Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Pioneer Pot States Have Collected More Than $200 Million In Marijuana Taxes"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Huffington Post article.  Here is how it gets started:

The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana have collectively raked in at least $200 million in marijuana tax revenue, according to the latest tax data -- and they're putting those dollars to good use.

In Colorado, after about a year and a half of legal recreational marijuana sales, the state has collected more than $117 million in excise taxes from both the recreational and medical marijuana markets, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Washington state got a slower start. Its retail shops didn't begin selling recreational marijuana until July of last year, but they are keeping pace with Colorado's. About $83 million in excise taxes have already been collected in the year since sales first began, according to the most recent tax data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

And the total haul for both states is several million higher if all additional revenue from marijuana -- such as sales taxes, jurisdictional taxes, fees and licensing costs -- is included.

August 27, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Marijuana reform efforts in Ohio (finally) starting to generate lots of newsy buzz

Throughout much of this year, I had been intrigued (but not all that surprised) that efforts to reform marijuana laws through ballot initiative in Ohio had not received all that much attention even as one well-funded group, ResponsibleOhio, seemed well-position to give Ohio voters the chance to legalize fully marijuana.  But now that the efforts of ResponsibleOhio have officially brought the issue to the November 2015 ballot as Issue 3, there is much more marijuana reform news and activity afoot in the Buckeye State.  Here is a sample of just recent notable headlines and stories from various news sources:

August 25, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spotlighting a unique (and uniquely valuable?) aspect of proposed Massachusetts legalization initiative

Jacob Sullum has this new Forbes piece which effectively highlights a unique element in a marijuana legalization proposal making the rounds in Massachusetts.  The piece is headlined "By Allowing Pot Pubs, A Massachusetts Measure Would Treat Cannabis Consumers More Like Drinkers," and here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece: 

When the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts unveiled the text of its 2016 legalization initiative this month, the group highlighted several features of the measure but omitted the most interesting one.  The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow consumption of cannabis products on the premises of businesses that sell them, subject to regulation by the state and approval by local voters.

That’s a big deal, because until now no jurisdiction has satisfactorily addressed the obvious yet somehow touchy question of where people can consume the cannabis they are now allowed to buy.  The legalization initiatives approved by voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska all promised to treat marijuana like alcohol, which implies allowing venues similar to taverns where people can consume cannabis in a social setting.  Yet all four states say businesses that sell marijuana may not let customers use it on the premises.

Although a few “bring your own cannabis” (BYOC) clubs have popped up to accommodate people who want to use marijuana outside their homes from time to time, the legality of such establishments is a matter of dispute.  The result is that people can openly buy marijuana without fear, but they still have to consume it on the sly, just like in the bad old days.  The problem is especially acute for visitors from other states, since pot-friendly hotels are still pretty rare.

The Massachusetts initiative boldly addresses this consumption conundrum by allowing for something like Dutch-style cannabis cafés.  At the same time, it reassures people who don’t like the sound of that by permitting such businesses only in towns where a majority of voters have agreed to allow them.  Pot pubs also would be subject to restrictions imposed by state regulators, who might insist that they operate more discreetly than Amsterdam’s famous “coffee shops.”

The initiative says “no person shall consume marijuana in a public place or smoke marijuana where smoking tobacco is prohibited.”  But it adds that the rule “shall not apply to a person who consumes marijuana or marijuana products in a designated area of a marijuana establishment located in a city or town that has voted to allow consumption on the premises where sold.”  The question would be put on the local ballot in any city where supporters managed to get signatures from 10 percent of voters.

By contrast, the four states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use uniformly ban consumption in pot stores.  They also impose additional restrictions on consumption that are open to interpretation and leave people uncertain about where it’s OK to use marijuana....

Mason Tvert, who helped run the Amendment 64 campaign in Colorado and is now pushing the Campaign for Limited Social Use in Denver, takes a similar view. “Marijuana’s now a legal product for adults in Denver, and it’s really time that we give adults a place to use it legally and socially,” he told the Associated Press last month. “We shouldn’t be requiring that you sit at home if you choose to use marijuana as an adult.”

Tvert’s initiative, which is expected to be on the ballot in November, will give Denver voters a chance to decide whether they meant it when they said marijuana should be treated like alcohol.  But the big test will come next year, when voters in Massachusetts (and possibly in California as well) will decide whether to let pot smokers out of the basement.

August 22, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Menominee tribal members in Wisconsin vote to legalize marijuana on its lands

Download (12)As reported in this effective local article, headlined "Menominee tribal members approve on-reservation marijuana use," a notable vote among a notable population in Wisconsin this past week ensures tribal marijuana policies and practices will continue to make news in the months ahead. Here are the details of the vote and the challenges it creates:

Now that Menominee tribal members have told their legislators to legalize marijuana, the difficult task begins of designing a profitable weed operation that does not result in the tribe or its customers getting busted.  "Tribes are treading on very dangerous grounds" when it comes to growing and selling marijuana, warned Dorothy Alther, director of California Indian Legal Services.  "If I was representing tribes out there (in Wisconsin) I would say it might not be such a good idea."

Just last month two California tribes were raided by federal and state authorities who said they seized at least 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana.

Members of the Menominee tribe this week voted 677 to 499 to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes and 899 to 275 to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes on its 360-acre reservation near Shawano.  "This is new ground," Gary Besaw, Menominee chairman, said in an interview Friday shortly after the results were announced.  "We have to start looking at developing best practices and draft ordinances to maximize the benefits we believe are possible and minimize the consequences we believe also are possible."

Legalizing marijuana on reservations has become a hot topic since late last year when the U.S. Department of Justice released a memo discouraging federal authorities from prosecuting tribes for growing or selling pot on their reservations.  The memo also listed eight scenarios that could result in prosecution, including selling to minors or distributing the product to a state — such as Wisconsin — where weed remains illegal.

State law enforcement authorities do not have criminal jurisdiction on the Menominee reservation but could arrest people who leave the tribal land with marijuana.  Federal authorities do, because when the Menominee had its tribal status restored in the 1970s, it became the state's only non-Public Law 280 tribe.  "As a white guy I would fully expect that I'm getting pulled over if I drive off the (Menominee) reservation" if marijuana sales there are legalized, said R. Lance Boldrey, a Michigan Indian law attorney.

State and local authorities have jurisdiction over the 10 other tribes in Wisconsin, and at least three of those are seriously looking at legalizing marijuana or a derivative on their reservations.  Still, Indian law experts say the Menominee, which has about 9,000 members, must deal with several hurdles.

■ Since marijuana is not legal in Wisconsin, the tribe may be restricted to selling weed only to Native Americans.  Still, Besaw said, it could be worthwhile to begin growing and selling weed.  He predicted that it won't be long before marijuana is legal throughout the nation and "when it does become legalized we'll be ready to launch," he said.

■ The Justice Department memo is a policy directive that could change, especially in 2017 when a new president takes office, Boldrey said.  Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) this month sponsored a bill that would take away federal funding from any tribe that cultivates, manufactures or sells marijuana.

■ The tribe must consider the impact of legalizing a drug on an impoverished reservation that has long been plagued with substance abuse problems. "It's a huge concern," Besaw said.

■ It's not clear what to do with money generated from marijuana sales, since federally insured banks generally shun accepting marijuana money for fear of violating federal money laundering laws.  Besaw said the tribe would likely avoid that risk by licensing and taxing a business to run the weed business.  The tribe's revenue would be "clean money" because it would be tax revenue.

Besaw said he has met and will continue to meet with state and federal law enforcement to determine the guidelines the tribe must operate under to avoid the kind of trouble with the law that occurred in California.

August 22, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Does exact ballot language really matter much in Ohio 2015 vote for marijuana legalization?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by the latest legal battle brewing in Ohio now just a matter of weeks before voters will be voting on a controversial marijuana reform initiative.   This local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio to challenge marijuana legalization ballot language in court," sets out the recent development and basic terms of debate:

The marijuana legalization issue will appear as Issue 3 on Ohio ballots this November, but the group backing the issue plans to challenge the approved ballot language at the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Ballot Board, a five-member bipartisan panel led by Secretary of State Jon Husted, on Tuesday approved the language for that issue along party lines, with the two Democratic members voting against. "It's not balanced language and we believe that the language does not fairly inform the voters on what they're being asked to vote upon," Don McTigue, an attorney for ResponsibleOhio, said after the ballot board meeting.

McTigue said the language approved Tuesday is misleading and politically motivated, pointing to dozens of places where the language either adds or omits provisions of the proposed amendment.

For example, the approved language says "recreational use;" McTigue preferred "personal use." And one paragraph could be construed as allowing Ohioans to buy more than a half pound of marijuana (the limit is 1 ounce but Ohioans could possess up to 8 ounces of homegrown marijuana.)

ResponsibleOhio's proposed personal and medical marijuana amendment would legalize marijuana use and sales, with commercial cannabis grown only at 10 sites already promised to campaign investors. State lawmakers didn't like that aspect of the issue, so they drafted their own amendment to try to block ResponsibleOhio's marijuana issue.

Husted set the tone for Tuesday's meeting by welcoming everyone to "Monopoly Day in Ohio" -- whether to outlaw them or grant a new one.

Ohioans will vote on three statewide issues Nov. 3:

Issue 1: Redistricting reform amendment

Issue 2: Anti-monopoly amendment

Issue 3: Marijuana legalization amendment

All three require a majority "yes" vote to adopt the amendment. But if Issue 2 and Issue 3 both pass, the matter will likely be resolved at the Ohio Supreme Court.

Husted's office drafted ballot language for each issue after meeting with interested parties. Supporters and opponents were given an opportunity Tuesday to persuade the ballot board toward more favorable language, but the final decision rested with the board. Husted said groups would prefer to use language that polls well, but the ballot board aims to give voters the facts about the issues.

ResponsibleOhio plans to spend upwards of $20 million to win at the ballot box, aggressively advertising its plan and targeting supporters to register to vote and cast ballots.

Opponents of Issue 3 -- a coalition of physicians, law enforcement officials, and business groups -- will tell voters legalization will flood the state with marijuana, causing children to be harmed by ingesting it. The coalition, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, is banking on its broad and diverse network instead of campaign contributions to spread its message.

For a variety of reasons, I am disinclined to weigh in substantively on the (court-bound?) debate over the precise language that will appear on the ballot when Ohioans are to vote of the ResponsibleOhio proposal for marijuana reform. But, as the question in the title of this post highlights, the broader question is whether it really matters much, especially in an "off-off year" election, what the exact ballot language says about the basic marijuana reform issue voters will be considering.

Presumably, most voters showing up to vote in an "off-off year" election already have formed an opinion on the highest-profile initiative under consideration, and so I am not sure this squabble over ballot language will, in the end, matter all that much as the votes are to be cast.  I suppose we will know in just a few months just how all this shakes out.

August 19, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Proposal to legalize marijuana in Ohio qualifies for Nov 2015 ballot

Regular readers know I have lately given a lot of attention to discussion and debate over marijuana reform in Ohio not only because it is the state in which I live, but also because there seemed to be a real chance for the next big popular vote on marijuana reform to take place in the Buckeye State.  And now, as this local article highlights, it is official that "Ohio voters will decide this fall whether to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye State for recreational and medical use." Here are the basics:

ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization constitutional amendment was certified Wednesday by the Ohio secretary of state.  It will appear as Issue 3 on the statewide ballot for the general election on Nov. 3.  If approved by voters, Ohio would be the fifth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use and the first to do so without first having a medical marijuana program....

ResponsibleOhio had to submit at least 305,591 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters, meeting a certain threshold in 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.  The group initially fell short of that goal but was able to exceed it with a second batch of signatures.  Of the 91,541 supplemental signatures submitted by ResponsibleOhio, 44,185 were determined valid.  That number was added to the 276,082 valid signatures submitted on June 30 for a total of 320,267 valid signatures.  The group reported spending nearly $2.5 million through June to collect signatures.

The issue now heads to the Ohio Ballot Board, a bipartisan panel led by Secretary of State Jon Husted, which will write the amendment summary for the ballot.  The amendment would allow adults age 21 and older to buy, possess and grow marijuana in limited amounts. Commercial marijuana, which would be taxed, could only be grown on 10 pot farms owned by campaign investors. Tax revenues would go toward local governments, cannabis research and drug abuse and addiction treatment.

Anti-drug organizations and marijuana advocates have criticized ResponsibleOhio's plan, which opponents say would cement a monopoly on pot in the Ohio Constitution.

The marijuana legalization amendment will appear on the ballot after a competing issue sponsored by state lawmakers. Issue 2 would prohibit language granting "a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel" in the Ohio Constitution. Husted and attorneys for state lawmakers have said Issue 2 would trump the marijuana amendment, even if both passed on Election Day.

Issue 2 would require future amendments that propose monopolies or oligopolies to be posed as two questions on the same ballot -- first, to suspend the monopoly rules and second, to approve the measure.

August 12, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ohio Auditor draws fascinating parallel between margarine and marijuana prohibitions in Ohio

Images (9)The state-wide elected (Republican) Auditor of Ohio, Dave Yost, has penned this fascinating new commentary headlined "Ohio marijuana proposal echo cautionary tale of margarine prohibition." The whole piece merits a full read, and here are some of the historical insights and lessons Auditor Yost presents:

Margarine prohibition ended in Ohio via the ballot box in 1949.  How it happened sheds some light on the attempts to repeal marijuana prohibition this year.

Oleomargarine, as it was known at the dawn of the 20th century, was invented in France as a result of a prize offered for the invention of a cheap substitute for butter. The invention spread quickly to the United States....

[The invention caused] alarm among Wisconsin dairy farmers who correctly concluded that a tasty, less expensive alternative to their butter would create a drop in sales and cut into their income.  Threatened by the competition, they won passage of new laws banning the sale of yellow oleomargarine.  In 1890, Ohio enacted its own prohibition on yellow oleomargarine.  Plain white oleo was legal – only the kinds that looked like butter were against the law.

White oleo could be sold with yellow dye packets that could be mixed in at home.  The additional labor, at a time before power mixers and food processors, was not well received in Ohio's kitchens.   The end result was frequently a swirled effect, yellow and white. At least it didn't look like rendered pig fat.  (That's what lard is, of course.)

The matter was challenged in court as an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 1903 held that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to the states, only the federal government.

So, aggrieved Ohioans turned to their legislature, seeking relief.  Year after long year, they were whipped by the powerful dairy lobby – a potent political force at a time when every county had at least one representative in the House, no matter how small its population.

The political churn made Ohioans burn with passion – they yearned to keep more of what they earned by purchasing cheaper butter substitute.  Finally, they turned to the initiative process, collected petition signatures, and placed the issue on the 1949 November ballot, ending prohibition against yellow oleo once and for all.

Today, the self-proclaimed ResponsibleOhio is seeking an end to marijuana prohibition through the initiative process – but with a twist.  If approved by voters, it would write into the Ohio Constitution the location of ten farms that would be allowed to grow marijuana, exclusively.

A business plan shouldn't be written into the constitution.  Even if you're for ending prohibition – of oleo or marijuana – writing into the constitution an exclusive license to make the newly legalized product is a bad idea.  It wasn't needed for oleo legalization, and it's not needed for marijuana legalization either.

A legalized, properly licensed market should be available to all comers, not just the few with the money to enshrine into the Ohio Constitution a monopoly for themselves. Oleo prohibition ended at the hands of the voters – and without the creation of a cartel of rich guys to control the market.  If it is the judgment of the voters of Ohio that marijuana prohibition should end, the ResponsibleOhio amendment is the wrong way to go about it.

I find this commentary fascinating not only because I did not know Ohio's margarine prohibition history, but also because it suggests many legal reform lessons.  In my view, this Ohio margerine prohibition history highlights that: (1) even when lots of citizens desire a product, entrenched economic and social interests and lobbyists can get Ohio legislators to enact big-government, market-imparing prohibitions placing the short-term interests of insiders over the long-term interests of citizens, and (2) because entrenched insiders have power and influence in Ohio, citizens outsiders will sometimes have to go directy to the people to amend Ohio law in order to reflect the long-term interests of Ohioans rather than the short-term interests of entrenched insiders.

I am an advocate of marijuana reform in  part because I see the development of ballot-driven reform efforts in Ohio and some other states to be a (healthy) reaction to entrenched insiders failing to respond properly to the citizenry's views on both medical and recreational marijuana.  I believe the controversial ResponsibleOhio reform model emerged (and could become Ohio constitutional law) primarily because the Ohio General Assembly for years  failed to even consider any kind of medical marijuana reform (even as nearly 40 states and many members of Congress now have come to understand the potential benefits of canabis  for those suffering from chronic pain or severe seizure disorders or PTSD).  

Thanks to Auditor Yost, I now know entrenched anti-margarine interests required the Ohio people to move forward with prohibition repeal via initiative back in the 1940s .  Now,  65 years later, Ohio history is repeating itself as entrenched anti-marijuana interests are requiring the Ohio people to move forward with desired prohibition repeal via initiative.  And even if the ResponsibleOhio model does not in 2015 succeed in creating the kind of "legalized, properly licensed market" that Auditor Yost and the citizens of Ohio seem eager to consider, I am cautiously hopeful that other outsider groups will continue in Ohio (and elsewhere) to mobilize citizens to support personal freedom over prohibition, legal markets over black markets, economic potential over problematic paternalism.

August 9, 2015 in Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

National Council of State Legislatures resolves that feds should butt out of state marijuana policy reforms

At a conference this past week, the National Council of State Legislatures passed this notable resolution urging the federal government to revise federal marijuana laws in order to allow states to move forward without intereference with with state marijuana laws permitting the legal production and use of the plant. The full resolution, which arries the heading "In Support of States Determining Their Own Marijuana and Hemp Policies Without Federal Interference," is worth a read, and here are the closing paragraphs:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety, health, and economic development of their communities.

August 8, 2015 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Will more than a half-dozen states have legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this report that "two groups hoping to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts in 2016 will formally file the language of their proposed ballot initiatives with state Attorney General Maura Healey today." Adding the Bay State to those with active legalization initiative efforts afoot leads me, aided by this additional report, to arrive at this list of states that may well have its voters considering full marijuana legalization at the same time they are picking our next president:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Maine
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Michigan
  6. Missouri
  7. Nevada
  8. Ohio

For a variety of reasons, possible adoption of full legalization California would be the biggest marijuana reform story to watch during the 2016 cycle.  But the potential impact of initiative reform efforts in traditional swing states like Michigan, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio would also be worth watching closely in conjunction with broader election dynamics.  

August 5, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Sorting Through the Marijuana Mess in Ohio"

The title of this post is the headline of this new lengthy discussion of some of the notable (and notably distinct) marijuana reform developments in Ohio authored by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel.  Especially for anyone trying to keep track and assess what has been going on in the Buckeye State in recent months, I highly recommend the piece be read in full.  Here are some excerpts mostly from the start and end of the piece:

If anyone would have suggested a year ago that Ohio might be on the verge of legalizing marijuana in 2015, I would have laughed at the idea.

First, Ohio is a conservative Midwestern state that is seldom, if ever, on the cutting edge on social issues.  And second, 2015 is an off-year election, with no statewide or federal elections, meaning the voter turn-out would be lower and the likely voters would be older and less supportive than would be the case if the proposal were on the ballot in 2016, a presidential election year when younger voters turn out in far higher numbers.

But it turns out that Ohio voters may well be voting on marijuana legalization this November.  And the circumstances surrounding this development raise new issues that legalization activists are struggling to deal with.  The proposed constitutional amendment, called the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, sponsored by a group calling itself Responsible Ohio, would legalize both the medical and the recreational use of marijuana....

[W]hat is unique about this effort is that it is being funded by a few rich private investors who, under the terms of the proposed initiative, would then own the 10 specific cultivation centers around the state authorized to cultivate marijuana commercially.  In other words, those investors who provide the funding to gather the required number of signatures, and to run a professional statewide campaign, would be richly rewarded for their investment, assuming the initiative is approved by a majority of the voters....

Some activists have raised objections to the proposal because it would not permit average Ohioans to compete for the commercial cultivation licenses, although ordinary citizens would be entitled to apply for licenses for the more than 1,000 retail dispensaries that would be authorized, claiming it is undemocratic.  Some opponents have even argued it would be worse than the current prohibition — despite the fact that roughly 17,000 marijuana arrests occur each year in Ohio, and those arrests would largely be eliminated if this initiative were to pass....

At NORML, we recognize there are many inequities in the free market system, with an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us.  But NORML is not an organization established to deal with income inequality; we are a lobby for responsible marijuana smokers.   So we will leave other issues, including income inequality, to other organizations who focus on those issues, and we will continue to focus on legalizing marijuana.   

And if the investor driven legalization initiative in Ohio qualifies for the ballot, national NORML will almost certainly support it.  And we hope, so will a majority of the voters in Ohio.

July 27, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Seniors Are Seeking Out States Where Marijuana is Legal"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new Reuters article.  Here are excerpts:

When choosing retirement locales, a few factors pop to mind: climate, amenities, proximity to grandchildren, access to quality healthcare. Chris Cooper had something else to consider – marijuana laws.

The investment adviser from Toledo had long struggled with back pain due to a fractured vertebra and crushed disc from a fall. He hated powerful prescription drugs like Vicodin, but one thing did help ease the pain and spasms: marijuana.

So when Cooper, 57, was looking for a place to retire, he ended up in San Diego, since California allows medical marijuana. A growing number of retirees are also factoring in the legalization of pot when choosing where to spend their golden years. “Stores are packed with every type of person you can imagine,” said Cooper who takes marijuana once or twice a week, often orally. “There are old men in wheelchairs, or women whose hair is falling out from chemotherapy. You see literally everybody.”

Cooper, who figures he spends about $150 on the drug each month, is not alone in retiring to a marijuana-friendly state.... Figuring out how many people are retiring to states that let you smoke pot is challenging since retirees do not have to check off a box on a form saying why they chose a particular location to their final years.

But “there is anecdotal evidence that people with health conditions which medical marijuana could help treat, are relocating to states with legalized marijuana,” said Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy at University of California, Los Angeles who studies retiree migration trends.

He cited data from United Van Lines, which show the top U.S. moving destinations in 2014 was Oregon, where marijuana had been expected to be legalized for several years and finally passed a ballot initiative last November. Two-thirds of moves involving Oregon last year were inbound. That is a 5 percent jump over the previous year, as the state “continues to pull away from the pack,” the moving company said in a report.

The Mountain West – including Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2000, and recreational use in 2012 – boasted the highest percentage of people moving there to retire, United Van Lines said. One-third of movers to the region said they were going there specifically to retire....

Many of the health afflictions of older Americans push them to seek out dispensaries for relief. “A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the Denver-based National Cannabis Industry Association. “Chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite: All of those things are widespread among seniors.”

Since those in their 60s and 70s presumably have no desire to be skulking around on the criminal market in states where usage is outlawed, it makes sense they would gravitate to states where marijuana is legal. “In Colorado, since legalization, many dispensaries have seen the largest portion of sales going to baby boomers and people of retirement age,” West said.

July 22, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Interesting profile of interesting marijuana entrepenuers in Washington

The Seattle Times has this lengthy interesting profile of people who have been attracted to the marijuana industry in the pacific northwest.  The piece is headlined "Pot of gold: The new legal marijuana business has created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities." It gets started this way:

Welcome to the weird world of legalized marijuana, with a cast of characters as novel and interesting as the product they’re crazy enough to sell.

Entrepreneurs include a World War II veteran born in 1921 and a University of Washington student born in 1993, plus felons, dreamers and a cupcake queen. Then there’s this bizarre trio: a 79-year-old nationally ranked bird-watcher, a 36-year-old surfer, and former Seahawks star Marcus Trufant, who together own a pot shop in Lacey, one of the state’s more than 150 (and growing) recreational marijuana stores.

It’s always messy to build something from scratch. About half of small businesses fail within five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and few face as many complications as the marijuana industry.

Taxes are steep. Laws and rules for the strictly regulated business have been in flux since the state’s voters legalized pot in November 2012. Some cities and counties have banned businesses. Many can’t get access to banking. Although unlikely, if the federal government changes its mind on pot, it could shutter businesses and press felony charges.

But those bold enough to launch into this uncertain world see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where others balk at risk.

Les LeMieux, a felon convicted of selling drugs, seeks vindication. Pot nearly took everything away. Now, it could set up his family for good.

Evan Cox and his wife, Charity, both high-school and college dropouts, see pot as a means of upward mobility.

Jody Hall, the founder of Cupcake Royale, wants to reshape pot culture.

They’re all just getting started, but what a long, strange trip it’s already been.

July 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"As tribe prepares to legalize marijuana, questions remain"

Images (3)The title of this post is the headline of this extended new article from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader concerning notable marijuana developments in South Dakota. Here are excerpts:

Five months from now, according to the plan, Indians and non-Indians alike will be smoking marijuana on tribal lands in Flandreau.

The U.S. Justice Department told Indian tribes last December that they can grow and sell marijuana as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for Washington, Colorado and other states that have legalized the drug.  For the tribe and Colorado-based Monarch America, hired to design, construct and develop a grow facility on the Flandreau reservation, that has opened the door to a potentially rich new business enterprise — just as the advent of casino gambling did decades ago.

They intend to open by the first week of December, says Monarch America CEO Eric Hagen, who adds, with a smile, "Everyone will have a merry Christmas."

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley isn't as confident of that. While he insists he's having positive talks with Flandreau officials about his concerns as they move forward on their project, Jackley says the future of marijuana on the reservation isn't so black and white. He called the Justice Department's Cole Memorandum — authored in August 2013 by Deputy Attorney General James Cole to address the legalization of marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado — a complex directive that has created confusion on the tribal front.

While Hagen believes that memorandum allows tribal marijuana ventures in any state, Jackley questions whether it was meant to apply only to tribes in states that have legalized marijuana. South Dakota isn't one of those states. That said, he believes anyone with marijuana in their bloodstream or in their physical possession is in violation of state and federal law, including non-Indians on tribal lands and Indians who go off reservation.

"I want to encourage tribal leaders to continue to work with state authorities to better ensure ... that both Indian and non-Indian persons are not put in harm's way by the jurisdiction complexities being created by our federal government," he said.

That's not Hagen's perspective. The feds have said they aren't going to prosecute the growing or selling of marijuana by state or tribal jurisdictions that have legalized it as long as they are doing a strong job of regulating that growth and distribution and addressing infractions, he said.

The Justice Department's bigger concern, outlined in eight priorities in the Cole Memorandum, is to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors. They don't want marijuana revenue going to criminal enterprises. They don't want marijuana that is legal in one state diverted to places where it isn't legal.

Hagen insists Flandreau will have stricter regulations than any state with legal marijuana cultivation and consumption statutes on the books now. And because of that, "I think people just need to know that when they come on to tribal lands to partake ... that it's a safe haven for them whether you're a tribal member or not," he said. While he believes anybody in South Dakota with marijuana in their system or in their possession could be arrested, Jackley doesn't envision a situation where law enforcement will simply camp out and wait to arrest people coming out of a tribal lounge.

One of the other big concerns for the Flandreau tribe will be keeping track of its marijuana. Law enforcement in Flandreau say they worry about where the tribal marijuana might end up. Hagen said that shouldn't be an issue, not with the "radio frequency identification (RFID) inventory and tracking system" his company is helping the tribe put in to follow marijuana "from seed to sale, ensuring products do not leave designated areas."

"I personally don't believe it will remain in the building," Flandreau Police Chief Anthony Schrad said. "You can purchase the marijuana in the lounge, but it seems to me it would be very easy to remove the RFID tag from the container you purchase it in, transfer the marijuana to your own personal vial and leave with it."

July 12, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Bipartisan marijuana banking bill introduced in the Senate"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Politico story.  Here are the details of a notable (but not likely consequential) legislative development in Congress:

Reflecting growing public support for changing the nation’s drug laws, a bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced the chamber’s first bill that would legalize banking for recreational marijuana companies.  Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law.  That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry.  Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.  The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is “insane,” said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview....

Congress has been extraordinarily hesitant to address the nettlesome issue of marijuana law. Another landmark bill for the Senate from Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would legalize medical marijuana in states that have approved it has run into opposition from the Senate’s old guard.

But the upbeat Gardner noted that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) now supports a bipartisan bill that would exclude cannabidiol, which has more medicinal uses, from the definition of marijuana in federal law.  He said Congress will come along, eventually.  “Now, does it have a chance?  I think there’s a lot of work that has to be done to give it that chance, but I also think that in 10 years most every other state in the country is going to be facing this question,” Gardner said.  “People are coming on board and people are starting to realize we have a policy that’s kind of out of step.”

July 10, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ohio marijuana reform story getting even more dynamic and constitutionally complex

Ohio_constitution-592x394Regular readers know that I have been flagging Ohio as a state to watch closely in for the distinctive and dynamic marijuana reform discussions and debates taking place in the Buckeye State.   This new report from Time with the latest news on the latest developments highlights why I now have a front-row seat for watching novel issues unfold in the months ahead.   The headline of the piece is "Ohio Legislature Strikes Back Against Marijuana Legalization Bid," and here are excerpts:

A campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio took a step closer to making November’s ballot Tuesday, after its promoters turned in more than twice the required number of signatures.

But the measure will face competition at the polls.  Ohio legislators also approved their own ballot measure on Tuesday to undermine the pot plan, which lawmakers worried would amount to a “marijuana monopoly” because of its provision that only 10 growers would control the wholesale pot market.  The lawmakers’ measure would block other measures that benefit select economic interest groups.

The marijuana ballot measure campaign, dubbed Responsible Ohio, is just one of many ballot measures in recent history that are designed to benefit their backers.  The companies funding the Responsible Ohio campaign would control — and likely profit from — the marijuana growth sites should the measure pass.

As detailed by the Center for Public Integrity, the campaign’s director, Democratic activist Ian James, came up with the idea and is planning to pay his own firm $5.6 million to push the ballot initiative.

Ohio Rep. Mike Curtin, a Democrat, said he sponsored the anti-monopoly measure because he opposes the way Responsible Ohio is using the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, not because he opposes pot legalization.  “Are we going to allow a small group of investors, who have literally no background in drug policy… to carve themselves a special niche in our state’s founding document?” he said.  “To me it’s galling. It’s nauseating.”

But James said voters should have the right to decide the issue.  “Some statehouse politicians believe the voters are smart enough to elect them, but they aren’t smart enough to decide ballot issues like marijuana legalization,” he said in an earlier statement....

If voters approve both of the conflicting measures, Ohio law says whichever gets the most votes would win.  But Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, recently said that if both passed, the legislatively referred anti-monopoly measure would block Responsible Ohio’s plan because citizen-initiated measures take 30 days to go into effect.

The issue could end up before a judge.  If both pass, “we have a very interesting court fight on our hands,” Curtin said.

Some prior related posts:

July 1, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

New and distinct marijuana reforms become effective today in Minnesota and Oregon

As reported in local pieces linked below, two notably different northern states have two notably different marijuana reforms becoming effective today:

Unsurprisingly, the events in Oregon are a bigger deal from a national marijuana reform perspective, as this story from the national news outlet Reuters highlights.  It is headlined "Crowds count down to legalization of marijuana in Oregon, then light up," and starts this way:

Crowds counted down the minutes to midnight then lit up joints as smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on Wednesday, part of a growing legalization movement spreading down the United States' west coast.

Hundreds gathered on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and smoked under the glow of a neon city sign, marking the moment that the law allowing recreational use, backed by voters in November, came into effect.

The legislation opens the way for shops to sell marijuana by next year - though some lawmakers say they will still try to block retail outlets.

Similar legislation is already in force in Alaska and Washington State, reflecting a shifting legal landscape for a drug that remains illegal under federal law.

July 1, 2015 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Noticing significant tax revenues now flowing from marijuana legalization

How-colorado-allocates-marijuana-taxes_largeThe Motley Fool folks have been keeping an eye on the modern marijuana industry, and this recent article highlights why these folks reasonably think the industry is likely to continue to grow. The article is headlined "These 3 Charts Show Why More States Will Soon Legalize Marijuana," and here are excerpts (along with a reprinting of one of the referenced charts):

Want to know why states are legalizing recreational marijuana? Let me give you a hint: It has something to do with the color green. Not the color of the plant, but the color of money.

Because recreational marijuana has now been legal in Colorado and Washington for 18 months and 11 months, respectively, we're finally starting to see just how lucrative the recreational-marijuana business is.... In March alone, consumers in Washington purchased $21.9 million worth of recreational cannabis through legal channels. That was more than twice the amount of the $8.3 million spent on medical marijuana that month.

The rapid ascent of recreational-marijuana sales is nothing short of extraordinary. In July 2014 -- i.e., the inaugural month of recreational sales in Washington -- the handful of stores open at the time sold a mere $2.8 million worth of weed. Over the next eight months, this figure climbed by a factor of 10....

The upshot for the state is a rapidly expanding tax roll. If you add together the taxes that Washington receives from both recreational- and medical-marijuana sales, it's creeping up on $4 million a month. And for the record, it may have eclipsed that mark already, given that the latest available data covers just the month of March.

Colorado is experiencing a similar windfall, as it generates even more tax revenue from legal marijuana sales than Washington does. Last month, taxes from the industry came in at $9.6 million. And if you include the $1.1 million in revenue it received from licensing and other types of fees, you get more than $10.6 million....

In short, say what you will about the legalization of marijuana, particularly for recreational sales, but one thing seems certain: As sales and taxes from the industry continue their sharp ascent, it's going to be hard for other states to stand by idly and watch their neighbors get rich.

June 21, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oregon agency effectively encourages citizens to "Educate Before You Recreate"

ImagesAs reported in this local article, headlined "Oregon launches campaign saying what's legal with marijuana," an important public service campaign has gotten underway in Oregon roughly seven months after Oregoinians voted to legalize marijuana in the state. Here are the details:

As Oregonians prepare to enter the new world of legal marijuana, the state wants folks to know a few things.

With the slogan, "Educate Before You Recreate," The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched a public education campaign to put across the message that although it will be legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana starting July 1, it is not yet legal for anyone but medical marijuana patients to buy it — including bringing it back from across the border in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is already legal. The $350,000 campaign includes paid ads, an official website with a PowerPoint presentation, and posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Under Measure 91, starting July 1, anyone over 21 in Oregon can possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana, such as dried buds at home and up to one ounce outside the home. You can consume marijuana at home or on private property. You can grow up to four plants per residence at home out of public view. You can make brownies and other edible products at home and receive them as gifts. And you can give away marijuana and receive it as a gift.

It is illegal to buy or sell recreational marijuana and to transport it across state lines. That includes buying some from a legal retail outlet in Washington state and bringing it home to Oregon. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in public or to drive while stoned. Measure 91 will not protect you if your employer prohibits drug use, especially if there is a federal connection, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And if your landlord prohibits smoking in your apartment, you can be evicted for smoking marijuana, but not for eating it...

The OLCC does not expect to have the chain of retail recreational marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and sales outlets permitted and operating until late in 2016. There has been talk in the Legislature about jumpstarting that by allowing recreational marijuana sales through medical marijuana dispensaries as early as October, but that remains up in the air....

John Bishop, executive director of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, says anyone buying or selling marijuana without a license is still subject to arrest. But he adds that authorities will continue to focus on large amounts of marijuana.

June 18, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use Among Marijuana Growers"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing NPR piece, which somewhat reinforces my belief that the modern marijuana reform movement is going to have to work through a number of notable environmental issues in the years ahead. Here are excerpts:

The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved....

As any farmer will likely say, damage to the crop equals damage to the bottom line. [Colorado grow ownwer Nick] Dice's employees used to spray the crop with mild chemicals. They would switch between multiple pesticides and mildew treatments, treating anywhere from every three to four days. Dice says he's seen other operations crumble as their cannabis succumbs to mildew or bugs. Pest controls ensure a good yield. And when it comes to cannabis, yields really matter.

Dice estimates the grow room is worth as much as $180,000. Protecting that yield is hard work. That's why many growers in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana use chemicals. But it's the federal government that tells farmers which pesticides are safe to use. And so far, the feds wants nothing to do with legalized marijuana. Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw says that's left growers to experiment with little oversight. "In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to just whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate," he says.

Tobacco farmers, for example, have a stable of pesticides the government says are safe to use. But Cranshaw says marijuana growers have none. "Sometimes they've used some things that are inappropriate, sometimes unsafe," he says.

Brett Eaton is a plant expert with American Cannabis Company, a Denver-based consulting group. He's concerned about what the pesticides are doing to the product as well as the consumer. "Anybody can get their hands on harmful chemicals, and they can just spray away all the way up until the last day of harvest," he says.

Safety concerns led Denver officials to place a hold on tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year, pending an investigation. Colorado doesn't require growers to test the crop for traces of pesticides before being sold. But state agriculture officials did recently release a list of pesticides deemed appropriate for use on cannabis. Washington state, Nevada and Illinois have similar lists. Eaton says regulators are only playing catch up. "Other agricultural industries already have policy in place for the safe use of spraying certain pesticides and fungicides," he says. "This being a new industry, it hasn't been addressed yet."

And with more states turning marijuana into a legal commodity crop, it'll take a mix of policy, science and industry self-regulation to figure out what's appropriate, and what's not.

June 17, 2015 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 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What can and should we conclude about new survey data on adult marijuana use in Colorado?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new report showing the results of a statewide study funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As this AP article, reports these basics (with my emphasis added):

Results from the 2014 survey were announced Monday.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that 13.6 percent of adults currently use pot. Of those, more than a third said they use pot every day.   Almost half, 48.9 percent, said they’ve ever used pot.  Adults with higher incomes and more education were more likely than others to have used marijuana.

To begin any analysis of this data, I think we must start by whether the data conclusively shows whether marijuana use truly has increased in Colorado recently as a result of legalization or whether just more current and former marijuana users feel more comfortable admitting in a government survey that they are marijuana users. In addition, there is reason to suspect a not-insignificant number of marijuana users moved into Colorado in the wake of its 2012 vote to legalize the drug, and such migration to a relatively low-population state could also move the numbers a bit here.

More important that unpacking the basics of this data is to integrating it with other critical public health data. Even if marijuana use has increased in Colorado significantly, I would be eager to know if there has been any corresponding significant change in illegal drug use patters, and well as in patterns of alcohol and tobacco use and abuse. Without such data (and lots more), I think it is nearly impossible to draw any definitive public health and safety conclusions from use survey data in the short term.

June 16, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)