Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Washington Gov and state AG respond forcefully to letter from AG Sessions about marijuana reform concerns
As noted in this prior post, a few weeks ago US Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent letters to the leaders of states with recreational marijuana laws detailing troublesome data that, in the words of these letters, raised "serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana 'regulatory structures'." An example of one such letter can be found here, addressed to Washington's Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Now, as detailed in this local article, headlined "Gov. and AG to Sessions: You are blowing smoke on our marijuana law," there has now been at least one forceful official response to these letters. Here are the basics:
Allegations by Sessions, in a recent letter on Washington's marijuana policy, "are outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information," the two state leaders wrote to Sessions. "We have twice requested an in-person meeting with you because we believe it will lead to better understanding than exchanging letters," Inslee and Ferguson wrote to the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday.
"If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us. " Inslee and Ferguson called for both a sit-down with Sessions, and "further appropriate meetings" between state and Dept of Justice officials....
Sessions, in his letter, stressed a 2016 Northwest Drug Trafficking Area report asserting that Washington marijuana has been diverted to "43 other states" and cites 17 explosions at THC extraction laboratories.
Inslee and Ferguson bluntly told Sessions he was blowing smoke. "Your letter fails to clearly acknowledge that this (43 state) statistic covers several years before our recreational sales even began, and reveals nothing about whether the sources of the marijuana were legal or illegal," they wrote. "Again, your intent is for our state-regulated marijuana market to displace and destroy illegal marijuana activity. "
Sessions made charges that Washington's medical marijuana market is "considered 'grey' due to lack of regulation and oversight." Inslee and Ferguson acknowledged that medical marijuana "was not well regulated or supervised" in Washington. Shortly before the 2016 report came out, however, the Legislature passed reform legislation.
"We realigned medical marijuana to bring it within the state's far more stringent recreational system," wrote the Governor and AG. In fact, they told Sessions, a subsequent 2017 report by the feds made clear that "as of July 1, 2016, the long-standing illegally operating dispensaries were shut down or became licensed retailers; sales are now subject to taxation and medical marijuana products now must pass strict packaging and testing requirements before being sold to patients." "Your letter, relying on the old . . . report, ignores this important development."...
"We encourage you to keep in mind why we are having this conversation," Inslee and Ferguson told Sessions. "State and federal prohibition of marijuana failed to prevent its widespread use, which was generating huge profits for violent criminal organizations. "The people of Washington State chose by popular vote to try a different path. Under Washington's system, responsible adults are allowed access to a highly regulated product that returns substantial tax revenues to the government even as it displaces illegal activity."
The full letter from Gov Inslee and state AG Ferguson can be found at this link, and I like that the letter included a request to discuss additional matters with federal officials including:
Whether DOJ will support reasonable federal policies allowing financial institutions to provide service to licensed marijuana businesses, in order to avoid the public safety risks and transparency problems associated with all-cash businesses.
How state-regulated marijuana should be treated by the federal government following the President’s declaration that the opioid crisis constitutes a national emergency, and whether the federal government will support objective, independent research into the effects of marijuana law reform on opioid use and abuse.
August 16, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Effective review of back-and-forth between AG Sessions and legalization states over marijuana policies
At HuffPost, Matt Ferner has this lengthy new article discussing the various ways in which marijuana legalization states have made their case to the Trump Administration about their reformed marijuana laws. The article is headlined "Legal-Weed States Tell Jeff Sessions Their Programs Are Working. He Might Crack Down Anyway." It merits a full read, along with some of the notable documents linked within, and here are excerpts:
Marijuana legalization is going smoothly in Colorado and Oregon, state officials recently told the Justice Department as it prepares for a shift in federal law enforcement priorities that could include changes to marijuana policy.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch drug opponent, nevertheless is considering reversing the Obama administration’s relaxed approach to state legalization, and may resume strictly enforcing federal laws, which still regard all marijuana use as illegal....
Colorado and Oregon ― among eight legal-weed states that know the issues best ― produced detailed reports on their experiences, officials said.
A 140-page report from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) office contains data and analysis from six state agencies, showing that the state’s 2014 marijuana legalization didn’t significantly increase youth drug abuse, school dropouts or juvenile arrests.
Statistics do show a rise in car crashes and fatalities involving motorists testing positive for cannabinoids. But Colorado’s report notes the statistics may not prove more drivers are intoxicated, because inactive marijuana compounds can be detected for more than a month in some individuals. Marijuana DUIs have declined 21 percent in the first six months of 2017 from the same period a year earlier. ...
A 19-page report prepared by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) office gives a positive view of legalization that safeguards public safety, and describes the state’s robust system tracking weed from seed to sale. The document was first made public in June following a records request by Oregonian reporter Noelle Crombie.
Oregon’s report acknowledges the continued existence of a marijuana black market. It also notes legalization’s hiccups, including “overproduction” and new laws it needed to place limits on growers and to increase penalties for marijuana-related crimes....
Washington state, which also legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, has sent Sessions’ office three letters defending the state’s legalization scheme under current federal policy, and requested a meeting with Sessions, a representative from Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) office told HuffPost.
Inslee’s office received a reply from Sessions on Wednesday expressing skepticism of the state’s marijuana legalization. Sessions’ letter cites a 2016 law enforcement report that he says “raises serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana ‘regulatory structures’ in your state.”
Saturday, July 8, 2017
"State of Emergency"!?!: Nevada dispensaries struggling to keep up with demand after first week of recreational sales
As reported in this USA Today article, headlined "Nevada dispensaries running out of marijuana," recreational marijuana sales are off to quite a start in the Silver State and that is actually creating a significant problem:
Nevada dispensaries licensed to sell recreational marijuana are running out of pot less than a week after the legal market came to life, according to the state Department of Taxation.
On Friday, taxation officials announced that Gov. Brian Sandoval had endorsed the department's "statement of emergency," allowing state officials to consider adopting an emergency marijuana regulation that could alleviate the shortage. The Nevada Tax Commission will vote on the regulation Thursday.
"Based on reports of adult-use marijuana sales already far exceeding the industry’s expectations at the state’s 47 licensed retail marijuana stores, and the reality that many stores are running out of inventory, the Department must address the lack of distributors immediately. Some establishments report the need for delivery within the next several days," said department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein in an email.
The regulation would allow the department to consider a larger pool of applicants for distribution licenses, licenses that permit the transport of recreational marijuana from cultivation and packaging facilities to the dispensaries.
When the state law legalizing recreational marijuana was passed in November, wholesale alcohol distributors were promised exclusive rights to transport wholesale marijuana for the first 18 months of legal sales. The department, however, has run into multiple roadblocks in reviewing the seven applications that they have received as of Friday.
"We continue to work with the liquor wholesalers who have applied for distribution licenses, but most don’t yet meet the requirements that would allow us to license them. Even as we attempted to schedule the final facility inspection for one of the applicants this week, they told us their facility was not ready and declined the inspection. As of mid-day Friday, not one distribution license has been issued," Klapstein said....
Now that any marijuana dispensary licensed to sell recreational marijuana must receive all product — both recreational and medical — from a distributor licensed to transport recreational marijuana, many of them are stuck with dwindling supply. "The business owners in this industry have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build facilities across the state," Klapstein said. “They have hired and trained thousands of additional employees to meet the demands of the market. Unless the issue with distributor licensing is resolved quickly, the inability to deliver product to retail stores will result in many of these people losing their jobs and will bring this nascent market to a grinding halt. A halt in this market will lead to a hole in the state’s school budget."
While the department does not plan to release any numbers on state tax revenue from the industry until late September, the Nevada Dispensary Association earlier this week estimated that dispensaries made about $3 million in sales and the state made about $1 million in tax revenue between Saturday and Tuesday. Revenue collected from the 15% cultivation tax goes toward schools, while the 10% sales tax revenue goes toward the state's rainy day fund, which can be used for any number of expenditures.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
"Cannabis use and psychotic-like experiences trajectories during early adolescence: the coevolution and potential mediators"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article appearing in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry authored by Josiane Bourque, Mohammad H. Afzali, Maeve O'Leary-Barrett, and Patricia Conrod. Here is the abstract:
The authors sought to model the different trajectories of psychotic-like experiences (PLE) during adolescence and to examine whether the longitudinal relationship between cannabis use and PLE is mediated by changes in cognitive development and/or change in anxiety or depression symptoms.
A total of 2,566 youths were assessed every year for 4-years (from 13- to 16-years of age) on clinical, substance use and cognitive development outcomes. Latent class growth models identified three trajectories of PLE: low decreasing (83.9%), high decreasing (7.9%), and moderate increasing class (8.2%). We conducted logistic regressions to investigate whether baseline levels and growth in cannabis use were associated with PLE trajectory membership. Then, we examined the effects of potential mediators (growth in cognition and anxiety/depression) on the relationship between growth in cannabis use and PLE trajectory.
A steeper growth in cannabis use from 13- to 16-years was associated with a higher likelihood of being assigned to the moderate increasing trajectory of PLE [odds ratio, 2.59; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11–6.03], when controlling for cumulative cigarette use. Growth in depression symptoms, not anxiety or change in cognitive functioning, mediated the relationship between growth in cannabis use and the PLE moderate increasing group (indirect effect: 0.07; 95% CI, 0.03–0.11).
Depression symptoms partially mediated the longitudinal link between cannabis use and PLE in adolescents, suggesting that there may be a preventative effect to be gained from targeting depression symptoms, in addition to attempting to prevent cannabis use in youth presenting increasing psychotic experiences.
Monday, June 26, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by multiple authors to soon appear in the American Journal of Public Health. Here is the abstract:
Background. Cannabis use is common in North America, especially among young people, and is associated with a risk of various acute and chronic adverse health outcomes. Cannabis control regimes are evolving, for example toward a national legalization policy in Canada, with the aim to improve public health, and thus require evidence-based interventions. As cannabis-related health outcomes may be influenced by behaviors that are modifiable by the user, evidence-based Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG) — akin to similar guidelines in other health fields — offer a valuable, targeted prevention tool to improve public health outcomes.
Objectives. To systematically review, update, and quality-grade evidence on behavioral factors determining adverse health outcomes from cannabis that may be modifiable by the user, and translate this evidence into revised LRCUG as a public health intervention tool based on an expert consensus process.
Search methods. We used pertinent medical search terms and structured search strategies, to search MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library databases, and reference lists primarily for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and additional evidence on modifiable risk factors for adverse health outcomes from cannabis use.
Selection criteria. We included studies if they focused on potentially modifiable behavior-based factors for risks or harms for health from cannabis use, and excluded studies if cannabis use was assessed for therapeutic purposes.
Data collection and analysis. We screened the titles and abstracts of all studies identified by the search strategy and assessed the full texts of all potentially eligible studies for inclusion; 2 of the authors independently extracted the data of all studies included in this review. We created Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses flow-charts for each of the topical searches. Subsequently, we summarized the evidence by behavioral factor topic, quality-graded it by following standard (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation; GRADE) criteria, and translated it into the LRCUG recommendations by the author expert collective on the basis of an iterative consensus process.
Main results. For most recommendations, there was at least “substantial” (i.e., good-quality) evidence. We developed 10 major recommendations for lower-risk use: (1) the most effective way to avoid cannabis use–related health risks is abstinence; (2) avoid early age initiation of cannabis use (i.e., definitively before the age of 16 years); (3) choose low-potency tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or balanced THC-to-cannabidiol (CBD)–ratio cannabis products; (4) abstain from using synthetic cannabinoids; (5) avoid combusted cannabis inhalation and give preference to nonsmoking use methods; (6) avoid deep or other risky inhalation practices; (7) avoid high-frequency (e.g., daily or near-daily) cannabis use; (8) abstain from cannabis-impaired driving; (9) populations at higher risk for cannabis use–related health problems should avoid use altogether; and (10) avoid combining previously mentioned risk behaviors (e.g., early initiation and high-frequency use).
Authors’ conclusions. Evidence indicates that a substantial extent of the risk of adverse health outcomes from cannabis use may be reduced by informed behavioral choices among users. The evidence-based LRCUG serve as a population-level education and intervention tool to inform such user choices toward improved public health outcomes. However, the LRCUG ought to be systematically communicated and supported by key regulation measures (e.g., cannabis product labeling, content regulation) to be effective. All of these measures are concretely possible under emerging legalization regimes, and should be actively implemented by regulatory authorities. The population-level impact of the LRCUG toward reducing cannabis use–related health risks should be evaluated.
Public health implications. Cannabis control regimes are evolving, including legalization in North America, with uncertain impacts on public health. Evidence-based LRCUG offer a potentially valuable population-level tool to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes from cannabis use among (especially young) users in legalization contexts, and hence to contribute to improved public health outcomes.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Another accounting of the big drop in traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington
In this recent post I noted The Marshall Project article discussing data showing many fewer traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. This new NBC News article, headlined "Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana," covers similar ground. Here are excerpts of this reporting of fascinating data:
Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012. That also reduced the racial disparities in the stops, according to a new analysis of police data, but not by much. Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates than whites. Highway stops have long been a tool in the war on drugs, and remain a charged issue amid a furious national debate about police treatment of minorities....
The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers. “Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community," said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice in Boston. "Have a police officer search your car is really like, 'Why are they doing this to me?' And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”
The analysis comes from data crunched by the Stanford Open Policing Project.... The data compiled by the Stanford group is limited in that it is not uniform across states. Each of the country's law enforcement agencies track traffic stops differently, and some don't release the data publicly. In the end, the group compiled data from 20 states that was deep enough to allow a rigorous analysis. Colorado and Washington were compared against 12 of these states to arrive at the conclusion that marijuana legalization likely had an effect on search rates.
In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year. In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization. The search rate remained low thereafter. The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops.
The biggest finding ─ and one that mirrors the results of investigations in individual states and jurisdictions ─ is that minorities are still stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers. The threshold before a search is performed is also lower for minority drivers than it is for whites, according to the researchers at Stanford behind the Open Policing Project. Those differences remained in Colorado and Washington even after searchers dropped following pot legalization.
Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that although the disparities persisted, the overall drop in searches means that fewer minorities would be unfairly targeted. "As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious," Glaser wrote in an email.
Prior related post:
Thursday, June 22, 2017
As reported in this industry article, the Highway Loss Data Institute has completed an interesting analysis of car crash claims data in marijuana legalization states. Here are the basics from the article:
Legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington has resulted in collision claim frequencies that are about 3 percent higher overall than would have been expected without legalization, a new Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis shows. This is HLDI's first look at how the legalization of marijuana since 2014 has affected crashes reported to insurers....
Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with voter approval in November 2012. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Oregon voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015.
HLDI conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use. During the study period, Nevada and Montana permitted medical use of marijuana, Wyoming and Utah allowed only limited use for medical purposes, and Idaho didn't permit any use. Oregon and Washington authorized medical marijuana use in 1998, and Colorado authorized it in 2000.
HLDI also looked at loss results for each state individually compared with loss results for adjacent states without legalized recreational marijuana use prior to November 2016. Data spanned collision claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016 for 1981 to 2017 model vehicles. Analysts controlled for differences in the rated driver population, insured vehicle fleet, the mix of urban versus rural exposure, unemployment, weather and seasonality.
Collision claims are the most frequent kind of claims insurers receive. Collision coverage insures against physical damage to a driver's vehicle in a crash with an object or other vehicle, generally when the driver is at fault. Collision claim frequency is the number of collision claims divided by the number of insured vehicle years (one vehicle insured for one year or two vehicles insured for six months each). "The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes," says Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI. "The individual state analyses suggest that the size of the effect varies by state."
Colorado saw the biggest estimated increase in claim frequency compared with its control states. After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Washington's estimated increase in claim frequency was 6.2 percent higher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon's estimated increase in claim frequency was 4.5 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. "The combined effect for the three states was smaller but still significant at 3 percent," Moore says. "The combined analysis uses a bigger control group and is a good representation of the effect of marijuana legalization overall. The single-state analyses show how the effect differs by state."
Each of the individual state analyses also showed that the estimated effect of legalizing recreational use of marijuana varies depending on the comparison state examined. For example, results for Colorado vary from a 3 percent rise in claim frequency when compared with Wyoming to a 21 percent increase when compared with Utah.
HLDI's new analysis of real-world crashes provides one look at the emerging picture of what marijuana's legalization will mean for highway safety as more states decriminalize its use. In the coming years, more research from HLDI and others will help sharpen the focus. As HLDI continues to examine insurance claims in states that allow recreational use of marijuana, IIHS has begun a large-scale case-control study in Oregon to assess how legalized marijuana use may be changing the risk of crashes with injuries. Preliminary results are expected in 2020.
A full accounting of this research provinding an interesting accounting of crash claims appears in this extended bulletin.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new New York Daily News article headlined "Science: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin, fit and active." I am not sure the article that follows entire backs up the implication of this headline, but here are excerpts from the article that are still encouraging:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Here’s a new health-related adage to consider: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin and active. According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, people who use marijuana more than five times per month have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who do not marijuana.
The researchers concluded: “Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users.”
The study also suggested that people who consume marijuana on a regular basis are more physically activity than those that use it sporadically or not at all.
Of course, this is not the first time scientific studies have reached this conclusion: A study published last year in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics suggests that regular consumers of cannabis have a lower BMI than those who do not use the drug.
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis consumers have 16 percent lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels than non-users. The research found “significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”
And data published in British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that cannabis consumers had a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption.
In the 2016 study, lead author Isabelle C. Beulaygue from the University of Miami concluded: “There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [THEY]are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case.”
Researchers have not identified the reason behind the findings. But some suggest that those who consume cannabis regularly may be able to more easily break down blood sugar, which may help prevent weight gain.
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Marshall Project piece that carried the subheadline "New data shows legalization leads to fewer encounters between cops and drivers, but racial disparities remain." Here are excerpts:
The legalization of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado had at least one unanticipated effect on the streets: a sharp decline in the number of traffic stops and searches by state police, a new analysis shows. The drop means fewer interactions between police and drivers, potentially limiting dangerous clashes. But even though the number of traffic stops fell significantly for all racial groups, black and Hispanic drivers are still searched at higher rates than white motorists, the analysis found.
[This review of] stop and searches conducted by Washington and Colorado state patrols before and after marijuana became legal in both states in late 2012 ... was based on data obtained by researchers at Stanford University who released a report this week studying 60 million state patrol stops in 31 states between 2011 and 2015, the most comprehensive look at national traffic stops to date. The data does not offer a complete picture because it includes only stops by state patrol agencies and not local law enforcement....
It is possible that pot legalization has not had the same effect on urban traffic stops as it has on those made by highway patrols because policing strategies differ, said Charles Epp, a University of Kansas professor who co-authored the 2014 book “Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship.” State police tend to focus on accidents, impaired and reckless driving, and the transport of illegal drugs. City police concentrate on crime deterrence and response....
The Stanford study suggests that removing marijuana possession from the potential list of crimes lowers the chance that a car will be stopped and searched. And the numbers are striking. In Washington, the search rate of black drivers age 21 and over decreased by about 34 percent after legalization, according to the analysis by Reveal and The Marshall Project. Search rates of white and Hispanic drivers in the same age group declined by about 25 percent.
Still, racial disparities remained: Both before and after legalization, black motorists age 21 and over – the legal age for buying pot – were searched at a rate roughly twice that of white drivers. The search rate for Hispanics was about 1.7 times that of whites.
In Colorado, the search rate of African American drivers 21 and over dropped by nearly half, while the search rate of Hispanic drivers fell by 58 percent. White drivers faced almost two-thirds fewer searches after recreational marijuana was legalized. Racial disparities, however, also persisted in Colorado even as overall numbers of searches went down. After legalization in Colorado, the search rate for African American drivers was 3.3 times that of white drivers, and the rate for Hispanics was more than 2.7 times that of whites.
The findings on stop and searches are similar to those showing a decrease in the number of marijuana arrests in Colorado after legalization, according to a 2016 Colorado Department of Public Safety report that reviewed legalization’s wide-ranging impacts. The study showed that the total number of marijuana arrests dropped by nearly half after legalization, but the marijuana arrest rate for African Americans was almost three times that of whites.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
"Changes in undergraduates’ marijuana, heavy alcohol, and cigarette use following legalization of recreational marijuana use in Oregon"
The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the journal Addiction. Here are the summary details via the abstract:
Background and aims
Recreational marijuana legalization (RML) went into effect in Oregon in July 2015. RML is expected to influence marijuana use by adolescents and young adults in particular, and by those with a propensity for substance use. We sought to quantify changes in rates of marijuana use among college students in Oregon from pre- to post-RML relative to college students in other states across the same time period.
Repeated cross-sectional survey data from the 2012-2016 administrations of the Healthy Minds Study.
Seven 4-year universities in the USA.
There were 10,924 undergraduate participants. One large public Oregon university participated in 2014 and 2016 (n = 588 and 1115, respectively); six universities in U.S. states where recreational marijuana use was illegal participated both in 2016 and at least once between 2012 and 2015.
Self-reported marijuana use in the past 30 days (yes/no) was regressed on time (pre/post 2015), exposure to RML (i.e., Oregon students in 2016), and covariates using mixed effects logistic regression. Moderation of RML effects by recent heavy alcohol use was examined.
Rates of marijuana use increased from pre- to post-2015 at six of the seven universities, a trend that was significant overall. Increases in rates of marijuana use were significantly greater in Oregon than in comparison institutions, but only among students reporting recent heavy alcohol use.
Rates of Oregon college students’ marijuana use increased (relative to that of students’ in other states) following recreational marijuana legislation in 2015, but only for those who reported recent heavy use of alcohol. Such alcohol misuse may be a proxy for vulnerabilities to substance use or lack of prohibitions (e.g., cultural) against it.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Keith Humphreys has this interesting new piece at the Washington Post's Wonkblog headlined "More people are voluntarily seeking help for marijuana addiction." Here, along with the reprinted graph, is the interesting data story he is reporting on:
As marijuana has been increasingly liberalized and decriminalized, fewer people are finding themselves in court-mandated programs for marijuana addiction treatment. This is not particularly surprising: With fewer people landing in court for using marijuana, it follows that fewer would be sentenced to treatment for it. But while mandatory treatment is falling, evidence suggests that the number of people voluntarily seeking treatment is rising.
The blue part of each bar in the chart is drawn from annual surveys assessing court-referred marijuana patients in public sector addiction-treatment programs, which have dropped 40 percent since 2011. The orange part of each bar captures data from an annual national population survey that asks marijuana-using individuals about treatment they have received in the past year. It covers a much broader range of settings than the survey of substance-use treatment programs, including help-seeking with physicians, psychologists, school nurses, urgent care clinic staff and self-help groups. Most marijuana-treatment-seeking in these settings is voluntary, and court-mandated public sector addiction treatment has been excluded from the data reflected in the orange part of the bars.
The overall number of people receiving marijuana-addiction treatment is fairly stable. This suggests that the decline in court-mandated treatment is being compensated for by an increase in voluntary treatment seeking. The rise in voluntary admissions will likely surprise people who think marijuana is harmless and that, therefore, no one would seek treatment for it without legal pressure. But marijuana-addiction treatment will probably be more rather than less widely sought as legalization spreads, for two reasons.
First, although marijuana has a benign reputation, about 9 percent of users report becoming addicted to it. Because marijuana consumption is soaring, that 9 percent is becoming a larger absolute number of people, some of whom will seek treatment not because the legal system makes them but because they are genuinely experiencing problems with the drug.
Second, The Netherlands has long made marijuana legally available in licensed cafes with no legal pressure to seek treatment. Yet the Dutch have the highest rate of seeking marijuana treatment in Europe. The U.S. could very easily end up with a Dutch future: little legal pressure on marijuana users to seek treatment, but substantial desire among them to do so voluntarily.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Bloomberg has this notable new article headlined "Trump Casts Cloud Over Cannabis, But Money Keeps Pouring In," and here are excerpts:
The Trump administration’s adversarial stance toward marijuana has brought jitters to the burgeoning cannabis industry, but money continues to pour in.
Pot-related companies raised more than $734 million between Jan. 1 and April 21, an almost sevenfold increase from $108 million in the same period last year, according to a report from New Frontier Data and Viridian Capital Advisors. That brings the total amount raised to $1.9 billion since the start of 2016.
The investment surge reflects optimism that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions won’t crack down on the industry, even as those concerns weigh on stock prices this year. Since hitting a peak in February, the Bloomberg Intelligence Global Cannabis Index has dropped 36 percent.
For cannabis financiers, the industry’s growth potential outshines the political risk. Eight states voted to legalize cannabis in some form on Nov. 9, including the nation’s largest. Legal cannabis demand in California is set to grow by 50 percent in 2018, when recreational use is scheduled to come online, according to the report. The report’s authors forecast that national demand for legalized marijuana will almost quadruple by 2025.
“With each new state that legalizes, that need for capital is going to be there,” said John Kagia, New Frontier’s executive vice president of industry analytics and author of the report. “It will continue to represent a substantial investment opportunity for the foreseeable future.” As a result of competition for funding, seed capital is being raised in greater initial amounts and its cost is getting more expensive, New Frontier Chief Executive Officer Giadha Aguirre de Carcer said.
The boom has taken place amid an unclear policy outlook under Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in February that he expects the Department of Justice to increase enforcement of federal laws prohibiting recreational pot use, even in states where it’s allowed. While Spicer defended medical marijuana, Sessions indicated he dislikes anything to do with the plant....
The uncertainty has made some investors more nervous about getting into the industry. “There’s a lot of fear,” said Rob Hunt, a founding partner of Tuatara Capital, which invests in cannabis companies and has more than $100 million under management. The silver lining, however, is that “it’s not very likely we’re ever getting someone further to the right on this issue than Sessions is.”...
Neither the political threats nor ongoing banking and tax difficulties will ultimately derail the industry, Viridian and New Frontier predict. Legal sales of cannabis products are expected to reach $24.1 billion in 2025, up from $6.6 billion in 2016. Investment will keep gaining too, particularly because interstate commerce is prohibited. That means every state that legalizes weed must create its own infrastructure....
“What we’ve also seen in the past 18 months or so is an increased number of more sophisticated companies entering the industry,” De Carcer said. And they’ve come with “more mature and experienced management teams,” she said.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
"Variation in cannabis potency and prices in a newly-legal market: Evidence from 30 million cannabis sales in Washington State"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research article authored by Rosanna Smart, Jonathan Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Steven Davenport and Greg Midgette. Here are the basics via the abstract:
To (1) assess trends and variation in the market share of product types and potency sold in a legal cannabis retail market, and (2) estimate how potency and purchase quantity influence price variation for cannabis flower.
Secondary analysis of publicly available data from Washington State's cannabis straceability system spanning July 7, 2014 to September 30, 2016. Descriptive statistics and linear regressions assessed variation and trends in cannabis product variety and potency. Hedonic regressions estimated how purchase quantity and potency influence cannabis flower price variation.
Washington State, USA.
(1) 44,482,176 million cannabis purchases, including (2) 31,052,123 cannabis flower purchases after trimming price and quantity outliers.
Primary outcome measures were (1) monthly expenditures on cannabis, total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration, and cannabidiol (CBD) concentration by product type; and (2) excise-tax-inclusive price per gram of cannabis flower. Key covariates for the hedonic price regressions included quantity purchased, THC, and CBD.
Traditional cannabis flowers still account for the majority of spending (66.6%), but the market share of extracts for inhalation increased by 145.8% between October 2014 and September 2016, now composing 21.2% of sales. The average THC-level for cannabis extracts is more than triple that for cannabis flowers (68.7% compared to 20.6%). For flower products, there is a statistically significant relationship between price per gram and both THC [coefficient = 0.012; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.011 to 0.013] and CBD [coefficient = 0.017; CI = 0.015 to 0.019]. The estimated discount elasticity is -0.06 [CI = –0.07 to –0.05].
In the state of Washington, USA, the legal cannabis market is currently dominated by high-THC cannabis flower, and features growing expenditures on extracts. For cannabis flower, both THC and CBD are associated with higher per-gram prices, and there are small but significant quantity discounts.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by Zhuang Hao and Benjamin Cowan published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Here is the abstract:
We examine the spillover effects of recreational marijuana legalization (RML) in Colorado and Washington on neighboring states. We find that RML causes a sharp increase in marijuana possession arrests in border counties of neighboring states relative to non-border counties in these states. RML has no impact on juvenile marijuana possession arrests but is rather fully concentrated among adults. We do not find evidence that marijuana sale/manufacture arrests, DUI arrests, or opium/cocaine possession arrests in border counties are affected by RML.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
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.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
In a post last month, I asked "Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?" based on data showing increased marijuana sales in Colorado the first two months of this year. Now, via this new Cannabist piece, headlined "Colorado marijuana sales top $131M, set record in March 2017," we have additional data on ever-increasing sales, though there is no way to tell from basic sales data if the market is experiencing general growth or if folks in Colorado may be stocking up on marijuana in light of uncertainty concerning federal marijuana policies under a new administration. Speculations about reasons aside, here are the basic sales details along with some perspectives via The Cannabist:
The Colorado cannabis industry’s unbridled growth hasn’t waned — in fact, it’s still setting records. The state’s licensed marijuana shops captured nearly $132 million of recreational and medical cannabis sales in March, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state sales tax data made public Tuesday.
The monthly sales haul of $131.7 million sets a new record for Colorado’s relatively young legal marijuana industry, besting the previous high of $127.8 million set last September, The Cannabist’s calculations show. It’s the tenth consecutive month that sales have topped $100 million.
Sales tax revenue generated for the state during March was $22.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. March’s sales totals were 48 percent higher than those tallied in March 2016, according to The Cannabist’s calculations. The month closes out a quarter in which sales were up nearly 36 percent from the first three months of last year.
In 2016, the year-over-year quarterly growth rate ranged between 29 percent and 39.6 percent. The Cannabist also found that March 2017’s year-over-year percentage growth outpaced much of what was seen on a monthly basis last year. Monthly growth rates from calendar year 2015 to 2016 averaged nearly 34 percent.
It was this continued rate of growth that caught the attention of some analysts and economists contacted by The Cannabist. Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, separately calculated out the year-over-year monthly growth rate for Colorado cannabis sales and saw a trend emerge.
“The year-over-year rates of growth have continued at a steady pace, which to me indicates that we have not yet reached the point at which we are starting to cap out the market,” he said. At that point, he added, the growth rates would start to decline.
If the current growth rates keeps up, April 2017 should be another record month, and the summer of 2017 should set new highs, Livingston predicted. And by the end of the year, that could add up to an industry boasting $1.6 billion in sales, he said.
“We’re surprised that sales continue to grow so quickly,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based financial, policy, research and consulting firm focused on the marijuana industry. “We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space.” Adult-use sales, which hit a new monthly high of $93.3 million, accounted for the lion’s share of the March totals. Medical cannabis transactions totaled $38.4 million.
Light and other economists have previously projected that Colorado’s marijuana market would eventually hit a ceiling as the draw from the black market becomes more complete, regular economic cycles take hold and other states implement adult-use sales. It’s hard to predict when that plateau may occur, but the license and application fees in the March 2017 report were telling, Light said.
Ten months into Colorado’s fiscal year (the latest report for March sales show tax revenue remitted in April), the license and application fees for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana businesses were down 25.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue report. “This shows that fewer new firms are entering and, I believe, shows that … sales should be tapering off or declining,” he said.
Whatever the particular reasons for the strong and steady sales growth in Colorado, there numbers seem certain to keep investors and other business players "bullish" on the marijuana industry at least for the time being. And such business bullishness will likely continue to fuel various efforts in various jurisdictions to continue moving forward with or expand the reach of marijuana reform.
Prior related post:
May 11, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
As 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.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
"From Medical to Recreational Marijuana Sales: Marijuana Outlets and Crime in an Era of Changing Marijuana Legislation"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research published today in the Journal of Primary Prevention and authored by Bridget Freisthler, Andrew Gaidus, Christina Tam, William Ponicki and Paul Gruenewald. Here is the abstract:
A movement from medical to recreational marijuana use allows for a larger base of potential users who have easier access to marijuana, because they do not have to visit a physician before using marijuana. This study examines whether changes in the density of marijuana outlets were related to violent, property, and marijuana-specific crimes in Denver, CO during a time in which marijuana outlets began selling marijuana for recreational, and not just medical, use.
We collected data on locations of crimes, marijuana outlets and covariates for 481 Census block groups over 34 months (N = 16,354 space–time units). A Bayesian Poisson space–time model assessed statistical relationships between independent measures and crime counts within “local” Census block groups. We examined spatial “lag” effects to assess whether crimes in Census block groups adjacent to locations of outlets were also affected. Independent of the effects of covariates, densities of marijuana outlets were unrelated to property and violent crimes in local areas.
However, the density of marijuana outlets in spatially adjacent areas was positively related to property crime in spatially adjacent areas over time. Further, the density of marijuana outlets in local and spatially adjacent blocks groups was related to higher rates of marijuana-specific crime. This study suggests that the effects of the availability of marijuana outlets on crime do not necessarily occur within the specific areas within which these outlets are located, but may occur in adjacent areas. Thus studies assessing the effects of these outlets in local areas alone may risk underestimating their true effects.
The title of this post is the title of this notable newly updated report with newly updated statistics about the road-safety problems created by drugged driving. Here is a part of the report's introduction and background:
This report, originally released in September 2015, was prepared by Dr. James Hedlund under contract with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the national association of state and territorial highway safety offices that address behavioral highway-safety issues, including drugimpaired driving. An open forum on drugged driving at GHSA’s 2014 Annual Meeting noted the need for this type of resource. Funding was provided by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org).
This revision, also prepared by Dr. Hedlund, updated the report to April 2017. It includes 34 additional citations, drug-impaired driving data from 2015, state laws as of April 2017, and 15 state programs.
The report was guided by an advisory panel of experts from the states, the research community, and several organizations concerned with impaired driving. It provides references to research and position papers, especially papers that summarize the research on drugs and driving that have appeared in the last 20 years. It includes information obtained by GHSA from a survey of state highway safety offices. It does not attempt to be a complete review of the extensive information available on drugs and driving.
Drug-impaired driving is an increasingly critical issue for states and state highway safety offices. In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result, more frequently than alcohol was present (FARS, 2016). NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22% of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekday days (Berning et al., 2015).
In particular, marijuana use is increasing. As of April 2017, marijuana may be used for medical purposes in 29 states and the District of Columbia (NCSL, 2017a). The most recent is West Virginia, which authorized medical marijuana in April 2017, with use to begin in July 2019. Recreational use is allowed in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia and 13 other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (NCSL, 2016). Congress identified drug-impaired driving as a priority in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/fastact/). This multi-year highway bill directed NHTSA to develop education campaigns to increase public awareness about the dangers associated with drugged driving. The Act also required the Department of Transportation to study the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment and to identify effective methods to detect marijuana-impaired drivers. Legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices in many states are urged to “do something” about drug-impaired driving, but what to do is far from clear.
Monday, April 24, 2017
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.