Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, September 17, 2018

AG Jeff Sessions laments drug-impaired driving with special mentions of marijuana

Jeff-sessions-attorney-general-630x354Attorney General Jeff Sessions today delivered these remarks at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration event titled "Ideas to Impact: A Dialogue to Address Drug-Impaired Driving." Here are excerpts:

It is especially important that we get the word out about this because currently there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. Some even seem to suggest that marijuana and other drugs do not pose accident risks.

In recent years, a number of states have repealed their prohibitions on marijuana use. As a result, too many people think that marijuana is legal and that it is even legal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

That’s wrong. Federal law has not changed and drugged driving laws have not changed. Drugged driving is illegal on every inch of American soil. People need to understand that.

There is another common myth out there, as well: that marijuana doesn’t impair driving. That’s also wrong. Marijuana use slows reaction time and inhibits motor coordination and decision-making abilities. That makes driving much more dangerous.

The bottom line is this: if you’re driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, then you’re risking your life — and the life of everyone else on the road.

One European study found that drivers high on marijuana were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal crash as a sober driver.

Here in this country, the Governors Highway Safety Association put out a report back in May that says that — of those who are tested for drugs or alcohol — more drivers killed in car accidents last year tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. And by far the most common drug was marijuana, not opioids. Nearly a quarter of all drivers killed in car accidents who were tested had marijuana in their system — twice as many as tested positive for opioids.

In recent years, it has been getting worse. According to last year’s version of the report, the number of drivers killed in car accidents who tested positive for marijuana increased by nearly one-fifth from 2006 to 2016.

According to the Denver Post, the number of drivers killed in car accidents in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2016. And so, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died of drug overdoses in recent years, another several thousand have died because of drug-impaired driving — either their own or that of someone else.

September 17, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Latest issue of International Review of Psychiatry focused on cannabis science

Download (4)The latest issue of the International Review of Psychiatry has a collection of interesting looking articles with titles like "Marijuana matters: reviewing the impact of marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, & exploring policy implications and barriers to research" and "Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds make haste: leveraging methodology from research on tobacco, alcohol, and opioid analgesics to make rapid and policy-relevant advances in cannabis science." There are too many interesting looking pieces to cite them all here, but I can quote the start of the editorial introduction:

The allowance of cannabis to be used as a medicine in the absence of adequate data to inform basic clinical decision-making is rooted in compassion for individuals with life-threatening illness, or substantially debilitating illness, and no other course for treatment. However, this relatively simple tenet has now morphed into a large-scale for-profit industry that is fraught with public health concerns.  Access to cannabis has been expanded to include treatment for a multitude of health conditions, many of which are neither life-threatening nor debilitating, and for which effective alternative treatments exist. Data from which to determine the risk-benefit for an individual considering the use of cannabis is sparse at best.  Quality control issues abound in this industry as there are no established standards for cultivating, processing, testing, or labeling cannabis products.  There is also concern over advertisements and product labeling that include misleading or unsubstantiated health claims, as these products have not been vetted by traditional drug development methods.  The speed in which cannabis policies are changing is rapid, and the fact that these are happening as a direct result of legislation or by voter referendum is reckless given the absence of consensus standards and, in many cases, appropriate regulatory oversight. The impact of revised cannabis laws, both with respect to medicinal use for a variety of health conditions, and for non-medicinal (aka ‘recreational’) use of cannabis by adults, will likely have a substantial impact on psychiatry.

This special issue of the International Review of Psychiatry is focused on cannabis science, but with a very targeted theme of cannabis regulatory science.  Recently in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was granted regulatory authority over all nicotine and tobacco products.  This was a landmark event, and has engendered a bolus of thoughtful, policy-oriented research that has already resulted in tobacco regulations which are likely to positively impact public health in the US and abroad.  Studies have included careful scientific evaluation of the impact of nicotine on cigarette reinforcement and self-administration, packaging and flavoring on youth initiation, the harm reduction effects associated with nicotine delivery devices other than cigarettes, and other important topics.  The parallel need for a cannabis regulatory science is urgent.  Novel products and cannabis delivery devices are rolling onto the shelves of dispensaries at a rapid rate, product development appears to be geared towards high potency/high dose products, and it is all being carefully marketed to increase consumption.  Contributions in this issue highlight lessons learned from tobacco, alcohol, and opioid regulatory science that are relevant to cannabis, detail important factors surrounding tobacco and cannabis co-use, and detail the potential impacts of regulatory changes on cannabis use in the workplace.

September 12, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Debating the relationship between marijuana legalization ans opioid overdose deaths

The current (September 2018) issue of JAMA Internal Medicine has three very short pieces (a comment and two replies) discussing and debating research concerning the connection between marijuana reforms and opioid overdose deaths:

 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use  by Archie Bleyer, MD; Brian Barnes, CSWA, MAC, CADC III

 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use—Reply by Ashley C. Bradford, MPA; Amanda Abraham, PhD; Grace Bagwell Adams, PhD
 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use—Reply by Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD; Hefei Wen, PhD

The first of these pieces asserts that the "opioid crisis appears to be worsening where marijuana has been legalized, despite fewer opioid prescriptions, and as such, constitutes evidence for the gateway hypothesis and against the marijuana protection hypothesis."  The other two pieces sharply take issue with the claims for the first one.

September 10, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Notable new survey data on marijuana use in the United States circa fall 2017

This new piece by multiple authors appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides an interesting snapshot of marijuana use and users based on a survey administered in October 2017. The piece is titled "Smoking, Vaping, and Use of Edibles and Other Forms of Marijuana Among U.S. Adults," and here are some of the notable findings:

Among all respondents, 14.6% reported marijuana use in the past year and 8.7% reported use in the past 30 days. The prevalence of marijuana use in the past year was 20% (95% CI, 17.9% to 22.2%) in states where recreational use is legal, 14.1% (CI, 12.6% to 15.6%) in states where medical use is legal, and 12% (CI, 10.7% to 13.4%) in states where no use is legal.

A total of 12.9% of respondents reported smoking marijuana, 6% reported using edibles, 4.7% reported vaping, 1.9% reported using concentrates, and 0.8% reported using topicals. Overall, 6.7% reported using multiple forms in the past year. Prevalence of any use was inversely related to age, with persons aged 18 to 34 years reporting the highest use.... Men were more likely than women to use marijuana in any form and to use multiple forms (Table 1). Reported use was similar among racial groups.

Among persons who used multiple forms, 53% reported smoking and using edibles whereas 31% reported smoking and vaping. The prevalence of use of edibles was 11% (CI, 9.4% to 12.6%) in states where recreational use is legal, 5.1% (CI, 4.1% to 6.0%) in states where medical use is legal, and 4.2% (CI, 3.4% to 4.9%) in states where no use is legal. Baked goods/pastries and candies were the most common forms of edibles used by U.S. adults.... A limitation of our study is that those who participated in an online survey cohort may differ from those who did not, limiting generalizability. Respondents also may have underreported rates of use.

August 28, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Price Elasticity of Illegal vs Legal Cannabis: A Behavioral Economic Substitutability Analysis"

I just came across this recent research available on-line in "preprint" with the same title as this post and authored by a collection of researchers.  Here is its abstract with its significant conclusion highlighted:

Background and Aims:

The evolving legal status of cannabis in the United States and other countries necessitates the development of evidence-based regulatory policies to minimize risks associated with cannabis misuse.  A prominent public health concern is whether legalization will lead to an expansion of the illegal cannabis market, with illegal cannabis acting as an economic substitute.  Empirical data on this data on this issue is virtually nonexistent.  This study used a behavioral economic approach to investigate substitutability of legal and illegal cannabis in legalized catchment areas in the U.S.

Methods:

Adult cannabis users (N=740; Mean age = 33.8; 52% female; 73% Caucasian) were recruited using an online crowdsourcing platform from U.S. states with legalized recreational cannabis.  A modified substitution-based marijuana purchase task assessed cannabis consumption from concurrently available legal (e.g., a dispensary) and illegal (e.g., a dealer) sources. Participants indicated the amount of cannabis they would consume from each source while prices of the two options were either held constant ($10/gram) or escalated ($0-$60/gram).  Consumption values were used in demand curve modeling to generate quantitative indices of price sensitivity and elasticity.

Results:

Both legal and illegal fixed-price cannabis options had significant positive cross-price elasticities (ps < .001).  However, the legal alternative had a substantially greater effect on consumption and elasticity of illegal cannabis (∆elasticity = 0.0018; F(1,37) = 148, p<.0001) than the opposite scenario (∆elasticity = 0.0002; F(1,37) = 47, p<.0001), indicating asymmetric substitution.  Demand for legal cannabis was significantly greater than illegal cannabis (p< .0001).

Conclusions:

Cannabis users treat legal cannabis as a superior commodity compared to illegal cannabis and exhibit asymmetric substitutability.  Cannabis price policies that include higher consumer costs for legal cannabis relative to contraband would not be expected to incentivize and expand the illegal cannabis market.

August 26, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Noting notable decline in reported teen marijuana use in California

I have been somewhat suspicious of some assertions by some marijuana reform advocates that legalization would actually produce lower rates of marijuana use by young people (whose  developing brains are most at risk of being harmed by significant marijuana use).  But, as reported her at Marijuana Moment, there is new data from California to support these kinds of claims:

Marijuana use among junior high and high school students is down across all age levels in California, according to the first survey of teen drug consumption conducted in the state since voters legalized recreational cannabis.

Results of the Biennial State California Healthy Kids Survey are consistent with data from other states that have legalized marijuana, where students have also reported declining or flat cannabis use rates following the end of prohibition for adults. “Lifetime marijuana use was reported by 4%, 17%, and 32% of students by ascending grade, declines of 4 points in 7th [grade] and 6 points in both 9th and 11th [grades],” the survey’s authors found.

The rates of alcohol and other drug use have been on steady downward trends since at least 2011, according to the survey. Recreational legalization after voters’ approval in 2016 didn’t interrupt that decline, nor did the growth of the medical cannabis market in the preceding years.

Teens indicated in the survey that a combination of peer and parental disapproval is discouraging them from using cannabis, with the number of seventh- and ninth-graders who said that they strongly disapproved of peer marijuana smoking increasing most sharply.

Results of the survey include data collected between 2015, before 57 percent of California voters approved Proposition 64, which immediately legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over in November 2016, and 2017.  While commercial medical cannabis sales have been widespread in the state for years, the new study does not take into account any potential effect from legal recreational commerce, which began on January 1 of this year.

“How the recent legalization of marijuana use for adults in California effects the declining trend among youth warrants attention,” the survey’s authors wrote.  “The next biennial survey will be of particular interest to shed light on whether the change in state marijuana laws affect these findings.” ....

The survey was conducted by the California Department of Education and the California Department of Health Care Services.

August 22, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Catching up with recent state marijuana reform news and research via Marijuana Moment

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lots of new reports on lots of new research on lots of marijuana topics

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New data from Washington state shows dramatic drop in felony marijuana cases after legalization

Download (18)It should not be surprising to see a significant drop in felony marijuana prosecutions after a jurisdiction legalizes the drug.  But this new local article reporting on data from Washington highlights how dramatic the drop has been in one state.  The article is headlined "After Legalization, A Nearly 90 Percent Drop In Marijuana Felony Convictions," and here are excerpts (with a few sentences emphasized):

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state in 2012 resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of people sentenced for marijuana-related felonies, according to an analysis conducted for public radio by the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council.

Between June 2008 and December 2009, the analysis showed, there were 1,312 offenses committed that resulted in felony sentences for the manufacture, delivery or possession with the intent to deliver marijuana. By contrast, during an 18 month period following the opening of recreational marijuana stores in 2014, there were just 147 marijuana-related crimes that resulted in felony level sentences--a nearly 90 percent decrease....

The sharp drop in felony-level marijuana sentences in Washington is not a surprise to Tom McBride, the executive director of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. In an email, McBride said a decline in prosecutions was "expected" and "desired" by the public. He added that legalization had also made it more difficult to establish probable cause in delivery to minors or black market marijuana-related cases "because presence, odor, etc of marijuana can be legal or not."

Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, also said the reduction in prosecutions was to be expected. But he added that a de-emphasis on marijuana enforcement, in part because of the rise in heroin and fentanyl cases, was resulting in more black market marijuana grows with ties to organized crime. “We need to direct more resources to the illicit [marijuana] grows that we are seeing across the state,” Strachan said in an email.

Of the 1,312 felony marijuana sentences that stemmed from offenses committed between June 2008 and December 2009, the vast majority, 1,217, were for first-time offenses, 76 were for subsequent offenses, 17 were for marijuana-related felonies in a school zone and two were for delivery or possession in a correctional facility.

By contrast, between December 2014 and June 2016, after marijuana stores opened, the number of marijuana crimes resulting in felony sentences for a first offense dropped to 145, there were no sentences for subsequent offenses or for selling marijuana in a school zone, and just one felony sentence related to marijuana in a correctional facility.

The Caseload Forecast Council, which helps the state plan for growth in entitlements, picked those particular date ranges to account for several factors including: the time lapse between the date of an offense and the date of the sentencing, and the length of time between when I-502 passed and the start of retail sales.

Data showing sentences for misdemeanor level marijuana crimes was not immediately available.

I think it especially notable that this data reveals how many first offenders were being brought into the criminal justice system prior to marijuana reform for felony offenses. But I would love to also see (a) what kinds of sentences felony offenders were getting both before and after legalization, as well as (b) prosecutions and sentences for misdemeanor marijuana offenses both before and after legalization. These felony data provides one snapshot of how marijuana reform impacts the criminal justice footprint of one part of the war on drugs, but a lot more data (and time) is needed to fully take stock of what a difference legalization laws can make.

July 25, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hooray for the proposed new "Marijuana Data Collection Act" ... but ...

Images (2)Tom Angell reports here at Forbes on the introduction of a new piece of federal legislation that I consider long overdue.   Here are the details:

The Marijuana Data Collection Act, introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and a bipartisan group of cosponsors, would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to partner with other federal and state government agencies to study "the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment."...

If the legislation is enacted, the National Academy of Sciences would carry out the research and publish initial findings within 18 months, with follow-up reports to be issued every two years after that.

So far, the bill's backers seem to consist solely of those who support marijuana law reform, a situation that legalization advocates decried.  “This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill," Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, said in an interview.  "No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation. Our public policy needs to be based on sound data and science, not gut feelings or fear-mongering.  Approving the Marijuana Data Collection Act would provide legislators with reliable and fact-based information to help them decide what direction is most beneficial to society when it comes to marijuana policy.”...

Gabbard held a Tuesday morning press conference with other supporters, including lead GOP cosponsor Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and former U.S. Attorneys Barry Grissom of Kansas and Bill Nettles of South Carolina. Other original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Darren Soto (D-FL), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dina Titus (D-NV), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Tom Garrett (R-VA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).

Here are the specific data points the bill directs federal officials to track:

REVENUES AND STATE ALLOCATIONS

The monetary amounts generated through revenues, taxes, and any other financial benefits. The purposes and relative amounts for which these funds were used. The total impact on the State and its budget.

MEDICINAL USE OF MARIJUANA

The rates of medicinal use among different population groups, including children, the elderly, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. The purpose of such use. Which medical conditions medical marijuana is most frequently purchased and used for.

SUBSTANCE USE

The rates of overdoses with opioids and other painkillers. The rates of admission in health care facilities, emergency rooms, and volunteer treatment facilities related to overdoses with opioids and other painkillers. The rates of opioid-related and other painkiller-related crimes to one’s self and to the community. The rates of opioid prescriptions and other pain killers.

IMPACTS ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The rates of marijuana-related arrests for possession, cultivation, and distribution, and of these arrests, the percentages that involved a secondary charge unrelated to marijuana possession, cultivation, or distribution, including the rates of such arrests on the Federal level, including the number of Federal prisoners so arrested, disaggregated by sex, age, race, and ethnicity of the prisoners; and the rates of such arrests on the State level, including the number of State prisoners so arrested, disaggregated by sex, age, race, and ethnicity. The rates of arrests and citations on the Federal and State levels related to teenage use of marijuana. The rates of arrests on the Federal and State levels for unlawful driving under the influence of a substance, and the rates of such arrests involving marijuana. The rates of marijuana-related prosecutions, court filings, and imprisonments. The total monetary amounts expended for marijuana-related enforcement, arrests, court filings and proceedings, and imprisonment before and after legalization, including Federal expenditures disaggregated according to whether the laws being enforced were Federal or State. The total number and rate of defendants in Federal criminal prosecutions asserting as a defense that their conduct was in compliance with applicable State law legalizing marijuana usage, and the effects of such assertions.

EMPLOYMENT

The amount of jobs created in each State, differentiating between direct and indirect employment. The amount of jobs expected to be created in the next 5 years, and in the next 10 years, as a result of the State’s marijuana industry.

Because I cannot yet find the full text of the bill on-line, I cannot yet provide a full informed opinion on its particulars.  I can say that I think a big, data-focused federal study of the impact of state marijuana reform is looooooooong overdue.  I was hopeful, but not optimistic, that Prez Obama might see the wisdom and political value of pushing for this kind of study effort after the issuance of the 2013 Cole Memo and after the 2014 election brought more states and DC into the recreational marijuana column.  But, sadly, we have been left largely with national number crunching by partisan advocates rather than government bean-counters for now two decades of ever-more-robust state-level reforms.

Based on Tom's description of the "Marijuana Data Collection Act," I am a bit concerned that there are not provisions likely to encourage pot prohibitionists to be supportive of this particular study effort.   The folks at SAM are often eager to stress data on black markets, increased use of marijuana by workers, increased hospital visits, increased homelessness, increased drugged driving, increased use by youths and young adults, environmental impacts,  and all sorts of other concerns (see, e.g., this SAM "lessons learned" report from March 2018).  It is unclear if these kinds of potentially negative data are fundamental parts of the inquiry imagined by Marijuana Data Collection Act.  If not, I doubt opponents of marijuana reform will want to sign on to this bill.

That said, even if the current version of the "Marijuana Data Collection Act" is in someway incomplete or one-sided, I hope a lot of folks on all sides of the marijuana reform debate will be inclined to try to make the bill better and get it passed.  I sincerely hope nobody disagrees with the notion that sound data and science is needed in this arena, and I sense both sides of the debate sincerely believe that the data, if fairly collected, will be on their side.  So maybe all can come together to really work toward trying to have all the data fairly collected (though I am not holding my breath).

July 24, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pennsylvania auditor issues report extolling benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana

Press-release-placeholderLate last week the Auditor General of Pennsylvania released this notable report on “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana” that reads a bit more like an advocacy group's document than something that would emerge from a state government office.  But, as this press release about the report reveals, the Auditor General of PA seems real eager to have access to a new revenue source:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said Pennsylvania is missing out on $581 million per year in revenue by not regulating and taxing marijuana — money that could fund critical initiatives that affect Pennsylvanians’ lives. “Repeated polls have shown that a majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legalized.  In Pennsylvania, it’s 56 percent,” DePasquale said during a news conference with Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.

“Today, I’m releasing a special report that shows the staggering amount the state could reap in tax revenue if legislators simply did what their constituents want them to do: regulate and tax marijuana for adult use.”

The 14-page special report, “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana,” compiles national research data, which show that an average of 8.38 percent of the commonwealth’s adults (21 and older) currently use marijuana at least monthly — a total of 798,556 adults. In Colorado and Washington, where marijuana has been legal since 2012, adult users spend an average of $2,080 annually.  If Pennsylvania’s 798,556 adult users spent the same amount, they would create a $1.66 billion retail industry.

Assuming Pennsylvania taxed the growth, cultivation and sale of marijuana at 35 percent, the state would collect roughly $581 million in tax revenue annually. If Allegheny and Philadelphia counties were allowed to add 1-2 percent local tax, they could collect an additional $3.8 million and $6.9 million, respectively. “Imagine what that $581 million could mean for Pennsylvanians,” DePasquale said.  “Not only would it help balance the state budget, but it would also mean increases to initiatives that affect Pennsylvanians’ lives, such as greater access to opioid treatment and better health care access for veterans and children.”

DePasquale became the first statewide elected official to endorse regulating and taxing marijuana in March 2017. “With our neighboring states all looking at legalizing marijuana, now is the time for Pennsylvania to do the same,” DePasquale continued. “Legislators must act now so that we can be competitive and not lose potential revenue to other states.”

July 23, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Medical cannabis legalization and state-level prevalence of serious mental illness in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 2008–2015"

The title of this post is the title of this new article in the International Review of Psychiatry. Here is its abstract:

Although research has established a link between cannabis legalization and use, and cannabis use and mental health, the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and mental health remains uncharacterized.  This analysis investigated the relationship between state medical cannabis laws (restrictive, i.e. covering a narrow set of medical conditions; or liberal, i.e. covering a broad range of medical conditions), whether the law permits patients to petition their physician to approve medical cannabis use for specific medical conditions, and state prevalence of serious mental illness (SMI) in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health 2008–2015.

In a covariate-adjusted meta-regression, liberal laws were significantly associated with higher prevalence of SMI (Coeff = 0.003, SE = 0.001, p < .001). Restrictive laws (Coeff = 0.001, SE = 0.001, p = .285) and the ability to petition physician approval (Coeff = −0.001, SE = 0.001, p = .140) were non-significant.  When added to the model, state past-year cannabis use was significantly associated with higher prevalence of SMI (Coeff = 0.037, SE = 0.015, p = .018), liberal laws remained significant (Coeff = 0.002, SE = 0.001, p = .015), and restrictive laws (Coeff = −0.0001, SE = 0.001, p = .945) and the ability to petition a physician (Coeff = 0.001, SE = 0.001, p = .290) remained non-significant.  Medical cannabis laws are likely related to state mental health, and a higher prevalence of cannabis use partially explains this relationship.

July 20, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 13, 2018

New York Health Department issues big report concluding benefits of marijuana legalization outweighs potential costs

Department-of-healthAs the New York Daily News puts it here: "The New York State Health Department is high on the prospects of legal marijuana." Here is what they mean:

In a long-awaited report released Friday, the Health Department concluded the “positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts” and recommended that state officials move forward with the legalization of recreational pot use.

Such a move, however, should only happen after the development of a “well-thought-out” regulatory structure and public education campaign to inform the public about the benefits and risks associated with pot use, the report said. “It is imperative that a regulated marijuana program contain all necessary safeguards and measures to limit access for individuals under 21, minimize impaired driving, provide education and tailored messaging to different populations, and connect people to treatment if needed,” the report stated.

The report, which was ordered by Gov. Cuomo in January, found that a regulated marijuana market could have several benefits for New York, including increased quality controls, consumer protections and tax revenues. With New York’s current market for illegal marijuana estimated to tally between $1.74 billion and $3.5 billion annually, the report estimated that the state could see tax revenue of between $248 million and $677.7 million, assuming tax rates of between 7% and 15%. The report recommended an initial tax rate of between 7% and 10%.

The report also stressed that legalization of marijuana could have significant criminal justice impacts, noting that a large percentage of those arrested for marijuana-related offenses are minorities. It recommends that “NYS expunge the criminal records of individuals with marijuana-related offenses.”

Health officials also concluded that there’s little evidence that legalization would lead to increased marijuana use and said it also has the potential to reduce use of opioids.

Advocates for legalized marijuana hailed the report and urged state officials to follow through on its recommendations....

Cuomo on Friday said he would “put together a group” to come up with a “full program” for legalization. He noted that the report recommends that people be at least 21 to purchase pot, but doesn’t answer such questions such as who could sell it, where, and the quantity that can be sold. “That to me is the devil in the details,” he said.

Cuomo had previously opposed legalization of marijuana but ordered the Health Department to study the issue because of the steps nearby states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, were taking steps to legalize the drug. “Those are our two border states,” he said Friday. “You have more control and there’s a possibility for revenue when you regulate it and in this context, where you have New Jersey and Massachusetts legalizing it, it’s not really an option of preventing it because you can go over a bridge and over a border.”...

Despite the report’s findings, it is unlikely lawmakers will take any steps until at least next year since the Legislature has already adjourned for the year. The state Senate’s ruling GOP conference has also expressed opposition to legalizing pot.

“Our Senate Majority is focused on making New York more affordable for hardworking taxpayers, helping businesses create new jobs for the middle class, and keeping families and communities safe,” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said in May. "Let others focus on legalizing drugs and what that would look like. Affordability, opportunity, security — those are our priorities for the remainder of the year.”

The full report, which I think is quite nicely done, as well as an extended executive summary and related materials are available via this NY Department of Health webpage and at these links:

July 13, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michigan press suggesting state has a lot to learn from the Colorado marijuana reform laboratory

MIvotersRec_BEver since Election Night 2012 once it was clear that voters in Colorado and Washington were eager to pioneer a new approach, my thinking about marijuana reform always gravitates back to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famous description of the virtues of federalism in terms of a state being able to, "if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."  Part of serving as an effectively "laboratory" in this context, of course, is having result from a "novel social and economic experiments" that other states can seek to learn from.  

The point of this post prelude is to compliment a big new series of articles in the Detroit Free Press a few months before Michigan voters will be asked to decide whether to embrace full marijuana legalization in the state.  The lead article in this series, the first of those linked below, sets up the start of its learn and compare coverage with this note: "With Michigan having nearly double the population of Colorado — 9.9 million to 5.6 million — and an already well-established market of 289,205 medical marijuana cardholders, both supporters and opponents of legalizing marijuana wonder (and worry) whether Michigan is on the same path as Colorado."

What Michigan needs to learn from Colorado's legalized marijuana

5 things I found surprising about legal marijuana in Colorado

How Michigan's marijuana proposal differs from Colorado law

Legalize marijuana? Advice for Michigan from Colorado

I recommend all the pieces in this series, but the "5 surprising things" piece has these not-so-surprising questions from a reporter after a Denver visit (click through for the "answers" though I have reprinted the final one)

Where’s the fire?

Where’s the money?

Where’s the advertising?

Where are the baggies?

Where, oh where, is the outrage or the joy?

Marijuana has become second nature for Colorado: Everyone seems kind of blasé about the proliferation of pot in the state. No one seems particularly up in arms about the legalization or overjoyed by the success of the business. The state bureaucrats say it’s too early to say whether the presence of legal weed is a nightmare or a boon for the state’s economy and the police say there’s not much difference — and not much of a spike in crashes — between a driver impaired by booze or one high on marijuana. The businesspeople are happy with their still relatively new industry, but plagued by the uncertainty of how marijuana is treated by the federal government.

July 13, 2018 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)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Time Trends Matter: The Case of Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper now available via SSRN authored by R. Vincent Pohl.  Here is its abstract:

Mortality due to opioid overdoses has been growing rapidly in the U.S., with some states experiencing much steeper increases than others.  Legalizing medical cannabis could reduce opioid-related mortality if potential opioid users substitute towards cannabis as a safer alternative.  I show, however, that a substantial reduction in opioid-related mortality associated with the implementation of medical cannabis laws can be explained by selection bias.  States that legalized medical cannabis exhibit lower pre-existing mortality trends.  Accordingly, the mitigating effect of medical cannabis laws on opioid-related mortality vanishes when I include state-specific time trends in state-year-level difference-in-differences regressions.

June 28, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 22, 2018

"Age Differences in Daily and Nondaily Cannabis Use in the United States, 2002–2014"

Download (1)The title of this post is the title of this recently published article in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.  Here is its abstract:

Objective:

Adult cannabis use has increased in the United States since 2002, particularly after 2007, contrasting with stable/declining trends among youth.  We investigated whether specific age groups disproportionately contributed to changes in daily and nondaily cannabis use trends.

Method:

Participants ages 12 and older (N = 722,653) from the 2002–2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported past-year cannabis use frequency (i.e., daily = ≥300 days/year; nondaily = 1–299 days/year; none).  Multinomial logistic regression was used to model change in past-year daily and nondaily cannabis use prevalence by age group (i.e., 12–17, 18–25, 26–34, 35–49, 50–64, ≥65), before and after 2007.  Multinomial logistic regressions estimated change in relative odds of cannabis use frequency over time by age, adjusting for other sociodemographics.

Results:

Daily cannabis use prevalence decreased in ages 12–17 before 2007 and increased significantly across adult age categories only after 2007.  Increases did not differ significantly across adult ages 18–64 and ranged between 1 and 2 percentage points.  Nondaily cannabis use decreased among respondents ages 12–25 and 35–49 before 2007 and increased across adult age categories after 2007, particularly among adults 26–34 (i.e., 4.5 percentage points).  Adjusted odds of daily versus nondaily cannabis use increased after 2007 for ages 12–64.

Conclusions:

Increases in daily and nondaily cannabis use prevalence after 2007 were specific to adult age groups in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception.  Although any cannabis use may be decreasing among teens, relative odds of more frequent use among users increased in ages 12–64 since 2007.  Studies should assess not only any cannabis use, but also frequency of use, to target prevention efforts of adverse effects of cannabis that are especially likely among frequent users.

June 22, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lots of big marijuana reform news emerging from the Big Apple

DownloadThis local article sums up some developing marijuana reform news from New York that seems likely to have national ripples:

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill are expected to announce a new plan Tuesday on how police deal with people caught with marijuana. Sources tell CBS2 that police will soon issue a summons instead of making an arrest. It applies to people smoking or in possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

“The goals are to reduce unnecessary arrests, which is something we’ve been doing overall — 100,000 fewer arrests overall in 2017 than 2013, crime going down consistently in that time frame. We want to build on that,” de Blasio said on NY1. But sources say there will exceptions, which include if the person is on parole or probation or behind the wheel and an arrest would be at the discretion of the officer.

The announcement comes as the New York State Health Department is also set to issue a recommendation to legalize marijuana state-wide, six months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the department to study the effects of legalizing marijuana. “We have neighboring states that have legal marijuana. When those facts change, we need to look at things differently,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. “That’s the decision, at this point, to have a regulated legal marijuana program for adults.”

While the report has not yet been finalized, Zucker said its authors reached their conclusion after a thorough review of the legal, medical and social implications of legalization. “We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons,” Zucker said. “When we were done we realized that the pros outweighed the cons.”

Though a new NYC arrest policy could have a real impact real quickly, I see the forthcoming report by the New York State Health Department to be especially notable and perhaps quite consequential.  I would be inclined to expect a state health department to be concerned about the public health consequences of legalization and to see potential health "cons" to generally outweigh other "pros."  I think that if the New York State Health Department articulates the pros and cons of full legalization in a powerful way that really speaking to public health and safety issues, this forthcoming report could become a template for marijuana reform advocacy in a lot of areas beyond New York.

June 19, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"High on Crime? Exploring the Effects of Marijuana Dispensary Laws on Crime in California Counties"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research now available via SSRN authored by Priscillia Hunt, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Gabriel Weinberger. Here is its abstract:

Regulated marijuana markets are more common today than outright prohibitions across the U.S. states.  Advocates for policies that would legalize marijuana recreational markets frequently argue that such laws will eliminate crime associated with the black markets, which many argue is the only link between marijuana use and crime.  Law enforcement, however, has consistently argued that marijuana medical dispensaries (regulated retail sale and a common method of medical marijuana distribution), create crime in neighborhoods with these store-fronts.

This study offers new insight into the question by exploiting newly collected longitudinal data on local marijuana ordinances within California and thoroughly examining the extent to which counties that permit dispensaries experience changes in violent, property and marijuana use crimes using difference-in-difference methods.  The results suggest no relationship between county laws that legally permit dispensaries and reported violent crime.  We find a negative and significant relationship between dispensary allowances and property crime rates, although event studies indicate these effects may be a result of pre-existing trends.  These results are consistent with some recent studies suggesting that dispensaries help reduce crime by reducing vacant buildings and putting more security in these areas.  We also find a positive association between dispensary allowances and DUI arrests, suggesting marijuana use increases in conjunction with impaired driving in counties that adopt these ordinances, but these results are also not corroborated by an event study analysis.

June 16, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Detailing the growth (and growing pains) of Alaska's recreational marijuana regime in its largest city

Marijuana_retail_sales_taxesThis local article, headlined "Anchorage considers increasing marijuana sales tax as consumers clamor for cannabis," provides an effective report on the continued development of the marijuana regime in the biggest city of the only deep-red state that has legalized recreational marijuana use.  Here are excerpts:

The Municipality of Anchorage is looking to bump up its marijuana sales tax, citing a "tremendous" amount of resources it has spent working with the city's fledgling cannabis industry.  Meanwhile, consumers have shelled out tens of millions of dollars on legal weed in Anchorage since stores opened in December 2016.

Alaska's largest city has a 5 percent cannabis sales tax in place.  An ordinance introduced at the Anchorage Assembly meeting on Tuesday evening would increase that to 7 percent.  At its current rate, Anchorage's sales tax is expected to bring in $3.5 million this year.  If the 2 percent tax increase passes, an additional $1.4 million in revenue is expected each calendar year, according to the municipality.

A gram of legal marijuana averages around $18 in Anchorage, according to the municipality.

Chris Schutte, director of Anchorage's Office of Economic and Community Development, said the city is requesting the tax increase for two reasons: City departments are spending more money working with the industry than anticipated, and the city has a limited time frame in which to raise taxes.

Schutte said various departments were spending "tremendous resources" to work with marijuana business applicants, some of whom are "brand-new entrepreneurs in a brand-new industry."

"We didn't realize that there would be a lot of (pre-application work) done with the industry … nor did we fully think through all of the things that have to occur after that's done," Schutte said.  More money from taxes would help recoup those costs, Schutte said. He said there are 22 pot shops paying taxes to the city.

The second factor is that the deadline to tweak the tax is July 1, Schutte said.  After that, the city would need to wait two years to seek an increase in taxes.

Anchorage's first marijuana shop opened in late December 2016. In the next 14 months — from January 2017 to March 2018 — consumers spent $36.8 million at Anchorage pot shops, according to municipality data.  The city collected $1.8 million in sales taxes for the same time frame.  In March, the most recent month for which data is available, the municipality collected $216,715 in sales taxes from roughly $4.3 million worth of marijuana products.

Since legal marijuana sales began in Alaska in Oct. 2016, consumers have spent upwards of $100 million at pot shops statewide, according to the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office....

The state of Alaska has a flat-rate excise tax of $50 per ounce of bud or flower, and $15 per ounce of trim (parts of the plant like leaves or stems).  Growers pay the state tax.

Some local municipalities — like Fairbanks, Juneau and Anchorage — have put an additional sales tax on top, which is levied on the retail side.  Anchorage is allowed to increase its tax rate every two years by up to 2 percent.  The tax rate is capped at 12 percent.

June 13, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"The most exciting thing about Canada legalising weed? Data"

Download (15)The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in Wired UK. Here are excerpts:

Cannabis users around the world are eagerly awaiting legalisation day in Canada, with many no doubt ready to book a ticket to the Great White North where they’ll be able to smoke pot in peace. That day may still be a couple months off – on Thursday, the country’s senate voted to pass the bill with changes; it’s now with the House of Commons for another vote – but that’s not stopping Rick Kreminski from thinking about when he may be able to visit. “I’m going to Canada – I might even have to relocate there,” he says.

Kreminski, though, isn’t coming to partake in the legal weed. As the director of Colorado State University Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research, he’s salivating at the potential research and data-gathering opportunities that legalisation in Canada will provide. In the US, where cannabis can be consumed in ten states, scientific research remains sparse. Until it’s legal federally, universities can’t give research subjects cannabis or test strains of it, either.

But in Canada, once legalisation occurs, all is fair game and that has Kreminski – and a heap of other researchers – rather excited. “If more people are allowed to undertake research then they’ll be able to answer the questions that a lot of people have here,” he says. “All kinds of things can be answered.”

For those interested in cannabis-related information, which includes academics, governments, accounting firms, think tanks and the average dataphile, Canada presents an enormous learning opportunity. With a population of 36 million, it will soon be the only country of any significant size where scientific research, with experimental and control groups, can be conducted.

“Canada has an important opportunity to become leaders in the area of cannabis research,” says Jason Busse, co-director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at Hamilton, Ontario’s McMaster University. “There’s a lot of interest in what’s happening here from researchers and producers in other countries.”

While the US, Uruguay – the only other country where cannabis is legal – and some countries in Europe, are engaging in research activities, most of it has been observational, Busse says. For instance, one study found that in some US states where cannabis can be purchased, opioid overdoses fell by 25 per cent. The problem? Without studying this in a more scientific way, it’s impossible to know for sure what’s causing opioid mortality rates to decline. “If we could really take down the rate of overdoses by 25 per cent on average then that would be important to discover,” Busse explains. “But because it’s observational data, you don’t entirely know for sure what’s happening. We don’t know if we have causation there.”...

There’s almost no limit on the kind of data that will be gathered, either. When the information floodgates open, researchers from all fields – health, criminology, policy, economy and more – will be able to collect information they weren’t able to get before. Patricia Erikson, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, is particularly excited about the ability to conduct longitudinal studies, which is when researchers follow the same people year after year....

Kreminski has a wishlist of things he’d like to learn more about, such as how cannabis use impairs functioning, the extent to which cannabis is addictive and how pot impacts an adolescent brain versus an adult brain. Some of these things, such as addictiveness, have been tested in animals, but the value of such data has its limits. “Just being able to do studies that replicate other studies will be valuable,” he says. “It’ll help settle some of these questions.”

It’s more than just academics who are gearing up for legalisation. Government agencies, such as Health Canada and Statistics Canada, will also be able to do more research, and obtain better information, after legalisation, says James Tebrake, director general of macroeconomics at Statistics Canada.

Up until this point, these agencies have had to find creative ways to measure marijuana’s impact. For instance, Statistics Canada, which collects data on economic, social and justice-related issues, is testing the THC (one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis) content in the wastewater of six Canadian cities to determine cannabis consumption habits. When Tebrake wanted to figure out how much Canadians are spending on weed, he looked at the website thepriceofweed.com for information. Statistics Canada then set up its own website, StatsCannabis, where people could anonymously reveal how much they spend on pot.

Once weed becomes legal, Statistics Canada will be able to find out from producers exactly how much they’re selling and for what price. While Health Canada already has a survey that asks about drug and alcohol consumption habits, it will now be able to ask more probing questions, in part, because people will now respond more truthfully than they did before, says Tebrake. Collecting this kind of data is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, says Tebrake. It’s not every day that he gets to study a banned product that will soon be sold in stores. “At Statistics Canada we feel we have an obligation to collect as much information as we can about this transition,” he says. “We get to collect data on what happens to a society when something goes from illegal to legal.”

The rest of the world will be happy to know that Statistics Canada plans to share as much information as it can. It already has some data on its Cannabis Stats Hub site, but Tebrake says there’s a lot more to come.

June 12, 2018 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)