Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, January 12, 2017

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine releases massive new report on "Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids"

24625-0309453046-200I am very pleased to see that today, just in time for a long weekend, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has produced this massive new report titled "The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research."  The nearly 400-page report is available for download from this website, and here its the website's brief account of the report's coverage:

In one of the most comprehensive studies of recent research on the health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine offers a rigorous review of relevant scientific research published since 1999. This report summarizes the current state of evidence regarding what is known about the health impacts of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including effects related to therapeutic uses of cannabis and potential health risks related to certain cancers, diseases, mental health disorders, and injuries. Areas in need of additional research and current barriers to conducting cannabis research are also covered in this comprehensive report.

Helpfully, this new Business Insider article provides some of the substantive highlights of this important new report under the headline "11 key findings from one of the most comprehensive reports ever on the health effects of marijuana."  Here are excerpts from this press account:

A massive report released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine gives one of the most comprehensive looks — and certainly the most up-to-date — at exactly what we know about the science of cannabis.  The committee behind the report, representing top universities around the country, considered more than 10,000 studies for its analysis, from which it was able to draw nearly 100 conclusions.

In large part, the report reveals how much we still have to learn, but it's still surprising to see how much we know about certain health effects of cannabis.  This summation was sorely needed, as is more research on the topic.... Before we dive into the findings, there are two quick things to keep in mind.

First, the language in the report is designed to say exactly how much we know — and don't know — about a certain effect. Terms like "conclusive evidence" mean we have enough data to make a firm conclusion; terms like "limited evidence" mean there's still significant uncertainty, even if there are good studies supporting an idea; and different degrees of certainty fall between these levels.  For many things, there's still insufficient data to really say anything positive or negative about cannabis.

Second, context is important. Many of these findings are meant as summations of fact, not endorsements or condemnations. For example, the report found evidence that driving while high increased the risk of an accident. But the report also notes that certain studies have found lower crash rates after the introduction of medical cannabis to an area. It's possible that cannabis makes driving more dangerous and that the number of crashes could decrease after introduction if people take proper precautions.

We'll work on providing context to these findings over the next few days but wanted to share some of the initial findings first. With that in mind, here are some of the most striking findings from the report:

• There was conclusive or substantial evidence (the most definitive levels) that cannabis or cannabinoids, found in the marijuana plant, can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, according to the report, which is "by far the most common" reason people request medical marijuana. With similar certainty, they found that cannabis can help treat muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis and can help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

• The authors found evidence that suggested that marijuana increased the risk of a driving crash.

• They also found evidence that in states with legal access to marijuana, children were more likely to accidentally consume cannabis.

We've looked at these numbers before and seen that the overall increases in risk are small — one study found that the rate of overall accidental ingestion among children went from 1.2 per 100,000 two years before legalization to 2.3 per 100,000 two years after legalization. There's still a far higher chance parents call poison control because of kids eating crayons or diaper cream, but it's still important to know that some increased risk could exist.

• Perhaps surprisingly, the authors found moderate evidence (a pretty decent level of certainty and an indication that good data exists) that cannabis was not connected to any increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers associated with smoking. However, they did find some limited evidence suggesting that chronic or frequent users may have higher rates of a certain type of testicular cancer.

• Connections to heart conditions were less clear. There's insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis might increase the risk of a heart attack, though there was some limited evidence that smoking cannabis might be a trigger for a heart attack.

• There was substantial evidence that regular marijuana smokers are more likely to experience chronic bronchitis and that stopping smoking was likely to improve these conditions. There's not enough evidence to say that that cannabis does or doesn't increase the risk for respiratory conditions like asthma.

• There was limited evidence that smoking marijuana could have some anti-inflammatory effects.

• Substantial evidence suggests a link between prenatal cannabis exposure (when a pregnant woman uses marijuana) and lower birth weight, and there was limited evidence suggesting that this use could increase pregnancy complications and increase the risk that a baby would have to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit.

• In terms of mental health, substantial evidence shows an increased risk of developing schizophrenia among frequent users, something that studies have shown is a particular concern for people at risk for schizophrenia in the first place. There was also moderate evidence that cannabis use is connected to a small increased risk for depression and an increased risk for social anxiety disorder.

• Limited evidence showed a connection between cannabis use and impaired academic achievement, something that has been shown to be especially true for people who begin smoking regularly during adolescence (which has also been shown to increase the risk for problematic use).

• One of the most interesting and perhaps most important conclusions of the report is that far more research on cannabis is needed. Importantly, in most cases, saying cannabis was connected to an increased risk doesn't mean marijuana use caused that risk.

And it's hard to conduct research on marijuana right now. The report says that's largely because of regulatory barriers, including marijuana's Schedule I classification by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the fact that researchers often can't access the same sorts of marijuana that people actually use. Even in states where it's legal to buy marijuana, federal regulations prevent researchers from using that same product.

Without the research, it's hard to say how policymakers should best support legalization efforts — to say how educational programs or mental health institutions should adapt to support any changes, for example. "If I had one wish, it would be that the policymakers really sat down with scientists and mental health practitioners" as they enact any of these new policies, Krista Lisdahl, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, told Business Insider in an interview shortly before we could review this report.

It's important to know what works, what doesn't, and what needs to be studied more. This report does a lot to show what we've learned in recent years, but it also shows just how much more we need to learn.

January 12, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Legal marijuana sales in 2016 in North America over $6.5 billion after another year of remakable growth

As reported in this new Forbes article, "North American marijuana sales grew by an unprecedented 30% in 2016 to $6.7 billion as the legal market expands in the U.S. and Canada, according to a new report by Arcview Market Research." Here is more reporting on a new report on the legal marijuana marketplace:

North American sales are projected to top $20.2 billion by 2021 assuming a compound annual growth rate of 25%. The report includes Canada for the first time as it moves towards implementing legal adult use marijuana.

To put this in perspective, this industry growth is larger and faster than even the dot-com era. During that time, GDP grew at a blistering pace of 22%. Thirty percent is an astounding number especially when you consider that the industry is in early stages. Arcview's new editor-in-chief Tom Adams said, "The only consumer industry categories I've seen reach $5 billion in annual spending and then post anything like 25% compound annual growth in the next five years are cable television (19%) in the 1990's and the broadband internet (29%) in the 2000's."

ArcView's analysis uses data provided by BDS Analytics that has access to millions of individual consumer transactions from dispensary partners. “One of the biggest stories was the alternative forms of ingestion,” said ArcView Chief Executive Officer Troy Dayton. “Concentrates and edibles are becoming customer favorites versus traditional smoking.”

Even though the market is putting up huge sales numbers, there is still a great deal of uncertainty that comes with the new administration's approach towards legalization. Dayton believes that President-elect Donald Trump has been consistently in favor of states rights when it comes to legalization. “It's one of the few things he has been consistent on,” he said. Dayton also believes that even if Trump backed away from adult use, he would still favor medical marijuana.

The proposed attorney general Jeff Sessions is a confirmed critic of legalization, but Dayton believes that marijuana will be a low priority for the new administration. In any event, the group is reviewing and preparing for a more aggressive stance toward marijuana from the federal government should that happen. Even with this cloud of uncertainty, Dayton is bullish for the market. He said investment dollars are pouring into California, Florida, Massachusetts and Nevada. “Twenty-one percent of the total U.S. population now live in legal adult use markets,” said Dayton. He also noted that Colorado, Washington and Oregon saw their sales jump 62% through September of 2016 over 2015.

Investors are predominantly interested in investing in new technology within the industry like testing technologies and new growing technologies. Retail also remains attractive as new brands vie to win market share. Dayton also said there is a great deal of interest in Canada. That country's market is smaller than the U.S., but without the overhang of government conflict, it is a good indicator for which businesses could be replicated and thrive in the U.S.

January 3, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Contact High: The External Effects of Retail Marijuana Establishments on House Prices"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper available via SSRN authored by James Neil Conklin, Moussa Diop and Herman Li. here is the abstract:

Using publicly available data from the city of Denver and the state of Colorado, this study examines the effects of retail conversions (conversions from medical marijuana to retail marijuana stores) on neighboring house values in Denver, Colorado for the years 2013 and 2014. The time period was chosen to reflect a time before (2013) and after (2014) retail marijuana sales became legal in Colorado. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we compare houses that were in close proximity to a conversion (within 0.1 miles) to those that are farther away from a conversion.

We find that after the law went into effect, single family residences close to a retail conversion increased in value by approximately 9% relative to houses that are located slightly farther away. We perform a battery of robustness checks and falsification tests to provide additional support for this finding. To our knowledge this is the first study to examine at a micro-level the highly localized effect of retail marijuana establishments on house prices and hope that it can contribute to the debate on retail marijuana laws.

December 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Encouraging new data from marijuana reform states on teen use and traffic fatalities

This new posting by Tom Angell at Marijuana.com, headlined "Legal Marijuana Fears Are Unfounded, New Data Show," reports on two new sources of data from marijuana reform states. Here are excerpts (with links from the original):

Marijuana opponents have often fixated on two big fears they have about legalization: It will lead to increased use by young people and will cause carnage on highways as more stoned drivers get behind the wheel.   But two new studies released this week undermine both claims.

First, the latest results from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that while adult marijuana use rose in Colorado in the first two years following the implementation of legal sales, teen cannabis use actually declined.

Legalization proponents have long argued that taking marijuana sales out of the hands of drug dealers and putting them into a controlled, regulated system where licensed retailers are greatly incentivized to ensure their customers are of age would make cannabis harder for young people to get.  The new data, first reported by the Washington Post, seem to bear that out.

A separate study, also first reported by the Post, showed that states with medical cannabis laws have lower rates of traffic fatalities than states where marijuana is illegal for any reason.

“Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years, the study in the American Journal of Public Health found.  “Dispensaries were also associated with traffic fatality reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.”  Silvia Martins, the study’s lead author, told the Post that her team “found evidence that states with the marijuana laws in place compared with those which did not, reported, on average, lower rates of drivers endorsing driving after having too many drinks.”

As legalization plays out in Colorado and other states that have already enacted it, and more data is collected showing that it not only creates jobs and generates tax revenue but doesn’t lead to the horrors that opponents have long claimed, it is likely that voters and elected officials in a growing number of other places will move end their own prohibition laws.

December 21, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Shouldn't Colorado be spending EVEN MORE money researching impact of marijuana reform?

Colorado_Funds_Marijuana_ResearchThe question in the title of this post is my reaction to this recent Denver Post article headlined "Colorado researchers receive $2.35M to study marijuana use on driving, other impacts of legalization." Here are details:

In a groundbreaking effort to better understand what, exactly, happened after voters legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, the state’s Health Department on Tuesday announced $2.35 million in grants to researchers who will help answer that question.

Most of the money — $1.68 million — will go toward two studies that look at the impacts of marijuana use on driving. The first will compare driving impairment for heavy marijuana consumers versus occasional consumers. The other will study dabbing — the smoking of highly potent marijuana extracts — to determine its effects on driving and cognitive functioning.

Other studies receiving grant funding will look at how long marijuana stays in the breast milk of nursing mothers, the adverse effects of edible cannabis products, the cardiovascular risks of marijuana use in people with heart problems, the impact of marijuana use on older adults and, lastly, an “analysis of data from before and after implementation of recreational marijuana in Colorado,” by a psychology professor specializing in addiction counseling at Colorado State University.

“This research will be invaluable in Colorado and across the country,” Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement. “The findings will inform our public education efforts and give people additional information they need to make decisions about marijuana use.”

The Health Department previously spent $9 million as part of a historic effort to fund the study of medical marijuana by a state government.  Those research projects are still ongoing.  Earlier this year, the state legislature approved funding for the new grants to study recreational marijuana.  The Health Department received 58 preliminary applications, which were winnowed to a pool of 16 from which the final seven recipients were selected.

I am pleased to see that Colorado continues to invest substantial amounts into medical and recreational marijuana research, and the roughly $11.5 million spent to date is nothing to scoff at. Nevertheless, this article reports that Colorado "collected more than $135 million in marijuana taxes and fees in 2015," and increased sales data in 2016 would suggest that the state is on pace to collect at least another $165 million or more this year. Consequently, the tax monies raised in Colorado from marijuana reform in Colorado being "reinvested" in needed research is only about 4%.

Though my biases as a researcher is showing through, I think reinvesting only 4% of tax revenues into needed research is woefully inadequate given all the important and unanswered questions raised by marijuana reforms in Colorado. Though picking out numbers here, I think at this still-very-early stage of state-level marijuana reforms that states ought to be seriously considering putting 10% or more of revenues raised back into public health and public policy research on the impact of state-level reforms.

December 17, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Colorado sets still more records for marijuana sales and tax revenues collected

As this local article details, during "the first 10 months of 2016, Colorado marijuana shops reached a significant milestone they had barely missed in all of 2015: $1 billion in legal, regulated cannabis sales." Here is more:

When 2015’s year-end marijuana tax data was finally released in February, Cannabist calculations showed $996,184,788 in sales at Colorado marijuana shops that year — spurring a leading industry attorney to tell us at the time, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”

That same lawyer, Vicente Sederberg partner Christian Sederberg, celebrated the billion-dollar news on Monday by also pointing to the Colorado cannabis industry’s increasing economic impact and skyrocketing tax revenues for the state as well as numerous cities and counties throughout Colorado.

“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” said Sederberg, “and so the economic impact of this industry — if we’re using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Group’s recent report, which is totally reasonable — it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.”

Nearly $82.8 million of retail cannabis and more than $35 million of medical pot was peddled at Colorado shops in October 2016; The totals are down from September 2016, when marijuana sales hit an all-time high in Colorado — but October’s sales are cumulatively up year over year by more than 46 percent.

Sederberg and his colleague Andrew Livingston, the law firm’s director of economics and research, also estimate that 2016’s overall tax totals will amount to more than 2014 and 2015 tax totals combined, “and that’s a conservative estimate,” Sederberg added.

Depending on November and December’s forthcoming pot tax totals, that scenario is possible. Not accounting for licensing fees imposed on cannabis businesses, $63.4 million in marijuana taxes were collected by the state in 2014 along with another $120.6 million in 2015. Since 2016 taxes through October sit at $151.4 million, each of the year’s final two months would have to top $16.3 million apiece to best the two previous years’ totals combined. Either way, it’s going to be close.

There are three different taxes on Colorado’s recreational cannabis — the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax, a special 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers, which is earmarked for school construction projects. The $6 million collected in October excise tax brings the yearly total to $49.7 million — already well over the $40 million mark, which was a point of discussion in 2012’s Amendment 64 campaign. While the first $40 million will go toward school construction projects, any additional tax revenues from the excise tax will go directly to the state’s public school fund.

December 13, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Marijuana Is Harder Than Ever for Younger Teens to Find"

DownloadThe title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new US News & World Report article.  Here are excerpts:

American voters and legislatures increasingly are allowing medical and adult recreational use of marijuana, but as home-growing spreads and retail stores open, younger teens are reporting the scarcest availability in at least 24 years.

Explanations remain theoretical for the surprising trend in the face of widespread liberalization of cannabis laws. But it appears clear that fears about children finding the drug easier to acquire have not become a national reality, at least not yet.

In 2016, 8th-grade and 10th-grade respondents to the large Monitoring the Future survey gave the lowest-ever indication that marijuana was easy to get if they wanted it, a question posed to the groups every year since 1992. Only 34.6 percent of 8th-grade students said it would be easy to get marijuana, down 2.4 percentage points. Of 10th graders, 64 percent said it would be easy to get, also the lowest rate ever, though not a statistically significant annual drop.

High school seniors, asked the question every year since 1975, reported greater accessibility with 81 percent saying it would be easy to acquire, a non-significant increase from 2015, which saw that age group’s lowest-ever rate.

Actual use of the drug dropped among 8th grade students and stagnated among 12th graders. Reported annual use continued a five-year slide among 10th grade students, though the year-to-year change was not statistically significant.

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissions the annual survey. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up,” she says.

“We’re seeing that more people in the U.S. except for teenagers are taking it," Volkow says. "The rates of increases are highest among young adults 18-24, so one would expect that would translate to the adolescents, but apparently it has not.”...

Volkow says explanations for long-term trends in use and accessibility are unproven, but that she is interested in hypotheses that include a connection to similar declines in alcohol and tobacco use, or the fact that teens spend more time around computers and less time around friends who could offer them drugs. She says it also may be possible legalization has prevented the rates from plunging.

"Every time a state considers rolling back marijuana prohibition, opponents predict it will result in more teen use. Yet the data seems to tell a very different story," says Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "The best way to prevent teen marijuana use is education and regulation, not arresting responsible adult consumers and depriving sick people of medical marijuana."

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, says he believes the results show there’s no connection between legal reforms benefiting adults and young people’s marijuana use, which he says is more driven by cultural influences. “That’s excellent news. It’s reassuring,” he says of the new survey results. “Marijuana legalization opponents typically try to use the argument that legalizing marijuana for adults will hurt kids. Even though it’s not a credible argument, the Monitoring the Future data suggest there’s no substance to that claim whatsoever.”

Nadelmann says some legalization supporters are likely to argue that regulation has made pot less accessible to teens, but he sees no clear evidence. He offers as one potential explanation a generational aversion to inhaling smoke, and says he also recalls a Dutch explanation for low cannabis consumption despite open sales in coffee shops. “We succeeded in making cannabis boring," he recalls being told. “Maybe marijuana use is becoming less and less a symbol of rebellion among teenagers,” he says.

But legalization foes are unlikely to throw in the towel. With President-elect Donald Trump's pick of a dogged legalization opponent to serve as attorney general, they are optimistic about the possibility of ending recreational pot markets, which opened with the Obama administration's permission despite federal law banning pot possession in almost all cases.

"This year's results should be a wake-up call to all of us," says former presidential drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet, leader of the national anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "We are seeing heartening declines in the use of almost every category of drug -- legal or illegal -- except for marijuana," he says. "The policy environment of legalization, acceptance and commercialization is making marijuana the exception."

December 13, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Beer sales are down in states with legal weed

According to this notable Business Insider article, both "mainstream" and craft beer sales have taken a hit in states where recreational marijuana use is legal. The article states:

Beer sales are taking a hit in states where marijuana is legal.

 

So far this year, beer volumes have dropped roughly 2% in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, which have all legalized recreational pot, according to Neilsen data cited in a recent report from Cowen & Co.

 

At the same time, marijuana consumption has grown in those states.

 

The data indicates that many beer drinkers are swapping their six-packs for marijuana instead, and that has major implications for the beer industry — especially for makers of cheaper beers like Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors Brewing Company.

 

"Mainstream beer" including Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, is "under siege" from legal marijuana, with volumes down 4.4% in the states studied, according to Cowen and Co. analysts. 

 

Craft beer sales growth is slowing in those states, but not to the same degree.

 

The trends show significant overlap between buyers of cheaper beers and users of marijuana. 

 

"The pressure we are seeing on lower-priced beers is consistent with the trends we are seeing in cannabis use by income group nationally," analysts wrote. "Indeed, while cannabis incidence has been on the rise nationally, over the last 10 years (through 2014, the most recently available) we have seen the biggest increases among lower-income households, where cannabis use is also highest."

 

As additional states consider legalizing marijuana, beer companies will be at an even greater risk. 

 

"With Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors Brewing Company controlling roughly 70% of the overall beer category in the US, there is clear risk that growing cannabis use will weigh on their businesses," analysts wrote.

December 7, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"U.S. Resident Population in States that Permit Medical or Recreational Marijuana Use"

Via email, I received news of this new accounting (with some typos) of reform states and their populations recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC.  In addition, the same folks previously produced a three-page Policy Brief headlined "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion"  which I promoted in this prior post titled "Highlighting the 'knowledge gap' as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace"

Though I will not crunch the numbers here, the accounting of states and populations reveals that before last week, there were roughly 20 million Americans living in states which had passed full marijuana legalization by initiative.  Now, thanks to big states like California and Massachusetts and with a little help from Nevada and Maine, the number of Americans living in states that have passed full marijuana legalization has tripled to over 65 million.

November 15, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fascinating exit poll data on Arizona and California marijuana legalization support/opposition

Thanks to Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority founder and Twitter fiend, I now have seen that CNN has great exit poll data detailing and breaking down by a variety of demographics who voted for and against the marijuana reform initiative in Arizona (which failed) and California (which passed).

For those who follow marijuana reform polling, many of these demographic data points are not surprising: younger voters supported legalization in both states much more than older voters.  Democrats supported legalization in both states much more than Republicans.  But there are also some really interesting distinctive data points to be found, such as:

  • In Arizona, the majority of voters making less than $100K were supportive of legalization, with those making less than $50K being the most supportive (at 53%).  Among voters making more than $100K, a full 56% were against AZ legalization. 

  • In Arizona, a strong majority of Latino voters supported legalization (60%), but a strong majority of white voters opposed legalization (55%)

  • In California, the majority of voters at all income levels supported legalization, but those making less than $100K did so by a much larger percentage.

  • In California, the majority of unmarried voters strongly supported legalization (64%), but a majority of married voters opposed legalization (52%), but it is really just married women (against 55%) and not married men (for 52%) who move the married voters into a majority no position.

  • In California, the majority of voters saying no religion were huge supporters of legalization (76%), but protestants also were majority supporters (54%), but catholics were strongly opposed (61%).

November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Boost Scotts Miracle-Gro Stock To All-Time High"

Scotts-miracle-gro-logo2-610x333The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article which highlights why at least one notable business is already reaping some significant benefits from all the success of marijuana reform initiatives this election cycle.  Here are excerpts:

Traditionally a wholesome company known for helping suburban households keep their lawns green, Scotts Miracle-Gro has recently tapped into the pot market by selling equipment for hydroponics, a method of growing that allows people to produce cannabis, or any other plant, indoors. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden,” Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn told FORBES in a July feature story.

Scotts Miracle-Gro shares have jumped 34% in the last six months. “The bulk of that is basically marijuana driven,” said Joe Altobello, an analyst who covers the stock at Raymond James. “If you’re looking to play that angle, this is probably your best bet.”

No one has made more money off of the wager so far than Hagedorn and his family, who own 27% of Scotts Miracle-Gro. Since July, they have added an estimated $370 million to their family fortune, bringing their current net worth to roughly $1.8 billion. A company spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Investors are impressed. “What he’s doing is he’s diversifying the portfolio,” said Jason Gere, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “They’re capitalizing on trends, and it’s very entrepreneurial.”

Scotts announced its first major move into the industry in March 2015, when it purchased two sister companies named General Hydroponics and Vermicrop for $135 million. By July 2016, those businesses had already grown by more than 20%, roughly four times the rate of the rest of the company. “The sizzle in the stock, the growth potential that people are looking at is from the cannabis industry,” said Ivan Feinseth, an analyst at Tigress Financial Partners. “It’s going to be a major growth engine.”

November 9, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

"The Economic Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"

The title of this post is the title of this recent report produced by the Marijuana Policy Group, which describes itself as a "non-affiliated entity dedicated to new market policy and analysis [seeking] to apply research methods rooted in economic theory and statistical applications to inform regulatory policy decisions in the rapidly growing legal medical and recreational marijuana markets." Here is part of the report's synopsis:

The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) has constructed a new model that accurately integrates the legal marijuana industry into Colorado’s overall economy. It is called the “Marijuana Impact Model.”  

Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015.  Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries....

Legal marijuana demand is projected to grow by 11.3 percent per year through 2020.  This growth is driven by a demand shift away from the black market and by cannabis-specific visitor demand. By 2020, the regulated market in Colorado will become saturated.  Total sales value will peak near $1.52 billion dollars, and state demand will be 215.7 metric tons of flower equivalents by 2020. Market values are diminished somewhat by declining prices and “low-cost, high-THC” products.

In 2015, marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source, with $121 million in combined sales and excise tax revenues.  Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol, and 14 percent larger than casino revenues. The MPG projects marijuana tax revenues will eclipse cigarette revenues by 2020, as cigarette sales continue to decline.  Marijuana tax revenues will likely continue increasing as more consumer demand shifts into the taxed adult-use market.

As a first-mover in legal marijuana, the Front Range has witnessed significant business formation and industry agglomeration in marijuana technology (cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and testing).  This has inspired a moniker for Colorado’s Front Range as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.”  Secondary marijuana industry activities quantified for the first time in this report include: warehousing, cash-management, security, testing, legal services, and climate engineering for indoor cultivations.

November 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Drug Policy Alliance reports on "what we know" about marijuana legalization "so far"

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance have released this notable new report titled "So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C." The website provides this summary of the short report's contents:

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.

  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.

  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

October 14, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Recreational Cannabis Reduces Rapes and Thefts: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment"

The title of this post is the title of this fascinating new study available via SSRN from a group of economists.  Here is the abstract:

An argument against the legalization of the cannabis market is that such a policy would increase crime.  Exploiting the recent staggered legalization enacted by the states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014) we show, combining difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, that recreational cannabis caused a significant reduction of rapes and thefts on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012.

October 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Noting the good being done with huge tax revenues from marijuana reform in Colorado

This new Huffington Post article, headlined "Colorado To Use Pot Tax To Fund Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools," reports on state tax developments that I strongly believe marijuana reform advocates ought to be highlighting and promoting a lot more. Here are excerpts:

Colorado is trying to weed out the bullies from its schools. The Colorado Department of Education is using surplus marijuana tax revenue to create anti-bullying programs in the state’s schools.

The CDE will award 50 schools grants of up to $40,000 per school each year to administer these programs, ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reports.  The programs implemented will employ evidence-based anti-bullying practices and will also teach families and communities strategies to deal with bullying, the grant’s description says....

In November, Colorado voters chose to have the state keep the money made from marijuana sales taxes. The amount totaled $66 million, according to CNN Money.  The state is using the cash to support schools, law enforcement, drug education and other programs, reported USA Today.

Aurora, Colorado, for instance, used the $1.5 million it generated to help its homeless population.

September 30, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

September 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New research indicates that daily marijuana users are less fat

JmhpeA notable new Live Science article reporting on notable new research has me seriously wondering if marijuana reform could help Americans better tackle our long-running obesity epidemic.  The article is headlined "Daily Marijuana Use Linked to Lower BMI," and here are the highlights:

People who smoke marijuana daily may be slimmer than those who don't use the drug, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people in the study who used marijuana daily had about a 3 percent lower BMI (body mass index), on average, than those who did not use marijuana at all.

"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," said lead study author Isabelle C. Beulaygue, a research support specialist in interventional radiology at the University of Miami.

In the study, the researchers looked at more than 13,000 adults ages 18 to 26. The researchers collected body measurements to calculate the participants' BMIs, and tested the participants for marijuana use. Six years later, when the participants were between ages 24 and 32, the researchers looked again at their marijuana use and BMIs.

The researchers found that the BMIs of women who smoked marijuana daily during the study were 3.1 percent lower than the BMIs of women who did not smoke marijuana daily during the study period. And the BMIs of men who smoked marijuana daily were 2.7 percent lower than the BMIs of those who did not smoke marijuana, according to the study [which is available at this link], published in September in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics....

One of the strengths of the new study was that the researchers controlled for various factors of a person's lifestyle that can normally affect people's weight, such as their diet, exercise and alcohol consumption, according to the study. Even after the researchers took these factors into consideration, the link between marijuana use and lower BMI held, the researchers said.

Beulaygue said that the researchers are not advocating for marijuana as a new weight loss tool. Previous research has linked marijuana use to potential health effects on the brain and the heart. Moreover, the new study does not prove that smoking marijuana causes people to lose weight or helps them to avoid gaining weight. Rather, it merely shows that there is a link between marijuana use and lower BMI, Beulaygue told Live Science.

The researchers said they don't know for sure what mechanism may explain this link. However, previous research has suggested that people who use marijuana regularly may break down blood sugar more quickly, which, in turn, may help to prevent weight gain, the researchers said.

September 13, 2016 in Food and Drink, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oregon reports collecting over $25 million in marijuana taxes in first half of 2016

As reported in this local article, "Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries have sold an estimated $102 million in recreational cannabis since January, when the state imposed a 25 percent sales tax on pot" which means it "has collected about $25.5 million in marijuana taxes in the first six months of the year and is on track to meet state economists' projections." Here is more about marijuana tax realities in the Beaver State:

The latest tax figures, released Monday by the Oregon Department of Revenue, include the start of marijuana-infused edibles sales.  The products include a wide variety of snacks, sweets and drinks and were available to anyone 21 and older starting in June....

State economists estimate that the state will collect about $44.4 million in marijuana taxes in 2016, the first year of the tax.

The state expects it will cost $28.7 million to regulate marijuana; of that, taxes will cover $12 million with the rest covered by fees and licensing of marijuana businesses.

What's left will be distributed according to a formula spelled out by law: 40 percent to the state's Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, 15 percent to Oregon State Police, 10 percent for city law enforcement, 10 percent for county law enforcement and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.

Oregon's medical marijuana stores have been allowed to sell a limited amount of cannabis flowers, as well as starter marijuana plants and seeds, to anyone 21 and older since last October. The state's temporary 25 percent tax kicked in on Jan. 1.

That tax eventually will be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over regulation of recreational marijuana sales later this year. The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent, but cities and counties can adopt ordinances that add up to 3 percent more.

August 22, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)