cannabis production and consumption, both pre- and post-legalization. The paper [available here] "A Cannabis Economic Account — The framework" organizes the different aspects of the cannabis economy in a 'supply and use' accounting structure that borrows concepts and terminology from the international System of National Accounts and Canadian System of Macroeconomic accounts.

In brief, the framework derives estimates of cannabis consumption expenditures of Canadians from use prevalence data in Statistics Canada health surveys. A series of models have been developed which are applied to the consumption data to derive estimates of the production and the gross domestic product of non-medical cannabis in Canada as well as imports, exports and 'retail' margins.  These models are based on a number of assumptions and include the use of justice statistics to derive estimates of the illegal import and export of cannabis—that is, cannabis smuggling and the hypothesis that the process to produce non-medical cannabis is similar to that of medical cannabis.

November 22, 2017 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Effective review of marijuana expungement prospects amidst nationwide state reforms

Legal Marijuana Oregon Measure 91Stateline has this effective new piece on a topic that I have long thought should get even more attention as the marijuana reform movement continues to pick up steam.  The piece is headlined "In These States, Past Marijuana Crimes Can Go Away," and here is how the article starts and ends:

When Californians voted to legalize marijuana last year, they also voted to let people petition courts to reduce or hide convictions for past marijuana crimes. State residents can now petition courts to change some felonies to misdemeanors, change some misdemeanors to infractions, and wipe away convictions for possessing or growing small amounts of the drug. “We call it reparative justice: repairing the harms caused by the war on drugs,” says Eunisses Hernandez of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that helped write the California ballot initiative.

Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon also have made it easier for people convicted of some crimes of marijuana possession, cultivation or manufacture to get their records sealed or expunged, which generally means removing convictions from public databases. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a criminal justice bill that would, among other changes, allow people to expunge any conviction that’s no longer a crime, such as marijuana possession.

These efforts by states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana are part of a national trend toward making it easier for people to seal or expunge a range of convictions. Americans with a criminal record — whether it’s marked with felonies, misdemeanors or both — can find it harder to get a job and find housing.

Hernandez and other social justice advocates say marijuana legalization should be paired with criminal justice reforms that help people convicted of past drug crimes rebuild their lives. Yet allowing people to seal their criminal records or reclassify convictions is not the rule in states that have legalized or decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Bills that would remove or reduce convictions on people’s records are often opposed by lawmakers and prosecutors who argue that people who knowingly violated prior laws shouldn’t be let off the hook just because the law changed.

California has done more than any other state to require judges to excuse residents’ past marijuana crimes. That’s because the state took the issue to voters, Hernandez said. “Through the Legislature, we would not have gotten this.”...

Defense lawyers and other advocates for decreasing penalties for nonviolent drug crimes say that sealing someone’s record can change their life. Yet state data from Oregon and California — the states that have done the most to allow people to take convictions off their records — suggest that so far, only a fraction of people with marijuana convictions have asked to get them sealed or set aside.

Nearly half a million people were arrested for marijuana crimes in California over the past decade, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. But California courts have received just 1,506 applications for reclassifying past marijuana-related crimes since state residents gained the option to do so last year. The Drug Policy Alliance also says that more than 78,000 convictions could be set aside in Oregon. But courts received just 388 requests for set-asides in cases that involved a marijuana charge in 2015, 453 in 2016, and 365 so far this year, according to the Oregon Judicial Department.

It could be that many people just don’t know they can get their records sealed. Marijuana industry and legal defense groups have hosted free events in both states to help people file the right paperwork — though in both states, lawyers say filing a petition is straightforward enough to handle without an attorney.

Another problem may be that many people have complicated criminal records, Margolis said. “Those people — they have not benefited.” Courts are more likely to reject petitions from people with long criminal histories, Margolis said. For instance, someone’s conviction for marijuana cultivation might be paired with a money-laundering conviction, a delivery conviction, or a criminal-mischief conviction because a house was vandalized.

Some people may just decide that hiding their conviction from view isn’t worth the hassle. If someone has another crime on his record that can’t be wiped away, say an unrelated felony, he might not bother to eliminate a minor marijuana conviction. One of the convictions that can be sealed in Colorado and California is possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. But in both states, even before marijuana possession was legalized, possession of a small amount of marijuana was just an infraction or a petty offense, punishable by a $100 fine.

Still, the California ballot initiative’s emphasis on criminal justice reform and releasing people from the burden of past crimes may be the new normal moving forward. The initiative has become “the gold standard,” said Art Way, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Colorado office. He said that activists in New Mexico, New Jersey and New York are all lobbying for racial justice and, to some extent, retroactive relief for marijuana crimes.

November 21, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Pediatric Death Due to Myocarditis After Exposure to Cannabis"

Advocates of marijuana reform are often quick to assert that nobody dies from an overdose of marijuana.  But this new clinical report from two Colorado doctors, which has the same title as this post, discusses a case of an 11-month child who may have died as a direct result of marijuana exposure.   The paper is authored by Thomas Nappe and Christopher Hoyte, and here is the paper's abstract:

Since marijuana legalization, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased.  To date, pediatric deaths from cannabis exposure have not been reported.  The authors report an 11-month-old male who, following cannabis exposure, presented with central nervous system depression after seizure, and progressed to cardiac arrest and died.  Myocarditis was diagnosed post-mortem and cannabis exposure was confirmed.  Given the temporal relationship of these two rare occurrences – cannabis exposure and sudden death secondary to myocarditis in an 11-month-old – as well as histological consistency with drug-induced myocarditis without confirmed alternate causes, and prior reported cases of cannabis-associated myocarditis, a possible relationship exists between cannabis exposure in this child and myocarditis leading to death. In areas where marijuana is commercially available or decriminalized, the authors urge clinicians to preventively counsel parents and to include cannabis exposure in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with myocarditis.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, this clinical report links a death to marijuana exposure has created a stir, and this new Washington Post piece headlined "The truth behind the ‘first marijuana overdose death’" provides some context for the controversy.

November 16, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Cannabis, alcohol and fatal road accidents"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research article authored by Jean-Louis Martin , Blandine Gadegbeku, Dan Wu, Vivian Viallon, and Bernard Laumon. Here is its abstract:

Introduction

This research aims to estimate the relative risks of responsibility for a fatal accident linked to driving under the influence of cannabis or alcohol, the prevalence of these influences among drivers and the corresponding attributable risk ratios. A secondary goal is to estimate the same items for three other groups of illicit drugs (amphetamines, cocaine and opiates), and to compare the results to a similar study carried out in France between 2001 and 2003.

Methodology

Police procedures for fatal accidents in Metropolitan France during 2011 were analyzed and 300 characteristics encoded to provide a database of 4,059 drivers. Information on alcohol and four groups of illicit drugs derived from tests for positivity and potential confirmation through blood analysis. The study compares drivers responsible for causing the accident, that is to say having directly contributed to its occurrence, to drivers involved in an accident for which they were not responsible, and who can be assimilated to drivers in general.

Results

The proportion of persons driving under the influence of alcohol is estimated at 2.1% (95% CI: 1.4–2.8) and under the influence of cannabis at 3.4% (2.9%-3.9%). Drivers under the influence of alcohol are 17.8 times (12.1–26.1) more likely to be responsible for a fatal accident, and the proportion of fatal accidents which would be prevented if no drivers ever exceeded the legal limit for alcohol is estimated at 27.7% (26.0%-29.4%). Drivers under the influence of cannabis multiply their risk of being responsible for causing a fatal accident by 1.65 (1.16–2.34), and the proportion of fatal accidents which would be prevented if no drivers ever drove under the influence of cannabis is estimated at 4.2% (3.7%-4.8%). An increased risk linked to opiate use has also been found to be significant, but with low prevalence, requiring caution in interpreting this finding. Other groups of narcotics have even lower prevalence, and the associated extra risks cannot be assessed.

Conclusion

Almost a decade separates the present study from a similar one previously conducted in France, and there have been numerous developments in the intervening years. Even so, the prevalence of drivers responsible for causing fatal accidents under the influence of alcohol or narcotics has stayed remarkably stable, as have the proportion of fatal accidents which could in theory be prevented if no drivers ever exceeded the legal limits. The overall number of deaths from traffic accidents has dropped sharply during this period, and the number of victims attributable to alcohol and/or cannabis declined proportionally. Alcohol remains the main problem in France. It is just as important to note that one in two drivers considered to be under the influence of cannabis was also under the influence of alcohol. With risks cumulating between the two, it is particularly important to point out the danger of consuming them together.

November 14, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"New developments in cannabis regulation"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction authored by authored by Beau Kilmer. Here is the paper's introduction:

For decades, those seeking insights into alternatives to prohibiting cannabis supply have turned to Europe.  For nearly 40 years, the Netherlands has tolerated small retail sales, and in February 2017 the Dutch Parliament narrowly passed a bill to regulate the supply of cannabis to coffee shops.  Spain’s cannabis social clubs (CSCs), which are supposed to produce cannabis for non-profit distribution to club members, have proliferated throughout the country despite some of them being forced to shut down.  Similar CSCs are now appearing in other parts of Europe (Decorte, 2015; Belackova et al., 2016; EMCDDA, 2016).

For the past five years, however, many of those searching for new developments in cannabis regulation have turned their attention to the Western Hemisphere.  In 2012, voters in the US states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives to remove the prohibition on cannabis and to license profit-maximising firms to produce and sell it.  In late 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis, although its approach is much more restrictive than that being adopted in the United States.  Since 2016, four more US states have approved commercial models for cannabis — including California, the world’s sixth largest economy — and a bill to allow for-profit companies to produce cannabis for non-medical purposes has been introduced in Canada.

Recently, politicians in at least six European countries (in addition to the Netherlands) have introduced legislation to reform cannabis supply laws, with many proposing sales through licensed outlets (Hughes et al., 2017).  While most of these proposals have already been rejected (Hughes et al. 2017), conversations about cannabis regulation are expected to become more frequent and more detailed in Europe.  With this in mind, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has requested a brief report to address the following three questions:

• What new models of cannabis regulation are emerging worldwide and in Europe?

• What is the evidence about the impact of these reforms?

• What are the implications for drug policy and practice in Europe?

November 1, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Alaska marijuana tax revenues growing, which means more resources to help reduce criminal recidivism

Alaska-weed-webAs reported in this new local article, headlined "Alaska cannabis tax revenue tops $700K in September," the Last Frontier is continuing to reach new firsts when it comes to taxes collected from marijuana reform.  Here are the details:

Alaska's marijuana tax revenue continued a steady climb upward in September, with $723,757 collected statewide, according to a state official. Sixty-four growers from across the Interior, Southcentral and Southeast paid taxes to the Alaska Department of Revenue last month, wrote Kelly Mazzei, excise tax supervisor in the tax division.

Under Alaska's law, growers pay the tax of $50 an ounce for bud, and $15 an ounce for other parts of the plant, like leaves and stems. A total of 716 pounds of bud was sold wholesale in September, and 630 pounds of trim, according to data provided by Mazzei....

To date, Alaska has collected $3,741,810 in cannabis taxes. Most of it — a full 68 percent — has been paid in cash, Mazzei wrote. Alaska's first marijuana shop opened for business Oct. 29, 2016. Revenue was slow to start, as demand outweighed supply, and retailers struggled to get enough cannabis in their shops to keep their doors open.

In June, revenue nearly doubled after three months of hovering around $250,000. Since then, tax revenue has steadily climbed. Mazzei wrote that October's revenue could top $1 million, a potentially "amazing milestone" for the state. Many local governments have also put additional cannabis sales taxes in place.

Last year, the Alaska Legislature budgeted half of the cannabis tax to programs aimed at reducing repeat criminal offenders. The other half goes into the general fund.

Because I think of marijuana reform as, first and foremost, a form of criminal justice reform, I love the fact that Alaska has decide to commit half of its marijuana tax revenue to improving public safety and its criminal justice system. This article from July 2016, headlined "Here's where half of the revenue from Alaska's legal pot will go," provides these details:

Gov. Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 91, a comprehensive criminal reform bill meant to reduce the state's prison population and its associated costs. Included in the bill is a provision that diverts half of the state's cannabis excise taxes to programs aimed at reducing repeat criminal offenders, under a newly created recidivism reduction fund.

Marijuana will be taxed at $50 an ounce. Based on projected marijuana sales, the state hopes $3 million will go toward the recidivism reduction fund in fiscal year 2017, and $6 million in subsequent years.

The marijuana tax money will be used to fund the Department of Corrections' Substance Abuse Treatment Program, which will receive $700,000, and community residential centers, which will receive $300,000; the Department of Health and Social Services' Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery Grants, which will receive $1 million; and the Department of Public Safety's Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which will also receive $1 million.

Because fiscal year 2017 for Alaska started in July and the first 3 months have already brought in nearly $2 million in taxes and revenue growth is continuing, it would appear Alaska could have even more tax revenue than expected going to these important criminal justice concerns.

October 31, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Recreational marijuana sales in new Nevada market continue to grow

Nevada-marijuana-billIn this prior post, I noted reports on the robust sales and tax revenues generated in Nevada in July, the state's first month of legalized recreational marijuana commerce.  This new story, headlined "Nevada recreational marijuana sales reach $33M in August," details that month two saw growth over month one:

Nevada dispensaries sold more than $33 million in recreational marijuana and the state pulled in nearly $5 million in total taxes in August, according to numbers released by the Nevada Department of Taxation Monday. That’s up from the $27 million in sales and $3.7 million in taxes in July, the state’s first month of recreational weed sales.

The recreational sales numbers were significantly ahead of the state’s projected $21.5 million in sales for August. In fact, the state did not project any month in the first year of recreational sales to eclipse $28 million.

Andrew Jolley, CEO of The+Source dispensaries and president of the Nevada Dispensary Association, said those projections will likely prove to be fairly conservative, and expects the market to continue to grow steadily over the next several months. “I think it is a good indication that there was a large, pent-up demand that was being served by the black market,” Jolley said....

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, also known as the godfather of pot in Nevada, said he was initially a little worried that the novelty of legal marijuana could lead to a drop off in the second month of sales. But after talking to the industry, he said it was clear that wasn’t going to be the case for August.

“Obviously there’s a demand,” Segerblom said. And Segerblom said he doesn’t think the sales and tax numbers will level off for at least two years, and pointed to the recent opening of five dispensaries in Henderson.

Segerblom also heaped the praise onto the industry as well as the state regulators for ensuring the market got off to a smooth start. “Everyone’s just been really been working perfectly together,” he said.

October 24, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

What should we make of the data on teen substance use from Massachusetts?

The question in the title of this post is one I have been thinking about a lot since seeing this press report on new data from a survey done of teenagers in Western Massachusetts.  Here are the details:

Marijuana and e-cigarette usage among some Western Massachusetts teenagers appear to be on the up while fewer smoke tobacco, drink alcohol and use other drugs, according to a recent survey.   About 31 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds surveyed reported using marijuana in the past month, up four percent over 2016, the 2017 Massachusetts Prevention Needs Assessment Survey says.

The survey also showed kids, for the first time ever, reporting being exposed to marijuana advertising, and trying other forms of marijuana consumption, such as edibles, dabs and vapor pens.   

Meanwhile, the survey reported a modest dip of several percentage points in the use of alcohol among the same age groups.  In 2017, 28 and 48 percent of surveyed 16- and 18-year-olds, respectively, reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, versus 31.5 and 50.5 in 2015 and 35 and 51.3 in 2013. 

The percentages using other drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, sedatives, tranquilizers and other narcotics -- always in the low single-digits in previous surveys -- also fell across the board in the 2017 survey. 

Massachusetts voters' 2016 Election vote to legalize marijuana for people over 21 likely contributed to the survey's result showing fewer teenagers perceiving the drug to be a serious risk.   Additionally, fewer of the surveyed teens felt their parents strongly opposed the drug, either. 

The most explosive growth seen in any of the survey's results appeared in the usage of electronic cigarettes.   Whereas virtually no 16- to 18-year-olds reported using e-cigs in 2015, 13 and 21 percent, respectively, had used the devices within the past month in 2017.

Sponsored by the Strategic Planning Initiative for Families and Youth, the annual survey hit 3,320 county youths before the results were published in late August. 

October 24, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yet another study finds link between marijuana reform and a reduction in opioid deaths

Ajph-logoThe evidence suggesting that marijuana reform could and should be a part of the toolbox of responses to the opioid crisis is starting to become overwhelming.  I make that statement as a result of this latest study published in the American Journal of Public Health under the title "Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado, 2000–2015." Here is the article's abstract:

Objectives.

To examine the association between Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis use and opioid-related deaths.

Methods.

We used an interrupted time-series design (2000–2015) to compare changes in level and slope of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado stores began selling recreational cannabis. We also describe the percent change in opioid-related deaths by comparing the unadjusted model-smoothed number of deaths at the end of follow-up with the number of deaths just prior to legalization.

Results.

Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month (b = −0.68; 95% confidence interval = −1.34, −0.03) reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.

Conclusions.

Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths. As additional data become available, research should replicate these analyses in other states with legal recreational cannabis. 

October 12, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thanks to Prez Trump(?!?), marijuana sales hit new milestone in Colorado

As reported in this local piece, headlined "Colorado’s 2017 marijuana sales reach $1 billion in just eight months," sales of recreational marijuana hit a new benchmark in Colorado. Here are the details:

Legal marijuana is a bona fide billion-dollar industry in Colorado. And it’s hitting the mark faster than ever. In 2017, Colorado eclipsed $1 billion in marijuana sales in eight months; in 2016, it took 10 months.

Colorado’s marijuana retailers logged upward of $1.02 billion in collective medical and recreational sales through August, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state tax data released Wednesday. Year-to-date sales are up 21 percent from the first eight months of 2016, when recreational and medical marijuana sales totaled $846.5 million.

This year’s cumulative sales equate to more than $162 million in taxes and fees for Colorado coffers.

During the month of August, sales of flower, edibles, concentrates and accessories were nearly $137 million — $100.3 million from recreational cannabis sales and $36.5 million from medical marijuana — according to The Cannabist’s calculations....

The special sales tax rate for recreational marijuana increased to 15 percent from 10 percent in July, as the result of a new law that also exempted recreational marijuana products from the 2.9 percent standard state sales tax. Medical marijuana and accessories are still subject to that 2.9 percent sales tax rate. The Cannabist’s calculations for July and August 2017 recreational sales are based on revenue reported for the new 15 percent sales tax.

Economists and state officials have projected that the annual growth rates for Colorado’s cannabis sales will eventually moderate as the local market matures and other states adopt recreational cannabis measures.

Here’s a look at Colorado’s previous cumulative yearly sales totals:

2014: $699,198,805

2015: $996,184,788

2016: $1,313,156,545

As the title of this post suggests, I think the marijuana industry in Colorado can and should in some sense thanks Prez Trump for the ever increasing sales. The Trump Administration has not yet decided to crack down legally on the industry, but it also has hinted in various ways that a crackdown might be coming. That combination likely contributes to a view among consumers that they ought to be sure to purchase marijuana through "legal" channels while they still can.

October 12, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Interesting accounting of allocation of marijuana reform revenues in Oregon

Effective use of marijuana reform revenues, in my view, is essential to both the arguments supporting reform and to the sustainability of those arguments over time. For that reason and others, I always find interesting and important any accounting of reform revenues, and this local article from Oregon provides just that.  The piece is headlined "Oregon pays out $85 million in pot taxes to school fund, cops, other services," and here are excerpts (with a few comments to follow):

The checks are in the mail. That's the message the Oregon Department of Revenue sent Friday when it announced it will pay out $85 million in marijuana taxes for schools, public health, police and local governments by next week.

The payouts represent the first distributions of state marijuana tax revenues since Oregon opened its legal recreational cannabis market. Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017.  The state put $9.56 million toward the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s “start-up costs” for regulating the industry and toward the Department of Revenue's work to collect the taxes.

The rest was divvied up according to a formula spelled out by law: The state school fund gets 40 percent, or $34 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services get 20 percent, or $17 million; Oregon State Police get 15 percent, or $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority gets 5 percent, which comes to $4.25 million.

Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91, which legalized recreational cannabis sales in Oregon, said the amount of tax revenue exceeded supporters’ early projections. He hopes the idea of marijuana taxes flowing into schools and public health and safety spur other states to legalize marijuana, he said. “I am glad to hear that the revenue is finally being distributed,” Johnson said. “This is what the voters intended. It shows that legalizing and regulating cannabis can help generate revenue for important governmental services.”

The largest share goes toward schools. The ballot measure said tax revenue would go to the Common School Fund, an endowment or trust fund of sorts for K-12 schools that makes distributions to districts twice a year. Lawmakers this year voted to move marijuana tax revenue to the State School Fund, which flows directly to school districts for costs such as teachers and textbooks. The fund has a budget of $8.2 billion for the biennium, the vast majority of which is made up of general fund and lottery dollars....

Otto Schell, legislative director for Oregon PTA, said while voters often assume marijuana tax revenue is providing major funding for schools, the reality is that it's among the "tiny fixes" the state has come up with to solve a major problem. To put the amount of pot taxes headed to schools in context, Schell said it's important to keep in mind how much it costs to operate the state's K12 system: roughly $30 million a day. "We keep using Band-Aids to fix something that is a systemic problem and challenge," he said.

A spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority said Friday that marijuana tax revenue will replace general fund dollars spent on existing programs, such as outpatient treatment, housing, transportation and detox. About $1 million will be spent on drug and alcohol abuse prevention, the state’s youth marijuana prevention campaign and drug and alcohol use data collection.....

Local governments may get marijuana tax revenue in two ways: Many levy their own sales tax or they are home to marijuana businesses, making them eligible for a slice of the revenue from the 17 percent state tax on pot sales. Ninety-five Oregon local governments impose a local sales tax of up to 3 percent; the Department of Revenue collects those taxes on behalf of 71 local communities, including Portland.

In the first quarter of this year, the state collected $1.2 million in local sales taxes. Scott Winkels, a lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities, said pot tax dollars are welcome but dwarfed by revenue generated by local liquor sales. “It’s helpful, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But we aren’t going to smoke our way to fiscal bliss.”

As this final quote highlights, even though many millions are being raised through marijuana reform, the amounts are still relatively small for a lot of "big ticket" items in the state budget like schools or municipal funding needs. That reality means, for good of for bad, the revenue from marijuana reform with have different impacts and different meaning to different recipients. I think advocates and opponents of reform will be well-advised to take a very close look at how these revenues are being utilized in order to have a refined understanding of some critical echo effects of modern reforms.

October 9, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Making the case for marijuana as a "driving engine of the American economy"

1Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, has this new commentary detailing positive elements of economic development that can be linked to marijuana reforms.  The full headline of the piece serves as a kind of summary: "Making the case for Marijuana Is Now a Driving Engine of the American Economy: From increased tax revenue to rising home prices, legalization is stimulating economic growth." And here are excerpts, highlighting more what has not to been previously highlighting on this blog:

The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes is having a positive impact on states’ economies in ways that go well beyond tax revenue. From job creation to increased tourism, marijuana legalization is driving economic markets. Here’s how.

TAX REVENUE...

JOB CREATION

The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of nearly 150,000 new full-time jobs, according to data compiled by the online content provider Leafly.com. Their September 12 analysis identified 149,304 jobs in the marijuana sector – a 22 percent increase over the number of jobs that existed one year ago. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).

TOURISM

The state of Colorado has experienced an unprecedented increase in tourism following the passage of marijuana legalization. According to data released last year by the Colorado Tourism Office, a record-setting 77.7 million people visited the state in 2015, spending over $19 billion. It is the fifth year in a row that tourism has set records in the state, which is experiencing a rapid growth in tourism that is nearly double the national average. And while not all of Colorado’s visitors are coming there for legal weed, many of them are. Among vacationers surveyed by the state’s Tourism Office in 2016, 49 percent responded that marijuana’s legal status positively influenced their decision to visit the state, and 22 percent of Colorado vacationers said that marijuana’s legal status was “extremely influential” in shaping their decision.

WORKPLACE PARTICIPATION AND WAGES

Lifting cannabis criminalization is linked with greater participation in the workforce and an increase in weekly income. A 2016 University of California at Irvine study reported that ending marijuana possession arrests is associated with an increased probability of employment, particularly among young African American males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. According to separate data published last year in the journal Health Economics, medical cannabis regulatory laws are associated with fewer workplace absences. Data published by the National Bureau of Economic research similarly reports that medicalization is associated with a "9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over 50 years of age. “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women,” researchers concluded.

HOME VALUES

The growth in the number of cannabis retail facilities is associated with an increase in nearby home values. That’s according to a just published economic analysis by researchers at the University of Georgia at Athens, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and California State University Sacramento. They reported that single family residences within 0.1 miles of a retail marijuana establishment saw an increase in value of approximately 8.4 percent compared to those located slightly further – between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles – from the site. That increase in property value was estimated to be almost $27,000 for an average house in the area.

October 1, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 29, 2017

"Nevada has massive first month of marijuana sales"

Nevada-marijuana-billThe title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting that "Nevada dispensaries raked in more than $27 million during the first month of recreational marijuana sales, generating more than $3.6 million in taxes, according to figures released Thursday by the Nevada Department of Taxation."  Here is more:

How does that stack up against the other states with legal marijuana?  It’s nearly double. Colorado and Oregon each sold about $14 million in marijuana during their respective first months of sales.  Washington sold $3.8 million in its first month.

“We came out of the gate like a shotgun,” said Matt Morgan, CEO of Reef Dispensaries.  Morgan said that, even three months into recreational sales, Reef’s dispensary located behind the Fashion Show Mall has a line inside the store at nearly all times and outside about 40 percent of the time.

Nevada’s market will only grow, he said. “I still don’t think everyone understands that it’s recreational in Nevada yet,” Morgan said.

For Nevada, $2.7 million in tax revenue came from the 10 percent special excise tax on recreational marijuana, all of which is destined for the state’s rainy day fund.  That falls right in line with Nevada’s marijuana sales estimates even though there were no state projections for July because of uncertainty about when stores would begin sales. State officials have projected that special sales tax will generate $63.5 million over the first two years of sales....

Tax Department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said the state expects that excise tax to grow over the next two years as more cultivators get licensed and begin to operate.  The state has also pulled in $6.5 million for marijuana license and application fees.  Those revenues will be used to cover the administrative costs to regulate the industry for the Tax Department and local governments, and all remaining funds go to the state’s public education fund.

Recreational sales started on July 1, and the state has issued 250 recreational marijuana licenses thus far, 53 of those to dispensaries.

September 29, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, September 25, 2017

"Cannabis use among patients at a comprehensive cancer center in a state with legalized medicinal and recreational use"

CoverThe title of this post is the title of this intriguing new research paper in the journal Cancer.  Here is the paper's abstract (with key points emphasized):

BACKGROUND

Cannabis is purported to alleviate symptoms related to cancer treatment, although the patterns of use among cancer patients are not well known.  This study was designed to determine the prevalence and methods of use among cancer patients, the perceived benefits, and the sources of information in a state with legalized cannabis.

METHODS

A cross-sectional, anonymous survey of adult cancer patients was performed at a National Cancer Institute–designated cancer center in Washington State. Random urine samples for tetrahydrocannabinol provided survey validation.

RESULTS

Nine hundred twenty-six of 2737 eligible patients (34%) completed the survey, and the median age was 58 years (interquartile range [IQR], 46-66 years).   Most had a strong interest in learning about cannabis during treatment (6 on a 1-10 scale; IQR, 3-10) and wanted information from cancer providers (677 of 911 [74%]).  Previous use was common (607 of 926 [66%]); 24% (222 of 926) used cannabis in the last year, and 21% (192 of 926) used cannabis in the last month.  Random urine samples found similar percentages of users who reported weekly use (27 of 193 [14%] vs 164 of 926 [18%]).  Active users inhaled (153 of 220 [70%]) or consumed edibles (154 of 220 [70%]); 89 (40%) used both modalities.  Cannabis was used primarily for physical (165 of 219 [75%]) and neuropsychiatric symptoms (139 of 219 [63%]).  Legalization significantly increased the likelihood of use in more than half of the respondents.

CONCLUSIONS

This study of cancer patients in a state with legalized cannabis found high rates of active use across broad subgroups, and legalization was reported to be important in patients' decision to use. Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information about cannabis use during their treatment from oncology providers.

September 25, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 15, 2017

In preparation for coming reforms, UMass to study marijuana use in Bay State before start of recreational sales

ThNF1SK14RAs reported in this press release, as "Massachusetts prepares to begin sales of recreational marijuana in 2018, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health (DPH), have begun a one-year baseline study to assess the level of marijuana use before legal, recreational sales go into effect." Here is more:

The investigation will be funded by a $275,000 contract from DPH as part of the DPH Marijuana Baseline Health Study to provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving. They will also look at outcomes such as marijuana-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities. Public health professors Rosa Rodríguez-Monguió and Jennifer Whitehill will lead the research at SPHHS.

David Buchanan, SPHHS chair of health promotion and policy, helped to organize two forums last year for Massachusetts lawmakers to hear about impacts of legalization in Colorado and Washington State. He says that agency directors in both states strongly recommend pre/post studies to evaluate the impact. After the forums, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana unanimously recommended that a baseline study be conducted in Massachusetts, and it was later mandated as part of legislation passed in December 2016 that tweaked the ballot question passed by the voters.

As part of the baseline study, Whitehill and Rodríguez-Monguió have designed a statewide survey plus other studies that will complement the efforts of investigators from DPH, John Snow, Inc., Mathematica Policy Research, and the UMass Donahue Institute. Findings from the various lines of investigation will be presented to a legislative committee in July 2018.

Rodríguez-Monguió says one question to be addressed with the collection of new survey data is whether increased marijuana availability leads to increased use of other substances, particularly alcohol and prescription drugs, or whether marijuana use might serve as a substitute for prescription drugs and other substances. The UMass Amherst team will also analyze several existing national and state databases to explore associations between recreational marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug use, and involvement in fatal car crashes and calls to poison control.

September 15, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"The Effects of Marijuana Liberalizations: Evidence from Monitoring the Future"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard and Jeffrey Miron. Here is its abstract:

By the end of 2016, 28 states had liberalized their marijuana laws: by decriminalizing possession, by legalizing for medical purposes, or by legalizing more broadly.  More states are considering such policy changes even while supporters and opponents continue to debate their impacts.  Yet evidence on these liberalizations remains scarce, in part due to data limitations.

We use data from Monitoring the Future’s annual surveys of high school seniors to evaluate the impact of marijuana liberalizations on marijuana use, other substance use, alcohol consumption, attitudes surrounding substance use, youth health outcomes, crime rates, and traffic accidents.  These data have several advantages over those used in prior analyses.

We find that marijuana liberalizations have had minimal impact on the examined outcomes.  Notably, many of the outcomes predicted by critics of liberalizations, such as increases in youth drug use and youth criminal behavior, have failed to materialize in the wake of marijuana liberalizations.

September 12, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Spotlighting concerns over increases in heavy marijuana use

In this recent post, I noted that last week the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released here some key data from its 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  The SAMSHA data showing decreases in teen marijuana use garnered considerable attention, and rightly so because so many are concerned about when marijuana reforms might mean for marijuana activity by those with still developing brains.  

The SAMSHA data covers a lot more than teen usage, and Christopher Ingraham has this new Washington Post piece about a trend in the data concerning adult marijuana use.  His piece is headlined "Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about," and here are excerpts:

[NSDUH has data on] the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

In 2016, nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year.  That figure's up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

Again, this on its own is not necessarily cause for concern. It's possible to smoke marijuana moderately on a daily basis — half a joint to wind down after a day of work, akin to the ubiquitous glass of wine with dinner, for instance. But the comparison with alcohol is instructive here. According to the federal survey data, marijuana users are far more likely to use daily than drinkers are to drink daily.... In a given year, lots of people drink — but relatively few of them drink every day. That's not true for marijuana. Marijuana users are nearly three times as likely as drinkers to consume their drug of choice daily.

Some of that daily marijuana use is probably inherently moderate and nothing to be concerned about. But public health researchers worry that much of it is a result of problematic use — drug dependency. "While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure, marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users," as Carnegie Mellon University researcher Jonathan Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.

The question, then, becomes how best to address the risks of chronic, heavy marijuana use. Keeping pot illegal is not likely to solve things — after all, the charts above show that daily marijuana use was rising well before the first states legalized the drug in 2014. Legalization advocates say that bringing the drug out in the open and regulating it is the best way to go. They point to tobacco as an example: Tobacco use, including heavy use, has fallen precipitously in the past two decades as a result of public health campaigns and greater stigma around use of the drug — all of which was accomplished without throwing people in jail for using it.

Public-health experts, meanwhile, are increasingly calling for a balance between the extremes of prohibition and commercialization — "grudging toleration," as New York University professor Mark Kleiman puts it. As a Rand Corp. report outlined last year, there are a whole host of options for dealing with the marijuana market, from allowing people to grow marijuana but not sell it, to giving the government a monopoly in marijuana sales, to more esoteric options like allowing nonprofit co-ops to control the supply of the drug.

The good news is that as laws relax around marijuana use, we're running real-world experiments in how some of those options actually work. In the United States, we have a handful of fully commercial markets, like the ones in Colorado and Washington. We also have noncommercial legalization for homegrown marijuana in the District. In Canada, meanwhile, it appears that the province of Ontario will experiment with implementing a government monopoly on the drug starting in July of next year.

September 11, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)