Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big meeting of feds and state/local officials in Colorado portends...?

As reported in this US News & World Report article, headlined "Feds Tour Colorado in DOJ Pot Review: Recommendations are due next week on whether to crush state-legal weed," there is some new activity in the arena of federal review of state marijuana reform. But what the new activity will lead to remains unclear. Here are excerpts:

Federal officials asked seemingly mundane questions during a Tuesday meeting in Colorado with state officials, at least some of whom were unaware that the discussion was part of a shadowy review of federal marijuana policy. The meeting provides the best glimpse yet into the issues authorities are considering as they prepare to make recommendations next week on what to do about state-legal recreational marijuana, with options ranging from a crackdown to keeping the status quo.

The guest list on Tuesday included Justice Department attorney Michael Murray, who is leading the department's marijuana policy review, and a State Department official with expertise in treaty obligations, according to Mark Bolton, deputy legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. John Zadrozny, a domestic policy adviser at the White House, was in the room, as were two representatives of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says Bolton, who also attended.

A person with knowledge of the meeting's purpose says the gathering and another meeting Wednesday with officials from the city of Colorado Springs are directly related to the ongoing federal pot policy review. The source asked not to be identified. Bolton says he was unaware that the meeting – which featured about 20 state agency representatives -- was directly related to the policy review....

The only question that Bolton recalls Murray asking dealt with whether 2014 guidance from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) remains "up to date," he says. That guidance outlined how banks can work with pot businesses, but many financial institutions remain reluctant to take on the compliance burden or perceived risk involved in handling cash for cannabis firms operating in violation of federal law. "I don't remember him asking other questions, but it may be they weren't questions that resonated with me," Bolton says.

The State Department official asked if there had been significant problems with diversion of Colorado marijuana to other countries, Bolton says. A representative of the Colorado Department of Public Safety said that is not a significant problem....

The ONDCP representatives at the meeting asked about educational efforts and about continued black- and gray-market sales, Bolton says. He can't recall Zadrozny asking any questions....

Bolton says state officials shared how Colorado uses marijuana tax revenue – estimated to exceed $500 million since recreational sales began in 2014 – to educate the public about the risks of the drug and about responsible use, and that officials pointed out teen use has not increased. He says participants did not directly address the possible consequences of repealing the Justice Department's 2013 Cole Memo, which allowed recreational pot stores to open....

Hickenlooper was not present at the meeting. But Bolton believes invitations extended by the governor during an April meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as an invitation by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, inspired the visit. It's unclear if federal officials are touring other states as part of their policy review....

After meeting with state officials, a group of feds met Wednesday with legalization foes in Colorado Springs. No supporters of regulating recreational sales attended, KKTV reported after staking out the meeting and later interviewing Mayor John Suthers, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general who opposes marijuana legalization. "A lot of [the meeting dealt with] sensitive case investigations. That's another reason why it couldn't be public," Suthers told the station. "Probably most of the discussion centered around the huge black market that exists for marijuana in Colorado." Suthers said the city's police department created the guest list, which included a local doctor and a school district director of discipline. The mayor and the police chief were unable to provide immediate comment....

KKTV reported a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff and at least one member of the DEA also attended the Colorado Springs meeting. Pence's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the national DEA headquarters referred questions to the local office, which did not immediately respond.

Although the Justice Department could launch a devastating legal assault on state-regulated recreational marijuana, medical marijuana currently is protected from federal prosecutors and anti-drug agents by a budget restriction passed in Congress. And in Colorado, state legislators approved legislation earlier this year allowing businesses to reclassify recreational pot as medical marijuana if the need arises.

July 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Noting the state of recreational reform efforts in state up north (aka Michigan)

Michigan-weedThis extended Detroit Free Press article, headlined "Michigan marijuana campaign brings together activists, moneyed investors, tobacco dealers," provides an interesting mid-summer report on the developing efforts to put recreational marijuana reform on the ballot in Michigan in 2018. Here are excerpts:

A campaign to once again try to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan is getting big support from a Washington D.C. nonprofit activist group and from a tobacco store company that has talked of opening a chain of marijuana shops in the state.

The donor list, revealed in the latest campaign finance statements filed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, alarmed critics who have long contended that marijuana's nationwide march toward legalization is being funded not by the idealistic stoners and medical-marijuana users long linked to the politics of cannabis but instead by a pack of profit-minded investors and corporate types said to be similar to Big Tobacco — the nation's cigarette and cigar industry.

"It’s obvious that these tobacco guys are making a play for the marijuana money," Jeff Zinsmeister, executive vice president of Smart Alternatives to Marijuana, based in Alexandria, Va., said Friday. The group argues that Big Marijuana is "following the playbook of Big Tobacco," hoping to get young people addicted to pot early on, then keep them as hapless customers for life, Zinsmeister said.

Those who support legalization argue that marijuana will be more difficult for youths to obtain, not less, after it passes. They liken the current availability of marijuana to the nation's era of alcohol Prohibition, when people of any age had ready access to illegal alcoholic beverages; in contrast to later laws that made alcohol legal for adults but a crime to provide it to anyone under 21.

The campaign's goal is to put a ballot question before Michigan voters in 2018, when the governor's race will trigger a big voter turnout. Medical marijuana use was approved by state voters in 2008....

Based on the ballot campaign's latest report, "44% of our contributions were $250 or less — we have a broad range of both large donors and small," said [Josh] Hovey, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Since starting the drive to collect signatures less than two months ago, the group has gathered more than 100,000 signatures, he said. That's good progress toward collecting the required 252,523 signatures — a figure that, by law, must be 8% of the number of votes cast in Michigan's last election for governor. The group said it has until Nov. 22 to gather enough signatures.

And, in order to get a cushion to account for signatures that might be thrown out, the group has set a goal of gathering 350,000 signatures, said former state representative Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, who is the group's political director. "We're hitting the streets and talking to everybody," Irwin said Saturday.

In a failed effort last year to get on the ballot, a different marijuana group relied mainly on volunteers. This year's coalition, which includes supporters of last year's effort, is using paid petition circulators at considerable cost. "It's going to cost probably a million and a half dollars just to get on the ballot," Hovey said.

"After that, we’ll need to spend a lot more on advertising and all the methods of communication to make sure that voters have the full story. We’re estimating this is going to be, in total, an $8-million campaign, by the time the vote actually happens next year," he said.

July 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"State of Emergency"!?!: Nevada dispensaries struggling to keep up with demand after first week of recreational sales

Download (5)As reported in this USA Today article, headlined "Nevada dispensaries running out of marijuana," recreational marijuana sales are off to quite a start in the Silver State and that is actually creating a significant problem:

Nevada dispensaries licensed to sell recreational marijuana are running out of pot less than a week after the legal market came to life, according to the state Department of Taxation.

On Friday, taxation officials announced that Gov. Brian Sandoval had endorsed the department's "statement of emergency," allowing state officials to consider adopting an emergency marijuana regulation that could alleviate the shortage. The Nevada Tax Commission will vote on the regulation Thursday.

"Based on reports of adult-use marijuana sales already far exceeding the industry’s expectations at the state’s 47 licensed retail marijuana stores, and the reality that many stores are running out of inventory, the Department must address the lack of distributors immediately. Some establishments report the need for delivery within the next several days," said department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein in an email.

The regulation would allow the department to consider a larger pool of applicants for distribution licenses, licenses that permit the transport of recreational marijuana from cultivation and packaging facilities to the dispensaries.

When the state law legalizing recreational marijuana was passed in November, wholesale alcohol distributors were promised exclusive rights to transport wholesale marijuana for the first 18 months of legal sales. The department, however, has run into multiple roadblocks in reviewing the seven applications that they have received as of Friday.

"We continue to work with the liquor wholesalers who have applied for distribution licenses, but most don’t yet meet the requirements that would allow us to license them. Even as we attempted to schedule the final facility inspection for one of the applicants this week, they told us their facility was not ready and declined the inspection. As of mid-day Friday, not one distribution license has been issued," Klapstein said....

Now that any marijuana dispensary licensed to sell recreational marijuana must receive all product — both recreational and medical — from a distributor licensed to transport recreational marijuana, many of them are stuck with dwindling supply. "The business owners in this industry have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build facilities across the state," Klapstein said. “They have hired and trained thousands of additional employees to meet the demands of the market. Unless the issue with distributor licensing is resolved quickly, the inability to deliver product to retail stores will result in many of these people losing their jobs and will bring this nascent market to a grinding halt. A halt in this market will lead to a hole in the state’s school budget."

While the department does not plan to release any numbers on state tax revenue from the industry until late September, the Nevada Dispensary Association earlier this week estimated that dispensaries made about $3 million in sales and the state made about $1 million in tax revenue between Saturday and Tuesday. Revenue collected from the 15% cultivation tax goes toward schools, while the 10% sales tax revenue goes toward the state's rainy day fund, which can be used for any number of expenditures.

July 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Some Alaska marijuana shops’ Facebook pages are being taken down"

CENSOR-FACEBOOK-MARIJUANA-hugeThe title of this post is the headline of this interesting news report from The Last Frontier.  Here are the details:  

Some Alaska marijuana shops have suddenly found themselves with one less outlet for advertising this week. Owners and employees of at least six marijuana retail stores in the state said that within the past week, their Facebook pages were either taken down or entirely deleted by the tech company.

At Arctic Herbery, owner Bryant Thorp said his shop's page was shut down Friday or Saturday. Another Anchorage shop, Enlighten Alaska, also had its page removed from the site about a week ago, said co-owner Jane Stinson. It also happened at Frozen Budz and Pakalolo Supply Co., both in Fairbanks, and Dankorage and Alaska Fireweed in Anchorage. “(Facebook) has been huge for us. That’s where almost all our advertising comes from,” Thorp said. He’s had issues with his Facebook page for a few months and has since focused on boosting his following on Twitter and Instagram.

Facebook has a set of community standards that dictates what is and isn't allowed on the platform, said spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja. “Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates standards,” she said. “Our team reviews reports to determine whether there was a violation.”

On a page explaining those community standards, under a section called "regulated goods," Facebook says it prohibits "any attempts by private individuals to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition." Marijuana businesses generally have to use caution in advertising, in part because state guidelines for pot ads are somewhat unclear, Alaska Dispatch News reported last year. Facebook — along with other social media platforms — is one of the biggest places for getting the word out about their businesses.

Jana Weltzin, an Anchorage-based attorney who specializes in the marijuana industry, said this is hardly the first time cannabis companies have had issues with Facebook. “This is not a new thing,” she said, adding that Colorado pot businesses dealt with a similar issue last year. “If you’re doing something that’s illegal and Facebook knows that, they try to not promote that. It’s still illegal under federal law.”...

The timing of the Facebook page removals seemed odd to some people in the local marijuana industry, too. The pages went dark around the same time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was visiting Alaska for the Fourth of July weekend. "That's what kills me," said Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association. "Zuckerberg shows up and Facebook pages are down."

"It's a weird coincidence, that's for sure," said Rich Beezley, chief operating officer at AK Fuzzy Budz in Anchorage. He said the shop's Facebook page has been shut down four times in the past month, but didn't have an issue this past weekend. He speculated that might be because the shop was closed for the holiday and wasn't posting on Facebook. "We're just in fear we're going to be shut down too," he said....

At Pakalolo in Fairbanks, co-owner Keenan Hollister said he got a notice on the Fourth of July that his company's page was taken down. “We face challenges every day running a legal cannabis business, but this is a disappointing one,” he said. “It feels like an attack on commerce in our state.”...

Some retail shops around the state don't appear to be affected. Facebook pages for Herbal Outfitters in Valdez, The Herbal Cache in Girdwood and Rainforest Farms in Juneau were still up Thursday afternoon.

This effective on-line article from a few months ago, titled "The Legally Hazy World of Cannabis Marketing," provides some additional background and context on the interesting issues that arise from the modern intersection of social medial and marijuana reform.

July 7, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Delaware creates big "Adult Use Cannabis Task Force" to study legalization reforms

Dell2As reported in this local article, in Delaware the "General Assembly has passed a concurrent resolution that will create a task force to study the outcome of regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use in Delaware for adults 21 and older." Here is more about this interesting development that could possibly increase the chances that the First State becomes the first state to fully legalize marijuana via the traditional legislative process:

The Adult Use Cannabis Task Force “shall study adoption of a model for regulation and taxation of adult-use cannabis in Delaware, including local authority and control, consumer safety and substance abuse prevention, packaging and labeling requirements, impaired driving and other criminal law concerns, and taxation, revenue, and banking issues.” It will hold its first meeting no later than September 7, 2017, and it must report its findings and recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly by January 31, 2018.

"The General Assembly is ready to take a serious look at regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use,” said Maggie Ellinger-Locke, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders to come together and examine every aspect of this issue. We hope it will pave the way for the General Assembly to adopt a more thoughtful approach to cannabis next session. Lawmakers can see the direction the country is moving on this issue and they know most Delaware voters support making marijuana legal for adults.”

The 23-member task force will be co-chaired by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Helene Keeley, Democrats who sponsored legislation this year to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 and older. It will also include:

• a state senator and a state representative from the minority caucus, appointed by the Senate president and House speaker, respectively;

• the Secretary of the Department of Finance;

• the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control;

• the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security;

• the Director of the Division of Public Health;

• the Director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health;

• the State bank commissioner;

• the Attorney General;

• the Chief Defender, Office of Defense Services;

• the Mayor of the City of Wilmington;

• the Chair of the Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee;

• a marijuana policy reform advocate and a medical marijuana industry representative, both appointed by the Governor;

• a physician with experience recommending treatment with medical marijuana, appointed by the Medical Society of Delaware

• the President of the Delaware League of Local Governments;

• the Chair of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council;

• the Chair of the Employer Advocacy Committee of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce;

• a representative of AAA Mid-Atlantic; and

• a pharmacist, appointed by the President of the Delaware Pharmacist Society.

More than 60% of Delaware voters support making marijuana legal, according to a September 2016 poll by the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication.

July 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Nevada formally become the fifth state with recreational marijuana sales ... and first in Trump era

Download (4)As reported in this lengthy local article, headlined "Nevada celebrates first legal recreation marijuana sales," today was officially a big day for marijuana reform in the Silver State. Here are the details:

A sense of jubilee was in the air midnight Saturday, and so too was the occasional whiff of Nevada's newest cash crop. Hundreds of Nevadans stood in line at midnight and throughout the day Saturday as Nevada became the fifth state in the U.S. to have legal recreational marijuana sales.

"Right at 12:01 a.m., they already have my transaction ready so that I can be the first in the state," said Todd Weatherhead, the first person in line at Sierra Wellness Connection in Reno. Weatherhead, a cultivation and production manager at a Reno cultivation facility, High Sierra Holistics, had been waiting in line since 4:20 p.m. Friday, he said....

Inside the dispensaries, "budtenders" took wads of cash in exchange for tightly sealed, opaque white Ziploc bags containing everything from joints to gummies to oils. As eager patrons jaunted in one by one, Sierra Wellness started running out of $1 bills, requiring a visit to a men's club down the street for more change....

Although Nevadan voters approved Question 2 to legalize recreational marijuana in November, voters twice before had proved themselves not quite ready. Nevada had the chance to become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2002, but voters turned it down. In 2006, they repeated themselves. In November, voters turned the tables and approved Question 2, allowing anyone 21 and older with a valid ID to buy up to an ounce of pot and one-eighth of an ounce of concentrate.

In Reno, four dispensaries -- including Sierra Wellness, Blüm, The Dispensary and Mynt -- are now selling recreational marijuana, and up to 40 statewide are estimated to have their licenses, the Associated Press reported. All of the Reno dispensaries had lines around the building Saturday, throughout the day. "We are the new Amsterdam. We are the new Denver. Nevada is going to be the gold standard for marijuana starting at midnight," said Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who is known among industry leaders as the "Cannabis King" or the "Godfather of marijuana" in Nevada.

Segerblom made the first purchase at The Source dispensary at a strip mall in Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press. Segerblom was a key proponent of Nevada executing what is now the fastest turnaround between a vote and sales, faster than the other states that voted to legalize in November. California, Maine and Massachusetts will be following suit soon, in the footsteps of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, but Nevada could see the most hefty out-of-the-gate sales of any state so far.

The millions of tourists who visit Reno, Las Vegas and other Nevada cities every year are expected to account for about two-thirds of the purchases.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has budgeted $69 million in revenue from the industry in the next two years. Money from the 15 percent cultivation tax on all marijuana product in the state will go toward schools, and the 10 percent tax collected from recreational marijuana upon sale will go toward the state's rainy day fund....

Reno's Alisha White, 38, stood in the line at Sierra Wellness to show moral support for her brother and daughter even though she doesn't smoke. “My daughter started to have seizures two years ago,” she said. “I gave her some marijuana, and it helped her. “Marijuana helps people in pain. I’ve watched it change people’s lives.”

Many of the middle-aged attendees who stood in line on Saturday feel like they've waited forever for July 1. "You always had to hide it," said Randy McCuster, 60, who's been smoking since the age of 13. "I smoked pot in the basement and it would come up out of the sink and my mom would stomp on the floor... She was something."

July 1, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Notable accounting of large number of jobs in the legal marijuana industry

6-26-17-COTW-Revised-e1498251123994This new posting at Marijuana Business Daily, headlined "Cannabis industry employs 165,000-plus workers," includes this interesting chart highlighting just how many legal jobs might be linked to state-level marijuana reforms. Here is part of the text that goes with the chart:

With 165,000-230,000 full- and part-time workers, the U.S. cannabis industry has quickly become a major job generator. Cannabis-related businesses now employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists.

The estimates – published in the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook 2017 – include employment data for retailers, wholesale grows, infused products/concentrates companies, testing labs and ancillary firms.  The job figures represent an impressive feat for an industry that has, for the most part, been operating legitimately only since 2009.  They also underscore marijuana’s rapid transformation out of the black market and into a viable economic force, capable of producing a host of new jobs and business opportunities for towns and communities across the country.

Employment figures were calculated using a variety of methodologies, including the use of survey data regarding the average number of employees for each type of company in the industry.  That information was then applied to the estimated number of companies in each sector to arrive at a rough idea of how many employees work in the industry. Only ancillary companies that glean a sizable portion of their revenue from the marijuana industry are included in these employment figures.

A majority of the jobs in the marijuana industry are currently with small businesses, most needing only a handful of employees to maintain daily operations.  Though the average number of employees at marijuana companies has been rising in recent years as businesses grow, the state-by-state nature of the marijuana industry has prevented companies from developing into large-scale enterprises that employ hundreds of people....

The cannabis industry is coming off a landmark year in 2016, when four states legalized recreational marijuana and another four approved measures tied to medical cannabis.  Additionally, Ohio and Pennsylvania legalized MMJ earlier in the year, while Louisiana passed a law to set up commercial cultivation and sales of medical cannabis.  Though it will take some time for these markets to fully develop, they have the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the marijuana industry.

California’s recreational market alone could eventually bring in between $4.5 billion and $5 billion in annual retail sales – more than the nation’s entire legal cannabis industry generated in 2016 – so the impact adult-use legalization will have on business and employment opportunities in the state is massive.

June 27, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"The Golden State's ‘High’ Expectations: Will California Realize the Fiscal Benefits of Cannabis Legalization?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by George Theofanis now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The federal government has been taking an increasingly relaxed approach to enforcing marijuana laws, allowing states that have legalized to realize the tax benefits of lawful marijuana.  California is now seeking to realize those same benefits. In 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passing of Proposition 64 (Prop. 64), also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

With the country’s highest population and largest economy, California’s impact on the marijuana industry is expected to be massive.  Some are predicting that California’s marijuana market will generate $1 billion in tax revenue alone.  Nonetheless, successfully generating revenue from the recreational market largely depends on several unknowable and unpredictable variables.  For example, high prices when legal sales begin could polarize consumers toward the illicit market and stall industry growth.  On the other hand, low prices could undercut a state’s revenue goals.  In addition, even with the general success of the recreational markets in Colorado and Washington, the unique circumstance’s present in California make revenue projections unpredictable.  Complicating matters more, marijuana’s illegal status under federal law also has the potential to slow down market growth and decrease revenue, depending on unpredictable circumstances.  Accordingly, a sound cannabis tax scheme must take these and other uncertainties into account.

This Article focuses on how a tax regime that strives for short term gains will be more susceptible to the unstable conditions of the market.  It explores how California is able to minimize financial risk in the recreational market while facilitating its growth.  This Article argues that California should adopt several mechanisms for adjusting the marijuana tax rate, as recommended in the Rand report, because the current tax scheme is too aspiring and will result in slower market growth over time.  For instance, by scheduling future tax rate increases and exploiting untapped tax bases, California can cash in long-term without overburdening the market in its infancy. Indeed, a tax scheme that focuses on a short rate of return rather than long term gain will fail to optimize cannabis tax revenue.  The marijuana industry will continue to develop in unpredictable ways, making flexibility to change important to the overall success of any marijuana tax regime.  By minimizing risk and facilitating market growth, California can seek to become the golden standard of the cannabis industry.

June 25, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Insurance institute analysis finds increase in car crash claims in legalization states

As reported in this industry article, the Highway Loss Data Institute has completed an interesting analysis of car crash claims data in marijuana legalization states.  Here are the basics from the article:

Legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington has resulted in collision claim frequencies that are about 3 percent higher overall than would have been expected without legalization, a new Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis shows. This is HLDI's first look at how the legalization of marijuana since 2014 has affected crashes reported to insurers....

Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with voter approval in November 2012. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Oregon voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015.

HLDI conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use. During the study period, Nevada and Montana permitted medical use of marijuana, Wyoming and Utah allowed only limited use for medical purposes, and Idaho didn't permit any use. Oregon and Washington authorized medical marijuana use in 1998, and Colorado authorized it in 2000.

HLDI also looked at loss results for each state individually compared with loss results for adjacent states without legalized recreational marijuana use prior to November 2016. Data spanned collision claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016 for 1981 to 2017 model vehicles. Analysts controlled for differences in the rated driver population, insured vehicle fleet, the mix of urban versus rural exposure, unemployment, weather and seasonality.

Collision claims are the most frequent kind of claims insurers receive. Collision coverage insures against physical damage to a driver's vehicle in a crash with an object or other vehicle, generally when the driver is at fault. Collision claim frequency is the number of collision claims divided by the number of insured vehicle years (one vehicle insured for one year or two vehicles insured for six months each). "The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes," says Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI. "The individual state analyses suggest that the size of the effect varies by state."

Colorado saw the biggest estimated increase in claim frequency compared with its control states. After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Washington's estimated increase in claim frequency was 6.2 percent higher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon's estimated increase in claim frequency was 4.5 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. "The combined effect for the three states was smaller but still significant at 3 percent," Moore says. "The combined analysis uses a bigger control group and is a good representation of the effect of marijuana legalization overall. The single-state analyses show how the effect differs by state."

Each of the individual state analyses also showed that the estimated effect of legalizing recreational use of marijuana varies depending on the comparison state examined. For example, results for Colorado vary from a 3 percent rise in claim frequency when compared with Wyoming to a 21 percent increase when compared with Utah.

HLDI's new analysis of real-world crashes provides one look at the emerging picture of what marijuana's legalization will mean for highway safety as more states decriminalize its use. In the coming years, more research from HLDI and others will help sharpen the focus. As HLDI continues to examine insurance claims in states that allow recreational use of marijuana, IIHS has begun a large-scale case-control study in Oregon to assess how legalized marijuana use may be changing the risk of crashes with injuries. Preliminary results are expected in 2020.

A full accounting of this research provinding an interesting accounting of crash claims appears in this extended bulletin.

June 22, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leading local prosecutor among those making the case for marijuana legalization in New Jersey

JH_Quote_Public_Safety_PageI highlighting in this post a few weeks ago that New Jersey may well be on a political path to become the first state to fully legalize marijuana via the traditional legislative process.   That political path may have been started in earnest this week with a state legislative hearing on the topic, and this local article report on a notable advocate at that hearing.  The article is headlined "Prosecutor says 'too many lives ruined' because marijuana is illegal in N.J.," and here are excerpts:

As a municipal prosecutor in Clark, Jon-Henry Barr said he must try a number of cases against people who get arrested for marijuana possession.  Barr also said he knows these cases can wreck good people's lives, and doesn't want to keep quiet about it anymore.  One case he won recently against a young black woman with no prior record "turned my stomach."

The former president of the New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association, Barr urged the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday to pass a law legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana because it is morally the right thing to do.  "Legalize and regulate it like we do with tobacco and alcohol," Barr said.  "I have seen too many lives ruined or damaged.  I'll continue to enforce the law -- that is my sworn duty. But I will not endorse the law."...

The supporters for Sen. Nicholas Scutari's bill (3195) far outweighed opponents.  The handful of detractors were called up to testify at the tail end of the five-hour Statehouse hearing.

Cathleen Lewis, the chairwoman for the coordinating council AAA Clubs in New Jersey, warned that legalizing marijuana will result in more people driving under the influence of the drug. A year after Washington legalized cannabis sales, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who has used marijuana climbed from 8 percent to 17 percent, she said....

Philip Kirschner of Morristown, who described himself as a concerned parent pleaded with the committee to reconsider pursuing the bill at all.  "I know you want the tax money but let's be straight here: pass decriminalization first.  That is what most people came here and spoke about," Kirschner said.  "I plead with you, despite your rush for more taxes, to abandon this bill.  The cost in human lives and misery is simply not worth it."

Following the hearing, Scutari, the bill's sponsor and committee chairman, said the there were plenty of suggestions how lawmakers can shape the bill, including speeding-up the expungement process.  He said he didn't know whether he would call another hearing soon or wait for the new governor to take the place of Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent.

June 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Changes in undergraduates’ marijuana, heavy alcohol, and cigarette use following legalization of recreational marijuana use in Oregon"

The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the journal Addiction. Here are the summary details via the abstract:

Background and aims

Recreational marijuana legalization (RML) went into effect in Oregon in July 2015. RML is expected to influence marijuana use by adolescents and young adults in particular, and by those with a propensity for substance use. We sought to quantify changes in rates of marijuana use among college students in Oregon from pre- to post-RML relative to college students in other states across the same time period.

Design

Repeated cross-sectional survey data from the 2012-2016 administrations of the Healthy Minds Study.

Setting 

Seven 4-year universities in the USA.

Participants

There were 10,924 undergraduate participants. One large public Oregon university participated in 2014 and 2016 (n = 588 and 1115, respectively); six universities in U.S. states where recreational marijuana use was illegal participated both in 2016 and at least once between 2012 and 2015.

Measurements

Self-reported marijuana use in the past 30 days (yes/no) was regressed on time (pre/post 2015), exposure to RML (i.e., Oregon students in 2016), and covariates using mixed effects logistic regression. Moderation of RML effects by recent heavy alcohol use was examined.

Findings

Rates of marijuana use increased from pre- to post-2015 at six of the seven universities, a trend that was significant overall. Increases in rates of marijuana use were significantly greater in Oregon than in comparison institutions, but only among students reporting recent heavy alcohol use.

Conclusions

Rates of Oregon college students’ marijuana use increased (relative to that of students’ in other states) following recreational marijuana legislation in 2015, but only for those who reported recent heavy use of alcohol. Such alcohol misuse may be a proxy for vulnerabilities to substance use or lack of prohibitions (e.g., cultural) against it.

June 15, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

After primary win by reform advocate, is New Jersey now on track to be the first state to fully legalize marijuana through regular legislation?

New-jersey-reform1Though eight states and Washington DC have all voted through ballot initiatives to fully legalize marijuana, no state has done this form of marijuana reform via the traditional legislative process.  Vermont got awfully close just last month before its Governor vetoed a legalization bill passed by the state's legislature (as noted here), and it seems possible some form of legalization could still happen there in 2018.  

But, as highlighted by this Leafy article, headlined "New Jersey’s Primary was a Huge Win for Legalization. Here’s Why," fellow who won the Democratic primary for Governor this week in New Jersey is very committed to making, and seems poised to be able to make, this form of marijuana reform a signature achievement of his time in office.  Here are excerpts:

[This week] we learned which candidates will vie to replace New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in November’s gubernatorial election. Democrats selected former US ambassador and Goldman Sachs alum Phil Murphy, while Republicans tapped current Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, [Gov Chris] Christie’s second-in-command.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Murphy is the heavy favorite to win in November.

Gov. Christie is among the loudest anti-cannabis voices in the nation and in seven months he’ll be out of office. Which means prospects for major cannabis reforms can only get better. Right? “Oh definitely,” Murphy spokesman Derek Roseman told Leafly earlier today. “One major hurdle cleared in having a nominee [like Murphy] who recognizes that our current laws have not served us as a society.”

Murphy’s comments in victory underscored that sentiment. “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Murphy told a cheering crowd. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”...

Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) chairs NJ’s Senate Judiciary Committee. He sponsored New Jersey’s medical marijuana law and led a delegation of state lawmakers on a fact-finding tour of Colorado last year. “There is widespread public support both in New Jersey and across the country for legalizing marijuana,” Scutari told Leafly.

“In New Jersey, we now have a Democratic nominee, who I believe will be our next governor, who supports legalization. That’s why it is so important that we begin shaping our recreational marijuana program now, so that we are prepared to move forward with a program that ends the prohibition on marijuana and that treats our residents fairly and humanely. We’ve already done extensive research on how legal cannabis programs are faring in other states and are continuing the process of working on legislation to create the best recreational marijuana program for New Jersey.”

June 8, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tenth Circuit panel issues big, intricate and important ruling in RICO suits brought against state-legal recreational marijuana businesses

The Tenth Circuit this morning released a ninety-page panel opinion in Safe Streets Alliance v. Hickenlooper, No. 16-1048 (10th Cir. June 7, 2017) (available here), a significant and complicated federal case that could directly or indirectly have a big impact on recreational marijuana reforms in Colorado and other states. I will need to read and reflect on the whole Safe Streets opinion before I can readily opine on its merits and impact, but I can start this blog coverage of the ruling by quoting the opinions lengthy introduction (with footnotes omitted, emphasis in original):

These three appeals arise from two cases that concern the passage, implementation, and alleged effects of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 16.  Amendment 64 repealed many of the State’s criminal and civil proscriptions on “recreational marijuana,” and created a regulatory regime designed to ensure that marijuana is unadulterated and taxed, and that those operating marijuana-related enterprises are, from the State’s perspective, licensed and qualified to do so.  Of course, what Amendment 64 did not and could not do was amend the United States Constitution or the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. §§ 801–904, under which manufacturing, distributing, selling, and possessing with intent to distribute marijuana remains illegal in Colorado.  See U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.  The three appeals at issue and two related motions to intervene raise four principal disputes stemming from the alleged conflict between the CSA and Colorado’s new regime.

 

Two of the appeals were brought in Safe Streets Alliance v. Alternative Holistic Healing, LLC. First, in No. 16-1266, two Colorado landowners challenge the district court’s dismissal of their claims brought under the citizen-suit provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c), against certain affiliates of a State- and county-licensed marijuana manufactory that allegedly has injured the landowners’ adjacent property.  We conclude that the landowners have plausibly alleged at least one § 1964(c) claim against each of those defendants.  We therefore reverse, in part, the dismissal of those claims and remand for further proceedings.

 

Second, in No. 16-1048, those landowners and an interest group to which they belong appeal the district court’s dismissal of their purported causes of action “in equity” against Colorado and one of its counties for ostensibly also having injured the landowners’ property by licensing that manufactory.  The landowners and the interest group allege that Amendment 64’s regime is preempted by the CSA, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2, and the CSA’s preemption provision, 21 U.S.C. § 903.   We conclude that neither the landowners nor the interest group purport to have any federal substantive rights that have been injured by Colorado or the county’s actions.  And because they have no substantive rights in the CSA to vindicate, it follows inexorably that they cannot enforce § 903 “in equity” to remedy their claimed injuries.  We therefore affirm the dismissal of their preemption claims.

 

The third appeal, No. 16-1095, was filed in Smith v. Hickenlooper.  In that case, a group of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska sheriffs and county attorneys sued Colorado on similar theories that Amendment 64’s regime is preempted by the CSA.  The district court dismissed their claims, and we consolidated the appeal with No. 16-1048. Because those plaintiffs also do not claim injuries to their federal substantive rights, we likewise affirm.

 

Finally, the States of Nebraska and Oklahoma moved to intervene in Safe Streets Alliance and Smith while they were pending on appeal.  T hose States claim that Amendment 64 injures their sovereign interests and those of their citizens, and that its enforcement is preempted by the CSA. We granted their motion in No. 16-1048 and heard their arguments, which confirmed that their controversy is with Colorado.  Given that fact, we must confront 28 U.S.C. § 1251(a), which forbids us from exercising jurisdiction over controversies between the States.  We therefore cannot permit Nebraska and Oklahoma to intervene, or even confirm that they have a justiciable controversy that may be sufficient for intervention.  Consequently, we vacate the order granting intervention in Safe Streets Alliance and deny the States’ motions in both cases.

June 7, 2017 in Court Rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Highlighting notable state efforts to enhance minority participation in marijuana industry

This new AP article, headlined "Growing pot industry offers breaks to entice minorities," reviews some efforts in some jurisdictions to help some minorities participating in the emerging marijuana industry. Here are excerpts:

Oakland and other cities and states with legal pot are trying to make up for the toll marijuana enforcement took on minorities by giving them a better shot at joining the growing marijuana industry.... The efforts' supporters say legalization is enriching white people but not brown and black people who have been arrested for cannabis crimes at far greater rates than whites....

Massachusetts' ballot initiative was the first to insert specific language encouraging participation in the industry by those "disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." The law does not specify how that would be accomplished.

In Ohio, a 2016 medical pot law included setting aside 15 percent of marijuana-related licenses for minority businesses. In Pennsylvania, applicants for cultivation and dispensing permits must spell out how they will achieve racial equity. Florida lawmakers agreed last year to reserve one of three future cultivation licenses for a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association.

There have been setbacks as well. The Maryland General Assembly adjourned last month without acting on a bill to guarantee a place for minority-owned businesses that were not awarded any of the state's initial 15 medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

There's no solid data on how many minorities own U.S. cannabis businesses or how many seek a foothold in the industry. But diversity advocates say the industry is overwhelmingly white. The lack of diversity, they say, can be traced to multiple factors: rules that disqualify people with prior convictions from operating legal cannabis businesses; lack of access to banking services and capital to finance startup costs; and state licensing systems that tend to favor established or politically connected applicants. "It's a problem that has been recognized but has proven to be relatively intractable," said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation....

The Minority Cannabis Business Association has drafted model legislation for states considering new or revised marijuana laws, including language to expunge pot-related convictions and to encourage racial and gender diversity among cannabis businesses. "The people who got locked up should not get locked out of this industry," said Tito Jackson, a Boston city councilman and mayoral candidate. He suggests Massachusetts give licensing preference to groups that include at least one person with a marijuana conviction....

An Oakland-based nonprofit known as The Hood Incubator provides training and mentoring to minority cannabis entrepreneurs. "Maybe they lack the money to get into the industry or they might have, you know, gotten arrested in the past for oh, what do you know? Selling weed. And now they can't actually get into the legal industry," said Ebele Ifedigbo, one of the group's three co-founders.

This related AP article provides a details state-by-state run down of efforts to aid minority participation in the marijuana industry.

May 31, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Variation in cannabis potency and prices in a newly-legal market: Evidence from 30 million cannabis sales in Washington State"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research article authored by Rosanna Smart, Jonathan Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Steven Davenport and Greg Midgette.  Here are the basics via the abstract:

Aims

To (1) assess trends and variation in the market share of product types and potency sold in a legal cannabis retail market, and (2) estimate how potency and purchase quantity influence price variation for cannabis flower.

Design

Secondary analysis of publicly available data from Washington State's cannabis straceability system spanning July 7, 2014 to September 30, 2016. Descriptive statistics and linear regressions assessed variation and trends in cannabis product variety and potency. Hedonic regressions estimated how purchase quantity and potency influence cannabis flower price variation.

Setting

Washington State, USA.

Participants

(1) 44,482,176 million cannabis purchases, including (2) 31,052,123 cannabis flower purchases after trimming price and quantity outliers.

Measurements

Primary outcome measures were (1) monthly expenditures on cannabis, total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration, and cannabidiol (CBD) concentration by product type; and (2) excise-tax-inclusive price per gram of cannabis flower. Key covariates for the hedonic price regressions included quantity purchased, THC, and CBD.

Findings

Traditional cannabis flowers still account for the majority of spending (66.6%), but the market share of extracts for inhalation increased by 145.8% between October 2014 and September 2016, now composing 21.2% of sales. The average THC-level for cannabis extracts is more than triple that for cannabis flowers (68.7% compared to 20.6%). For flower products, there is a statistically significant relationship between price per gram and both THC [coefficient = 0.012; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.011 to 0.013] and CBD [coefficient = 0.017; CI = 0.015 to 0.019]. The estimated discount elasticity is -0.06 [CI = –0.07 to –0.05].

Conclusions

In the state of Washington, USA, the legal cannabis market is currently dominated by high-THC cannabis flower, and features growing expenditures on extracts. For cannabis flower, both THC and CBD are associated with higher per-gram prices, and there are small but significant quantity discounts.

May 30, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto

Images (3)As reported in this local article, "Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont."  Here is more:

At a highly anticipated press conference in his Montpelier office, the Republican governor said he could not sign S.22, which passed the Vermont House and Senate in the waning days of the recently concluded legislative session. But Scott said he was open to revisiting the debate with legislators — perhaps as soon as an expected veto session next month.

Vermont’s Democratic legislature is unlikely to override Scott’s veto, given that the bill squeaked through the House two weeks ago on a 79-66 vote.

The legislation would have allowed adults over age 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow as many as two mature plants per household, starting in July 2018. Similar to Washington, D.C.’s marijuana law, it would not have allowed for sale or commercial growing of the drug. The bill would also have created a commission to study how Vermont could tax and regulate marijuana sales, as Colorado and several other states have done.

The governor has said he does not consider marijuana legalization a priority and has concerns about the lack a roadside test to detect driver impairment.

Had Scott signed the bill, Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through legislative action rather by public referendum.

Prior related post:

"Vermont Legislature becomes first to approve legal marijuana"

UPDATE:   I have now had a chance to read Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's remarks explaining his veto, and they are available at this link.  Here are some of the interesting particulars:

I have been clear since the campaign and throughout the session: I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana, and I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction. However, I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward.

We must get this right. Let the science inform any policy we make around this issue, learn from the experience of other states, and take whatever time is required to do so. In my view, policymakers have an obligation to all Vermonters – and those who visit us – to address health, safety, prevention and education questions before committing the state to a specific timeline for moving forward.

More specifically – as I have said repeatedly throughout the campaign and this session – we should know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not, and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing.

From my vantage point, S.22 does not yet adequately address these questions. Therefore, I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.

I’ll be providing the Legislature with recommended changes. And to be clear, if they are willing to work with me to address my concerns in a new bill passed during the veto session this summer, there is a path forward on this issue.

Those recommendations include the following:

First, in its attempt to equate marijuana with alcohol. This bill appears to weaken penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors. Sections of this bill must be rewritten to make clear that existing penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors and on school grounds remain unchanged.

Weakening these protections and penalties should be totally unacceptable to even the most ardent legalization advocates.

Second, I am asking for changes to more aggressively penalize consumption while driving, and usage in the presence of minors....

Third, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission section must be enhanced in order to be taken seriously. It must include a broader membership, including representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse prevention and treatment community.  The Commission must be charged with determining outcomes, such as an impairment threshold for operating a motor vehicle; an impairment testing mechanism; an education and prevention strategy to address use by minors; and a plan for continued monitoring and reporting on impacts to public health.

May 24, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"The Cross-Border Spillover Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by Zhuang Hao and Benjamin Cowan published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Here is the abstract:

We examine the spillover effects of recreational marijuana legalization (RML) in Colorado and Washington on neighboring states.  We find that RML causes a sharp increase in marijuana possession arrests in border counties of neighboring states relative to non-border counties in these states.  RML has no impact on juvenile marijuana possession arrests but is rather fully concentrated among adults.  We do not find evidence that marijuana sale/manufacture arrests, DUI arrests, or opium/cocaine possession arrests in border counties are affected by RML.

May 23, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still more sales data suggesting a Trump bump in Colorado marijuana sales

In a post last month, I asked "Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?" based on data showing increased marijuana sales in Colorado the first two months of this year.  Now, via this new Cannabist piece, headlined "Colorado marijuana sales top $131M, set record in March 2017," we have additional data on ever-increasing sales, though there is no way to tell from basic sales data if the market is experiencing general growth or if folks in Colorado may be stocking up on marijuana in light of uncertainty concerning federal marijuana policies under a new administration.   Speculations about reasons aside, here are the basic sales details along with some perspectives via The Cannabist:

The Colorado cannabis industry’s unbridled growth hasn’t waned — in fact, it’s still setting records. The state’s licensed marijuana shops captured nearly $132 million of recreational and medical cannabis sales in March, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state sales tax data made public Tuesday.

The monthly sales haul of $131.7 million sets a new record for Colorado’s relatively young legal marijuana industry, besting the previous high of $127.8 million set last September, The Cannabist’s calculations show.  It’s the tenth consecutive month that sales have topped $100 million.

Sales tax revenue generated for the state during March was $22.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.  March’s sales totals were 48 percent higher than those tallied in March 2016, according to The Cannabist’s calculations. The month closes out a quarter in which sales were up nearly 36 percent from the first three months of last year.

In 2016, the year-over-year quarterly growth rate ranged between 29 percent and 39.6 percent.  The Cannabist also found that March 2017’s year-over-year percentage growth outpaced much of what was seen on a monthly basis last year.  Monthly growth rates from calendar year 2015 to 2016 averaged nearly 34 percent.

It was this continued rate of growth that caught the attention of some analysts and economists contacted by The Cannabist. Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, separately calculated out the year-over-year monthly growth rate for Colorado cannabis sales and saw a trend emerge.

“The year-over-year rates of growth have continued at a steady pace, which to me indicates that we have not yet reached the point at which we are starting to cap out the market,” he said. At that point, he added, the growth rates would start to decline.

If the current growth rates keeps up, April 2017 should be another record month, and the summer of 2017 should set new highs, Livingston predicted. And by the end of the year, that could add up to an industry boasting $1.6 billion in sales, he said.

“We’re surprised that sales continue to grow so quickly,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based financial, policy, research and consulting firm focused on the marijuana industry.  “We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space.”  Adult-use sales, which hit a new monthly high of $93.3 million, accounted for the lion’s share of the March totals.  Medical cannabis transactions totaled $38.4 million.

Light and other economists have previously projected that Colorado’s marijuana market would eventually hit a ceiling as the draw from the black market becomes more complete, regular economic cycles take hold and other states implement adult-use sales.  It’s hard to predict when that plateau may occur, but the license and application fees in the March 2017 report were telling, Light said.

Ten months into Colorado’s fiscal year (the latest report for March sales show tax revenue remitted in April), the license and application fees for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana businesses were down 25.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue report.  “This shows that fewer new firms are entering and, I believe, shows that … sales should be tapering off or declining,” he said.

Whatever the particular reasons for the strong and steady sales growth in Colorado, there numbers seem certain to keep investors and other business players "bullish" on the marijuana industry at least for the time being.  And such business bullishness will likely continue to fuel various efforts in various jurisdictions to continue moving forward with or expand the reach of marijuana reform.

Prior related post:

May 11, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Vermont Legislature becomes first to approve legal marijuana"

Vermont

The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting on very big news out of the Green Mountain State. Here are the details:

Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill.

Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66.  The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.

Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures....

Wednesday's vote closed a divisive debate over legalization, particularly in the House, that once prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe to predict that legalization would take a "miracle" to pass this year.  Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to support the limited bill, which was pitched as a compromise between the House and Senate approaches on marijuana.

The proposal incorporates H.170, the House-supported bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants or four immature marijuana plants for adults over 21.  The effective date has been pushed back one year until July 1, 2018.  The bill also sets up a nine-member commission to study the best way to regulate marijuana in the future.

"There's no slam dunk of any kind," said Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking about the prospect of a legal marijuana market.  "It just is doing work that could be used next year or in subsequent years."  The proposal would continue to prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana and the use of marijuana in public places.  Employers, landlords, schools and prisons could continue to restrict marijuana use.

May 10, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Will Michigan become the ninth US state, and first in Midwest, to fully legalize marijuana via ballot initiative in 2018?

ThThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "Pot petition drive officially begins for 2018 Michigan ballot."  Here are the basics:

Marijuana would be legalized for recreational uses and taxed at a rate of 16% under petition language that will be turned in to the Secretary of State today.

If the petition language is approved by the state Board of Canvassers, the group pushing the initiative — the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol — will have 180 days to collect 252,523 signatures from valid registered voters in Michigan. In order to get a cushion to account for signatures that might be thrown out, the group is setting a goal of gathering 350,000 signatures.

That’s a task that will take money, said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the Coalition.  The group hopes to raise between $8 million and $10 million to both pay people to gather the signatures needed to get on the ballot and to wage a campaign to get the measure passed in November 2018.

“Prohibition is a failed big government program,” said former state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who is the political director of the coalition.  “We have 20,000 people arrested every year in Michigan. And we’re now going to be in a position to give our citizens a choice to end that.”...

The coalition will have an advantage this year over previous efforts to get the issue on the ballot.  The national Marijuana Policy Project, which has gotten involved in several other states where marijuana legalization has succeeded, has jumped into Michigan’s ballot drive.  So far eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, while 29 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana use.

The last group to try and get the issue on the 2016 ballot – MiLegalize – gathered more than 350,000 signatures, but not within the 180-day time frame.  MiLegalize, as well as the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization or Norml, have signed on to the latest effort and will bring its army of volunteers to the push to free the weed.

Marijuana Policy Project has an extraordinary recent track record of success with marijuana reform initiatives, and my sense is that MPP will not get involved in a state campaign unless it feels confident it has a good chance of winning. Michigan will be such an interesting state to watch in the run up to 2018 because of both politics and geography: the state has an (outgoing) Republic Gov and it supported Prez Trump in 2016, but it has two Democratic senators and is sometimes thought of as more of a "blue" state; the state borders Canada and a number of upper-Midwest states (Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin) that currently have fairly restrictive marijuana policies and politics.

May 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)