Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, September 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

New poll suggests Pine Tree state voters are likely to legalize recreation marijuana this November

Regulate-maine-logoThis new local article, headlined "Most Mainers favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, poll finds," suggests that marijuana reformers are poised to add Maine to the list of states that have approved recreational marijuana by initiative. Here are the basic details:

A majority of Maine voters favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new Portland Press Herald poll showing a groundswell of support among residents under age 50 and among those living in southern or coastal areas. Roughly 53 percent of respondents in the newspaper’s statewide survey indicated they support a November ballot question that would add Maine to the growing list of states where marijuana is legal for adults. By comparison, 38 percent of participants opposed marijuana legalization – Question 1 on the November ballot – and 10 percent were undecided. More than 60 percent of poll participants reported having tried marijuana at some point in their lives....

Maine is one of five states – along with Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and California – that will vote on marijuana legalization in November, making 2016 a pivotal year in the long-running policy debate over pot. Experts say the outcomes of those ballot initiatives – particularly California’s – could change the national trajectory of the legalization push. “It is a very big year,” said Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law. He noted that four other states will vote on medical marijuana ballot measures....

The legalization push in Maine is being led by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which succeeded in gathering more than the 61,123 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The referendum proposes allowing adults age 21 and older to use, possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and sets up a licensing system for retail marijuana establishments.

Like roughly 20 states nationwide, Maine has already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana to make it a misdemeanor crime. Maine voters legalized use of medical marijuana in 1999 and have significantly expanded the program since, most recently by creating a regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries and caregivers permitted to grow pot for clients.

The Press Herald poll shows that although the majority of respondents statewide support legalization, that support is by no means uniform throughout the large, rural state. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats supported legalization, along with 56 percent of independent voters. Republicans, meanwhile, opposed legalization by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

Mainers also were divided geographically. Legalization drew support from 59 percent of the poll participants in Maine’s more southerly and politically liberal 1st Congressional District, yet only 46 percent of respondents in the more rural and conservative 2nd District were in favor of Question 1. Support was strongest in southern and coastal/Down East Maine – at 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively – but fell to 49 percent in central Maine and just 45 percent in the northern part of the state.

The largest divergences over pot come with age, however. Not surprisingly, legalization was most popular among voters in the 18- to 34-year-old group, 69 percent of whom said they supported allowing recreational use of the drug. A majority of those age 35 to 64 also supported legalization, but just 35 percent of respondents over age 65 were in favor of Question 1....

The Press Herald survey underscored that marijuana is widely used, however. Roughly 62 percent of respondents acknowledged at least “trying” marijuana at some point in their lives, with men more likely than women to have dabbled with pot. Nearly three-quarters of voters age 34 and under reported having tried marijuana. That percentage drops to 64 percent among voters aged 35 to 49 but jumps back up to 72 percent for those between the ages of 59 and 64 – potentially a reflection of the drug’s popularity during the late 1960s and the 1970s.

There have been relatively few publicly released polls on marijuana legalization in Maine. The 53 percent support in the Press Herald poll is similar to the 55 percent support identified in a March poll of statewide voters by Critical Insights in Portland. Yet support for legalization was at 65 percent in a spring 2015 poll conducted by Critical Insights, raising the prospect that some voters are taking a closer look at the issue now that the campaign is in full gear.

September 26, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Effective review of the nine state with marijuana initiatives going to voters this November

International Business Times has this up-to-date article, headlined "Marijuana Legalization 2016 Ballot: Which States Are Voting On Cannabis Laws On Election Day?," providing an effective review of where and what voters will be considering as to marijuana reform in numerous states. Here are the basics:

More than 82 million U.S. residents will have the chance to cast ballots on marijuana measures when they go to vote for president come Election Day in November. Marijuana laws – whether it be to legalize or decriminalize – have been added to the ballot in nine states. Here's everything you need to know about the marijuana proposals voters will decide on come Nov. 8.

Arizona – Under the guidelines of Proposition 205, or Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative, adults 21 and up would be allowed to possess and recreationally use one ounce or less of marijuana....

Arkansas – The Natural State is set to vote on two marijuana measures: Arkansas Issue 7 Medical Cannabis Statute and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Issue 6. If the majority of residents vote “yes” for Issue 6, then medical marijuana will be legal and a dispensary and cultivation license fees will receive a cap....

California – Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize recreational weed and hemp for people 21 and older....

Florida – Amendment 2 legalizes medical marijuana for patients suffering from specific debilitating diseases including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis....

Maine – Question 1 (2016) would legalize recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, which has allowed legal medical marijuana since 1999.

Massachusetts – Question 4 would fully legalize marijuana with regulations similar to the state’s approach to alcoholic beverages....

Montana – Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative I-182 is an amendment to the already-passed Montana Medical Marijuana Act. Should the new measure pass, the current medical marijuana laws will be adjusted to allow more patients access to medical marijuana....

Nevada – People 21 and older would be able to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes under Nevada’s Question 2.

North Dakota – Initiated Statutory Measure 5 gives patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, and glaucoma and epilepsy access to medical marijuana with a specific identification card.

September 24, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

California's largest newspapers split on state's recreational marijuana use initiative

Last week, several of California’s largest newspapers weighed in on Proposition 64, the state’s November ballot initiative—also known as the Adult Use Imagesof Marijuana Act—that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle announced support for it. The Times offered the more comprehensive endorsement of the two, writing in part:

In November, Californians will again consider whether to legalize pot, this time with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law? 

 

On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences...

 

The Times urges a “yes” vote. 

The Times and The Chronicle agreed on most of the major points. Marijuana prohibition has burdened more than it has benefited society. Marijuana is already abundantly available in California; cities and municipalities can restrict and even ban marijuana businesses; and, the legislature retains the authority to amend the law. The 2010 legalization initiative was silly, but Proposition 64 fixes most of the previous attempt's shortcomings.

Conversely, The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee (both owned by The McClatchy Group) came out against Proposition 64. The two editorials are strikingly similar—at times they are indeed identical. They claim the aim of legalization advocates is not social justice reform or public health, but big business. Both lament that there is no currently accepted device available to law enforcement to help them detect drivers impaired by marijuana use (although two devices are currently being field-tested). Both worry recreational use will lead to greater exposure of youths to the drug. Both are cynical about the motives of Proposition 64’s advocates, and both conclude with this warning:

[O]nce approved, laws adopted by initiative are all but impossible to roll back without going back to the electorate. For all the spin by backers about how carefully they wrote Proposition 64, the initiative is not fully baked. Or maybe it’s cooked just right for the entrepreneurs promoting it.*

While it's unclear whether old media sources actually retain enough gravitas to persuade readers, the Bees better hope they do because opposition efforts appear to have been futile thus far. Polls continue to show Californians heavily favor legalizing recreational marijuana use. Last week, the USC Dornsife/LATimes poll showed 58 percent of California voters back Proposition 64. Notably, public opposition to legalization actually appears to have declined slightly. In May, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 40 percent of Californians opposed the measure. The most recent numbers show only 34 percent of Californians currently expect to vote against it; and, a California Counts poll released earlier this month found just 26 percent of respondents felt that way.

Regardless of the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers, it’s clear that legalization opponents have failed to gain much traction with Californians. Perhaps the problem stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge the current reality—that, in terms of access to marijuana, the drug is already de facto legal in California. As The Times acknowledges:

The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail. 

 

Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition.

And The Chronicle:

Any serious discussion of marijuana legalization must begin with the acknowledgment of reality: Prohibition is not working. The drug is popular and readily available for recreational use, either through medical marijuana dispensaries, where 18-year-olds can purchase cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, often after a nudge-and-a-wink; or a black market that continues to thrive.

The preceding statements certainly comport with my understanding of the current condition of the marijuana market in California.

Earlier this year, I met a doctor friend for dinner who regularly moonlights for a company that connects potential medical marijuana patients with prescribers. I asked her if she had ever rejected someone seeking a medical marijuana use license. “Of course!” she laughed. But, still chuckling, she added that its exceedingly rare and only happens when patients do not understand what constitutes a qualifying condition under California’s lax medical marijuana statute. When I asked her for an example, she recounted a recent high school graduate who had sought a medical marijuana license for the ankle he had twisted at a recent pick-up soccer match. Tellingly, however, she was not upset that he had tried to get a card. Rather, she was miffed mostly because the young man had not taken the time to “consult the internet” before making the appointment. If he had, she added facetiously, he would have realized that he suffers from recurring migraines. 

Put simply, if they hope to move the needle in their direction, marijuana legalization opponents must not only persuade voters that marijuana legalization will result in future societal harm; but also they must convince the millions of California voters living in marijuana-friendly municipalities that their communities are already suffering from it. With a dearth of data to support that view, convincing voters to change their minds could be a tall order. 

The San Diego Union Tribune has yet to take a position on Proposition 64, and The Orange County Register so far has declined to either support or oppose it. Earlier this year, both The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times came out in support of the measure.

Here are several recent related posts on marijuana policy reform in California:

* In the last sentence The Fresno Bee describes the backers of Proposition 64 as “guys and gals” rather than “entrepreneurs.” 

September 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Does marijuana legalization at least partially account for the remarkable recent popularity of Colorado Law?

Colorado_law_logoThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable Colorado University news item headlined "Colorado Law receives record number of applications." Here are the details leading to my marijuana-inflused speculation, with my added emphasis throughout the piece:

Applications to the University of Colorado Law School are up 38 percent, setting a record for the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle and the highest median GPA of an incoming class.   With 170 individuals, the University of Colorado Law School’s incoming class of 2019 is the most selective and academically competitive in the school’s history.   The 2016-17 admissions cycle set the school’s record for number of applications and highest median GPA of an incoming class.

This year, Colorado Law received 3,299 applications for the class of 2019 — a 38 percent increase from last year and the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle.  The larger applicant pool allowed for more selectivity, which boosted the median GPA to the highest in the school’s history (3.69). The median LSAT score (162) for the class of 2019 is also higher than that of previous classes.  “I am thrilled that more people have discovered that the experience at Colorado Law is very special,” said S. James Anaya, dean of the law school.  “Our supportive community, dedicated faculty, cutting-edge scholarship, and innovative programs — not to mention our success on the employment front — all make Colorado Law a terrific place to be.”

This year marks the continuation of an upward trend in Colorado Law’s admissions numbers.  In 2015-16, Colorado Law welcomed its largest class ever, at 205 individuals — a 22 percent increase from the previous year.  Applications to Colorado Law increased 10 percent that year, at the same time that law school applications nationwide were down for the fifth year in a row

I am disinclined to assert that hundreds (and perhaps even thousands) of prospective law students are now applying to the University of Colorado Law School just so they can legally relax with cannabis as well as with Coors after a tough week of classes.  But  marijuana reform has surely contributed to the recent success of the Colorado economy and this success surely produces unique benefits and opportunities for law students and junior lawyers.  Especially at a time when prospective law students are focused on employment prospects during and soon after law school, I think it fair to suggest marijuana legalization at least partially accounts for why Colorado Law is  so uniquely attractive to law school applicants during an era when most law school continue to struggle with a significant decline in applications.

(I must note for the record that I had the honor and pleasure to teach a special one-week course on Marijuana Law & Policy as a visiting professor at University of Colorado Law School in January 2016.  For that reason (and especially because of the terrific students I meet at Colorado Law), I certainly have a fond spot in my heart for this institution.  But if I really wanted to make this post entirely marijuana-focused and self serving, I would be inclined to add (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) that there is notable connection in 2016 between extra teaching of marijuana law at Colorado Law and a huge increase in applications there.)

UPDATE: I now realize I need to give credit to Paul Caron for first breaking this story with detailed data in this post yesterday under the (punny?) headline "Colorado Law School Enjoys All-Time High"

August 28, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise? (A Draft)"

The title of this post is the title of this timely paper authored by Michael Vitiello and now available via SSRN.  Here is tha abstract:

California appears to be on the fast track towards legalizing personal use of marijuana.  Proponents of legalization argue that legalization will abate the considerable environmental harm caused by illegal marijuana production.  The article takes a close look at that claim and presents arguments why that claim may be overblown. 

August 27, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

Highlighting why some (many?) of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016 are not certain to pass

Election-2016-Legalization-MeasuresThis new Vice article, headlined "Why Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Could Fail in 2016," reinforces my sense that the results of all the marijuana reform ballot initiatives on so many states this election cycle remain quite uncertain. Here are excerpts:

This was supposed to be the year of Pot-Palooza, when five states are set to hold ballot initiatives that would make marijuana legal for recreational users.  If all passed, it would bring the number of states offering pot for sale to nine, following similar measures that passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014.

Legalization advocates saw it as another potential leap in their march to slow the decades-long war on drugs: The rest of the country would see that the nine legalized states were awash in tax revenues, and that fears of stoned drivers flooding the roads in search of late-night Mallomars had been overblown.  Other states, they imagined, would quickly follow suit, bringing the country ever-closer to its marijuana tipping point, when the federal government would finally be forced to step in and end pot prohibition once and for all.

But as the legalization movement heads into the 2016 election, with the marijuana issue on the ballot in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — the fantasy of a New Green Rush is coming up against unexpected resistance, its momentum slowed by a lack of funding that advocates were not prepared for.   Advocates with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group helping to spearhead the ballot initiatives, say that fundraising is down 25 percent from what they need to compete on Election Day.  "We are polling well in all of the states we are working in,"said Rob Kampia, the group's executive director. "But we know that without advertising on our side, the level of support is going to drop between now and Election Day. The money reminds people why they support this in the first place."

Kampia cited a bill to pass medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010, which had support from nearly two-thirds of voters in early polls.  Without funding or an active campaign to support the measure, though, the initiative ended up passing with just a hair over 50 percent of the vote, and only after write-in and provisional ballots were counted in the days after the election.

Past legalization campaigns — including the statewide ballot initiatives that passed in 2012 and 2014 — were funded in large part by a handful of wealthy philanthropists,including George Soros, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, Men's Wearhouse magnate George Zimmer, and John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix.

In recent years, though, both Lewis and Sperling have passed away, Soros has pulled back on his pot-based philanthropy, and Zimmer finds himself with a diminished fortune after being fired from the company he founded in 2013.  And so advocates, who expect campaigns for the five legalization initiatives and four other medical marijuana ballot measures to cost in the $40-50 million range, are counting on the $7 billion legal marijuana industry to fill the fundraising void. But so far, the industry has mostly taken a pass. "There has been a bit of a free rider problem with this thing,"said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which still receives funding from Soros and other wealthy donors.

"People are making a shitload of money on this stuff without them spending any more to get where we are,"Nadelmann told an audience at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, a bi-annual trade association event, this May.  "They are using the opportunity of legalization to make a fortune without doing anything to create that opportunity. The marijuana reform movement is spread incredibly thin right now.  And the question for 2016 is whether the industry will be there or not."

And so far, they haven't been. At a recent cannabis industry investor summit sponsored by the ArcView Group, which connects investors with entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry, executives boasted that they had helped raise $70 million for marijuana-related start-ups; but the same slide showed that the investor network had contributed less than $1 million for legalization efforts — a discrepancy that activists in the room were quick to point out. "That is 1.4 percent,"Ben Pollara, a Florida political operative, told the assembled investors. "That is just pathetic."

[A]dvocates and political operatives seethe that the businesses and individuals who have directly benefited from their efforts are not contributing to the cause. And in interviews with a dozen marijuana industry leaders about the 2016 legalization campaigns, nearly all of them told VICE that they supported the measures, but had not yet given money to any of the state ballot campaigns. "I support all of these measures morally and emotionally," said Randy Shipley, the CEO of CannaFundr.com. "But most of the people that are doing these campaigns, I am not sure that the money is being spent in the right way. I would like to see more transparency."

Industry leaders gave a variety of other reasons for not donating to legalization efforts: they hadn't budgeted for political spending; that state regulations for legal pot businesses were proving more financially burdensome than expected; they believed the measures were going to pass anyway. Some said that they just didn't want to get involved in politics....

Some industry players seem to prefer the status quo: More states coming on line means more business entering the market; and while most of these are currently smaller startups, large corporations are sure to follow, swallowing those who have been operating in their niche of the market. "People are concerned about what legalization is going to look like for them,"said Michael Bronstein, a consultant for the American Trade Association for Cannabis. "You would think they would say, 'let's get this federal prohibition out of the way.'But they want stability. So many of them have dealt with instability for so long."

Tensions between the burgeoning cannabis industry and legalization advocates are not new. In 2015, for example, an industry-backed legalization measure in Ohio was defeated, after many political activists backed away from supporting it, arguing that the measure unfairly favored a few connected players at the expense of consumers. "I love psychoanalyzing the marijuana industry,"said Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project.  "In one bucket you have people who say they are too poor to donate. In another bucket you have people who just hope someone is going to save them from themselves.  But any business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal."...

If a handful of measures go down to defeat this November, it could also embolden the federal government to end its hands-off approach to marijuana businesses in the four states that have legalized the drug. Since federal law trumps state law, any president at any time could shut down the farms, dispensaries and thousands of businesses that have cropped up in the wake of legalization. "Think about what would happen if Oregon and Alaska went down in 2014 because there wasn't enough money in these campaigns,"Nadelmann of DPA, told the conference and cannabis entrepreneurs. "All of the momentum, all of the ways in which people are thinking legalization is inevitable and the way of the future, imagine what would have happened if we had lost. Colorado and Washington would be seen as flukes. The net value of this industry would be fifty percent of what it is today." "And if California, goes down,"he added. "It sets us back a decade. I don't want to say you are fucked, but..."

August 19, 2016 in 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)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poll suggests California marijuana legalization initiative on path to win pretty big

Prop64This press release from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which is titled "IGS Poll Finds Support for Gun Control, Marijuana Legalization," suggests that the ballot initiative in California to legalize marijuana could pass by a substantial margin.  Here are some of the particulars:

California voters overwhelmingly support a sweeping gun control measure on the November ballot, including strong majorities of both parties and independent voters, according to a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. On another hot-button social issue that will be on the ballot in the fall, voters also strongly support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the survey found.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey 3,020 respondents from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters, and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age....

Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana use, with regulation by specified government agencies.  Almost two in three respondents (63.8 percent) supported that idea, a level of support extremely similar to last year, when the IGS Poll asked the identical question.  Support included 73.8 percent of Democrats and 62.2 percent of independents.  Republicans opposed legalization, 53 percent to 47 percent, but this was less GOP opposition than was registered by the same question last year.  Last year Republicans opposed legalization by 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.

Support for legalization was highest among African-Americans (71.9 percent) and Latinos (69.3 percent) and lowest among Asian-Americans (57.7 percent).  Support for legalization was also highest among 18- to 24-year-olds, and lowest among those over 65.

The reported movement in these poll numbers for Republicans is an interesting and possibly very important development, and I also found interesting from the reported results that there was not a significant gender gap in support for legalization. If these poll numbers hold up and California's legalization initiative win by a huge margin, I think that fact will just further add evidence that the winds of public opinion aregrowing ever more strongly for the repeal of blanket marijuana prohibition throughout the United States.

August 18, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"The Biggest Legislative Marijuana Policy Reforms Of 2016"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Huffington Post commentary authored by Rob Kampia, who is the co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Here are excerpts:

On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.

Two states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, enacted effective medical marijuana laws via their legislatures, making them the 24th and 25th states to do so, respectively.  As a result, more than half of the U.S. population now lives in states that have opted to legalize medical marijuana.

This year has also seen improvements to several existing medical marijuana programs. Colorado adopted “Jack’s Law,” which provides protections for medical marijuana patients who attend public schools.  Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont expanded the lists of medical conditions for which patients can qualify to use medical marijuana.  Vermont also enacted a law that reduces the required time for a patient-provider relationship from six to three months, allows marijuana to be transferred to research institutions, and requires labeling and child-resistant packaging for edibles sold at dispensaries.  Oregon increased access to medical marijuana for veterans who receive assistance from the VA program.  In Illinois, Gov. Rauner signed a bill to extend and expand the state’s pilot medical marijuana program, and in Maryland, lawmakers enacted a law allowing nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, and nurse midwives to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients....

In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto.  Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail.  At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.

In states where marijuana is legal for adults, legislators and regulators made notable improvements and progress toward full implementation.  In Colorado, lawmakers passed a bill to allow out-of-state ownership of marijuana businesses and increased the amount of marijuana that non-residents may purchase at retail establishments. Colorado also increased local control of testing laboratories and created a new business category for businesses that transport marijuana.  And in Washington State, a number of bills were passed to streamline practices in the marijuana industry and make it easier to apply for research licenses.

Alaska regulators began licensing marijuana cultivators and expect to begin issuing retail licenses soon.  Oregon is in the process of licensing adult-use marijuana retailers while currently allowing any adult to purchase marijuana from existing medical dispensaries; Oregon also passed comprehensive regulations that, among many other things, increase cooperation between the medical and adult retail programs, exempt patients from being taxed, allow out-of-state investment in marijuana businesses, and protect financial institutions from prosecution under state law for doing business with the marijuana industry.

August 10, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reviewing all the states where voters will weigh in on marijuana reform during Election 2016

With now only three months to Election Day 2016, I thought it useful to reprint the start of this new International Business Times article headlined "Where Will Pot Be Legal Next? Recreational Marijuana On The Ballot In 5 States On Election Day 2016":

Despite Americans' statistical lack of enthusiasm for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Green Party still has little chance of getting nominee Jill Stein into the White House. But another kind of green is poised to have a big election day this year: recreational marijuana.

Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington might soon have some company in the ranks of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.  Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will vote on recreationally legalizing pot on ballot measures this year on election day in November.  The states would determine individually what the parameters of legalization would be — California has signaled that recreational pot would be legal for adults over 21 and subject to a 15 percent sales tax.

In addition to those states, four other states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Missouri — will have ballot measures this year to make marijuana legal for medical use.  The eight ballot measures will be the largest swath of voters weighing in on the issue of marijuana legalization in history.  "This is really a watershed year for marijuana legalization, so I'm hoping that we'll see some big changes in November," F. Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told CNN.

By my count, five recreational initiatives and four medical initiatives adds up to NINE ballot issues. Perhaps even more significant if we are counting heads is that around 25% of the entire national population will be voting on marijuana reform issues, making the 2016 election year arguably the closest possible thing to a national referendum on blanket marijuana prohibition. If the majority of these ballot initiatives pass, and especially if the initiaitive pass big in the really big/significant states of California and Florida, I do it will be all but certain that federal marijuana prohibition is reformed in some significant way before the end of the decade.

August 4, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Marijuana Agriculture Law: Regulation at the Root of an Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming paper authored by Ryan Boudin Stoa available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation.  As many as thirty marijuana legalization initiatives may appear on election ballots in 2016, legalizing the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana in as many as 17 states and adding to the growing number of states that have already legalized marijuana.  Many of these legalization initiatives propose to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, and many titles are variations of “the regulate marijuana like alcohol act.”  For political and public health reasons the analogy makes sense, but it also reveals a regulatory blind spot.  States may be using alcohol as a model for regulating the distribution, retail, and consumption of marijuana, but marijuana is much more than a retail product. It is also an agricultural product, and by some measures, the largest cash crop in the United States.  Since marijuana prohibition laws were passed long before any regulations for cultivation were developed, states are facing an unprecedented challenge: regulate, for the first time ever, one of the country’s largest agricultural industries.

There are major regulatory challenges ahead, and how states respond to those challenges will shape the course of the marijuana industry.  At present there is a gap in understanding the regulatory challenges presented by marijuana agriculture, and the options states have to address them.  This Article identifies those challenges and the regulatory approaches most capable of addressing them.  The study begins by describing the existing state of marijuana agriculture regulations.  States are likely to find that the marijuana industry’s unique characteristics justify a tailored regulatory approach; relying on existing agricultural policies may be ineffectual or lead to perverse outcomes.  

Next, fundamental questions about the “marijuana fragmentation spectrum” are explored.  Will the industry come to be dominated by agricultural conglomerates mass-producing a marijuana commodity, as many have feared?   Or will governments and the industry adopt the appellation model favored by the wine industry, to protect local farmers and differentiate between products?  The major environmental impacts of marijuana agriculture are analyzed as well, including regulations that address water allocation, water quality, energy, organic certification, and crop insurance.  Finally, the study addresses power distribution trade-offs within marijuana agriculture regulation frameworks, including local vs. state, and consolidated vs. fragmented, regulatory authority dilemmas.  The findings suggest that responsible and sustainable marijuana agriculture can be fostered at the state level, but only if regulations are responsive to the unique and unprecedented challenges that marijuana agriculture presents.

August 3, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, 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 (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Democrats formally approve platform calling for "pathway" to marijuana legalization

I continue to not know just how much import and impact official party platforms have. Nevertheless, I still think this press piece about formal events at the DNC, headlined "Democrats become first major party to back pathway to legalizing pot," is reporting on events that are a pretty big deal for marijuana reform advocates now and in the years ahead. Here is the official language from the party platform embraced by Dems:

“Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of ‘Schedule 1’ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African-Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates.”

Here is more from the press piece with reactions to these developments from leading marijuana reform advocates:

Legalization backers applauded the vote and said it reflected polls that found a majority of Americans wanted to legalize the drug.  “The fact that one of the country’s two major parties has officially endorsed a pathway to legalization is the clearest sign we’ve seen yet that marijuana reform is a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group. “A clear and growing majority of voters want to end prohibition.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, does not back across-the-board legalization at the federal level. The platform includes her often-used language that marijuana legalization should be left to the states, allowing them to be “laboratories of democracy.”  That’s good news for Washington state, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, which that have already approved recreational marijuana, along with the District of Columbia....

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said a growing number of state Democratic parties had already backed legalization in their platforms this year.  That includes California, which will vote on recreational marijuana in November.  “It’s not particularly surprising that the platform calls for rolling back the failed policy of marijuana prohibition, seeing as the vast majority of Democrats – and a majority of Americans – support making marijuana legal for adults,” he said. 

Despite the support, Tvert said he wouldn’t be surprised if the issue didn’t get much attention from speakers at the Democratic convention this week.  “The platform typically reflects the positions of most party members, but it does not necessarily reflect the political or policy priorities of candidates and party leaders,” he said.

July 28, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recognizing how California's coming vote on full legalization of marijuana could be a game changer

AumalogoNROne of many reasons I focused a lot last year on the failed (and at times foolish) campaign to fully legalize marijuana in Ohio was because I believe that a vote in favor of full legalization in 2015 in a bellwhether state like Ohio would be a "game changer" in the marijuana reform movement nationwide. But even though Ohio voters soundly rejected a flawed full legalization initiative last year, marijuana reform in Ohio and nationwide continues apace. And, as this new Rolling Stone article highlights, California's full legalization initiative now on the ballot is surely the most obvious "game-changer" circa 2016. The Rolling Stone piece is headlined "The Pot Law That Could Be 'Deal-Breaker for the Drug War': California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act could have ramifications far beyond the state's borders," and here are excerpts:

Last week California's pot legalization initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, qualified for the ballot in November, setting the stage for a vote that will have ramifications far beyond California's borders.

There are several reasons why if the AUMA passes, it will make California the heaviest domino to fall in the nationwide effort to legalize marijuana, the most obvious being the state's size and the sheer number of people who would have access to legal weed. One in 10 Americans lives in California, while the Los Angeles basin alone is home to more people than Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska — the four states that have so far legalized adult use marijuana — combined. California also has the sixth largest economy in the world, allowing the rest of the country to draw solid conclusions about the financial impact of legalization.

The Golden State is also known as a trendsetter with the power to break down stereotypes. Having pioneered medical marijuana in 1996, California is a leading exporter of cannabis policy and culture. If California legalizes, the way it goes about doing so will set a standard going forward for other local and national governments to follow.

"It really is the state that wags the tail of the nation, so if California's 55 senators and representatives in Congress were to be in favor of legalization, then it would be a total dynamic change," says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. Other states like Colorado and Washington give us models of how legalization can look, he continues, "but none of them has enough national sway so as to be the template for the rest of the country where possible."

California influences other states, as well the federal government. "We see California as a tipping point to end federal prohibition," says Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  If legalization passes, overnight a plurality of the United States population will reside within cannabis-legal states, and the federal government will be forced to reckon with the "marijuana question," she says. Moreover, California can make the biggest difference in regard to international drug cartels, especially in Mexico. "Colorado has begun to undermine the marijuana cartels, but I think [legalization] in California might cut their legs out from under them," Lyman adds.

California will become the new "gold standard" for legalization, she says. Other states can look to California for guidance on cannabis revenue allocation, community assessment, environmental protection, anti-monopoly provisions, drug education for juvenile possession of cannabis, expunging marijuana convictions and banning regulators from denying licenses to those with prior drug felonies.

First and foremost, the AUMA would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. In doing so, it would also herald a new economic program to offset the effects of prohibition and the Drug War. If passed, the measure would impose a 15 percent retail tax on cannabis, projected to generate up to $1 billion in revenue, as well as $100 million annual savings, to fund public university research on legalization ($10 million), DUI protocols ($3 million), medical cannabis research ($2 million) and support for communities most devastated by the Drug War ($50 million over five years). Everything left over would go to environmental cleanup from illegal grows (20 percent), law enforcement (20 percent) and youth drug prevention, treatment and education (60 percent)....

Additionally, people with prior marijuana convictions could petition to reduce or expunge them from their records — no matter whether they are still in jail, on probation or parole, or have already finished their sentences. "We see 2016 in some ways as potentially the last year where social justice drug policy reforms are leading the marijuana legalization battle, as this becomes a full-fledged industry," says Lyman. Capitalist motives could take charge, pushing socially conscious policy to the sidelines. If the AUMA fails, however, activists worry it could have a depressing effect on other legalization efforts and extend the end of prohibition. "Having California lose would be a tremendous setback," says Lyman. "We cannot afford to lose."...

Legalization in California opens up a conversation at national and international levels, says Chris Conrad, a court-qualified expert witness on marijuana, author and activist influential in shaping California's medical marijuana laws. Even if the AUMA isn't perfect, it's a starting point from which California and the nation can continue to see progress. "The initiative allows for more changes and improvements. Look at all this progress we made with marijuana illegal. Just think of what we can do when it's legal," he says.

Conrad points out that if California legalizes, the entire American West Coast from Alaska through Baja will have legal marijuana. (Canada will likely legalize in 2017, too.) "That's a huge chunk of the country, and it sends a message to the rest of the world that it's OK to do this," says Conrad. "Once California legalizes marijuana, people will say it's done. Remember we came from zero tolerance, and now we're talking about how much marijuana should a person be able to carry around legally. I think it's time to cash in some chips. It's a deal-breaker for the Drug War."

July 6, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 27, 2016

DC Department of Health issues big new report: "MARIJUANA in the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA"

Cl14w03WYAAlJOCThe District of Columbia is a unique locale with unique laws and practices in many arenas. But, as highilighted by a big new report issued by the DC's Deprtment of Health, the District's relationship with marijuana law, policy and reform has much in common with a number of other jurisdictions.  This big new report, available here, is titled "Marijuana in the District of Columbia," and here is the report's executive summary:

In recent years, marijuana related policies have gone through many transformations throughout the United States, with the District of Columbia being no exception.  This report provides insight through current research and data that outlines the disadvantage, benefits and societal ramifications that accompany decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia.  Factors that have been analyzed include short-term and long-term health consequences, public safety issues like driving while under the influence of the substance, marijuana’s co-use relationship with other drugs, and effects on fetal, infant, and adolescent development.

Highlights

• 53.8% of adults in the District have ever tried marijuana and 17.8% currently use it.

• Marijuana was the second most commonly detected drug in traffic accidents that resulted in fatalities, District of Columbia in 2012.

• Medical marijuana has demonstrated promising results for various ailments, including neuropathic pain, nausea due to chemotherapy, and muscle spasms.

• Short term marijuana-related effects can include cyclic vomiting, disorientation, impaired body movement, increased heart rate, and difficulty thinking or problem-solving.

• There is some evidence that marijuana use may increase cancer risk.

• Among individuals at risk for mental illness, marijuana use may worsen symptoms.

• 8.9% of marijuana users will transition from casual use to dependence.

• Cigarette use and binge drinking are significantly higher among marijuana users than nonusers.

• Marijuana use among expecting mothers has demonstrated various adverse effects, including low birth weight and pre-term delivery.

• Marijuana use has been associated with a decline in IQ when regularly used among individuals under the age of 18.

• Throughout the U.S., marijuana possession arrests tend to occur significantly more among African Americans than any other race/ ethnicity despite rates of use are fairly similar across all categories.

June 27, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Effective coverage of impact of marijuana reform on migration of poor and homeless to Colorado

Joel Warner has penned these two interesting and important new lengthy pieces about homelessness in Colorado and its intersection with marijuana reform:

Marijuana Legalization In Colorado: How Recreational Weed Is Attracting People, But Spiking The State’s Homeless Rate

Marijuana Legalization: Pot Brings Poor People To Colorado, But What’s Being Done To Help Them?

Here are brief excerpts from both articles (which ought to be read in full):

While much has been made of the tourists, entrepreneurs and investors lured to Colorado’s blossoming marijuana industry, very little attention has been paid to another population drawn to the state’s cannabis experiment: marijuana migrants moving to the state who wind up on the streets. Interviews with people at homeless shelters in Denver and other Colorado cities like Pueblo suggest that since Colorado launched its legalized cannabis system in 2014, the percentage of newcomers to the facilities who are there in part because of the lure of marijuana has swollen to 20 to 30 percent.

All told, several hundred marijuana migrants struggling with poverty appear to be arriving in Colorado each month. Some of them, like Butts, come to use cannabis recreationally or medically without the fear of arrest. Others are hoping to get jobs in the new industry. But many arrive to find homeless services stretched to the breaking point, local housing costs increasingly prohibitive and cannabis use laws that penalize those without private residences....

Homelessness experts point out that there’s no proof that marijuana leads to homelessness, or that cannabis is the main culprit behind the growing numbers. Study after study has concluded that the major factors leading to homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, inability to find work and family crises. “There is very little safety when you are homeless,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter in Aurora, near Denver. “How many people want to trade their safety for access to something like marijuana or any other substance?”

But there is evidence that people who were already struggling to get by in other states are relocating to Colorado in part because of marijuana. So far, however, research on the phenomenon has been limited. A survey of Denver shelter workers by Metropolitan State University in the fall of 2014 found that eight of the 11 shelters said they were seeing client increases due in part to marijuana, said lead researcher Rebecca Trammell, but the study did not examine what, exactly those increases looked like. Plus some shelters actively avoid asking about marijuana use....

Marty Otañez, a University of Colorado Denver anthropology professor who’s been studying the state’s marijuana industry, said he’s met multiple cannabis workers who are on their way to becoming homeless. It’s left him convinced that it’s time for people in charge of the industry to address the problem. “The flow of ‘trimmigrants’ and other cannabis workers into Colorado and the added pressure on homeless shelters and social services for unemployed or poorly paid cannabis workers is a symptom of the broader problem of cannabis capitalism gone awry,” said Otañez. “Nominal efforts to fund corporate social responsibility schemes demonstrate the lack of seriousness on the part of cannabis business people to address in any genuine way the social ills associated with green gold.”

With nearly a billion dollars in revenue and more than $135 million in statewide taxes and fees generated by Colorado marijuana sales last year, some shelter managers would like to see a portion of the proceeds devoted to homeless services. “If some of those dollars can go to serving those folks, it could really help people,” said Tom Luehrs, executive director of Denver’s St. Francis Center day shelter. “We are not saying we want to become rich; we just want to help these people because Colorado is doing something good and it’s bringing people here.”

So far, none of Colorado’s marijuana tax revenues have gone to homeless programs. That will soon change. In Aurora, the city council recently voted to earmark $1.5 million of marijuana tax proceeds for homeless services annually for the next three years. According to Nancy Sheffield, project manager for Aurora’s neighborhood services department, the decision wasn’t based on concerns that marijuana was increasing local homeless numbers; it’s simply a matter of allocating resources to high-priority issues.

Whatever the reason, homeless advocates celebrated the move. “It’s a brilliant move by Aurora,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the city's Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter. “It’s not every day that a municipality gets a new funding stream. To reinvest that to meet the needs of struggling families is a good moral imperative stand.”

June 22, 2016 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Colorado's Teen Marijuana Usage Dips after Legalization"

Logo-combined-Rev-05-06-15The title of this post is the headline of this new press report on a new Colorado government report about marijuana usage in the Centennial State.  Here are the details:

Marijuana consumption by Colorado high school students has dipped slightly since the state first permitted recreational cannabis use by adults, a new survey showed on Monday, contrary to concerns that legalization would increase pot use by teens.

The biannual poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also showed the percentage of high school students indulging in marijuana in Colorado was smaller than the national average among teens. According to the department, 21.2 percent of Colorado high school students surveyed in 2015 had used marijuana during the preceding 30 days, down from 22 percent in 2011, the year before voters statewide approved recreational cannabis use by adults 21 and older.  The first state-licensed retail outlets for legalized pot actually opened in 2014.

Nationwide, the rate of pot use by teens is slightly higher at 21.7 percent, the study found.  “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don't use marijuana, even occasionally,” the department said in a statement.

The department conducts the voluntary survey every two years in conjunction with the University of Colorado and a citizens advisory committee.  About 17,000 students responded to the poll....

A pro-legalization advocacy group said the findings show fears of widespread pot use by minors in states with legalized cannabis are unfounded.  "These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

But Diane Carlson, of SMART Colorado, an organization that pushes for tighter regulations to keep cannabis away from children, said data from a 2015 survey by the federal Department of Health and Human Services showed that Colorado ranks first in the nation for marijuana use by youth between the ages of 12 and 17.

Carlson said it was “deeply concerning” that the Colorado survey showed that just 48 percent of the students polled viewed regular marijuana use as a risky behavior.  "Youth marijuana use can have lifelong implications. The risks, which include psychosis, suicide, drug addiction and lower IQs, have been reported based on research on much lower THC potencies than are typically sold on Colorado's commercial market,” she said.

The survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and related materials can be accessed at this link, and this news release from the Department is sub-titled "Youth marijuana use unchanged, alcohol, tobacco use down in Colorado." I found especially interesteing this infographic headed "Marijuana Use Among Youth in Colorado."

June 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Big-stakes litigation over Michigan legalization initiative gets underway

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b8d1f1f27a970c-320wiI noted in this prior post a couple of weeks ago the legal battle shaping up over whether the ballot initiative effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan would actually get to the voters.  This new local article, headlined "Marijuana group sues Michigan for ballot access," reports that this legal battle is now officially before a court.  Here are the details:

A Michigan group seeking to put a marijuana legalization question on the November ballot is taking its fight to court. MI Legalize on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the state in the Michigan Court of Claims, challenging a law and policy that effectively invalidated its petition signatures collected outside of a customary 180-day window.

Attorneys Jeff Hank, Thomas Lavigne and Matthew Abel, members of the MI Legalize board, argue the law and policy are inconsistent with the Michigan Constitution, which allows for initiated petitions but does not specify a time limit for signature collection. The six-count complaint also contends rejecting older signatures denies voters their free speech and political expression rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“We’re just asking for our petitions to be treated like all the others so that anyone who signed as a registered voter has their voice heard,” Hank told The Detroit News. “The state doesn’t really have an argument for why they wouldn’t count someone’s signature if it’s legitimate.”

The suit has broad implications for MI Legalize and other ballot proposal committees in Michigan, where successful “citizen-initiated” petition drives typically rely on the financial and organizational backing of interest groups. “It’s going to be a historic Michigan elections law case that effects not just us but everybody else,” Hank said. “If we’re successful in this, other campaigns will have a longer time to petition. This isn’t just a marijuana issue anymore, it’s a voting rights and ballot access issue.”

MI Legalize, an activist-led group that used a combination of volunteer and paid petition circulators, submitted an estimated 354,000 signatures to the state on June 1, topping the 252,523 needed to qualify for the ballot. But 146,413 of the signatures were collected within 180 days of the filing, according to an initial Bureau of Elections staff review, prompting the Board of State Canvassers to vote against certifying the proposal for the November ballot.

MI Legalize is asking for expedited review by the Court of Claims, including a restraining order against the 180-day collection law and an order for the Bureau of Elections to move forward with a full canvass of the group’s submitted petitions....

Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a new law strengthening the 180-day window requirement for petition drives to initiate legislation or amend the state constitution. The law had allowed petitioners to “rebut” the presumption that older signatures were “stale and void,” but the process for proving their validity was laborious and had never been successfully completed. The 1986 Board of State Canvassers policy required petitioners to secure affidavits from local elections clerks across the state confirming that signers were still registered to vote in their respective counties.

MI Legalize had asked the state to update by the policy by allowing registration verification through the Qualified Voter File database, but the Board of State Canvassers did not approve a Bureau of Elections recommendation. The Michigan Supreme Court in 1986 upheld the 180-day signature window for petitions to amend the state constitution, but the MI Legalize complaint focuses on petition drives for initiated legislation. The lawsuit filed Thursday challenges the old law as well as the new version signed this month by Snyder that eliminated the signature rehabilitation option, requesting a declaration that both are unconstitutional.

MI Legalize is also seeking monetary damages of up to $1.1 million plus other costs and punitive relief if its signatures are not fully canvassed. The group had reported raising $849,000 through April 20.

June 17, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Interesting legal battle already emerging in Michigan about whether legalization initiative will get to voters in November 2016

Download (17)As reported in this local article, headlined "Petitions to legalize marijuana to face likely fight," the submission of hundreds of thousands of signatures in Michigan is likely to kick off even more uncertainty about whether voters in the state will get a chance this fall to vote on full legalization of marijuana. Here are just some of the intricacies of what should be an interesting story to follow:

Leaders of a statewide group who want recreational marijuana legalized in Michigan turned in 354,000 signatures Wednesday on petitions aimed at putting a question before voters on November ballots.  As with nearly every step in the controversial, year-long effort of fund-raising and petition passing, the next stage in the battle to be on the ballot is fraught with unknowns.  There likely will be lawsuits, administrative roadblocks in Lansing and even lawmakers' challenges that could derail the effort.

The key issue? Although a state formula required the group to gather 252,523 signatures to qualify for ballots and the petitioners turned in far more, a majority of signatures likely will be deemed invalid. That's because state law says that any signature gathered more than 180 days before being filed with the state is presumed to be “stale and void,” unless the petitioner can prove otherwise. Leaders of the drive said they’ve offered ample proof and they’re prepared to make it stick — in court, if necessary.

Opposing the ballot proposal and the legalization of marijuana in Michigan have been virtually all law enforcement officials and police groups, as well as many educators and youth drug-abuse prevention groups such as the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families, which used a federal grant to launch Mobilizing Michigan — a kit of education materials to tell young people about the dangers of marijuana.  The kit has been sent to scores of high schools across Michigan, according to the group’s website....

But the prospect of a lawsuits or other roadblocks wasn't dimming the hopes of Debra Young of Oak Park, who was one of what she said “had to be thousands” of volunteers working in every county of Michigan on behalf of having Michigan join Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana.  “I’ve been gathering signatures since day one. I probably got 3,000 myself, personally,” said Young, a longtime user of medical marijuana to treat her glaucoma. She’s a board member of the campaign, called the Committee for MILegalize.

“Finally, we can de-stress,” she said Thursday. “We had fund-raisers.  We had outreach. We were at every major event — ball games, concerts at DTE Energy (Music Theatre), festivals. I’ve been working on this literally every minute possible for a year,” Young said.

Because the 180-day limit for gathering signatures is a vague and untested area in state law, seen by many as unenforceable, a majority of state legislators passed a bill last month making it explicit law. But the bill wasn't presented to Gov. Rick Snyder until Wednesday — the very day that MiLegalize petitions were turned in, according to the Cannabis Law Blog of the Dykema Gossett law firm in Detroit.

Snyder had yet to sign the bill, but even if he does, “We don’t see how it would apply retroactively to us,” said Jeff Hank, a Lansing lawyer who chaired the MILegalize campaign.  He readily admitted that MILegalize has circulated petitions “for about 11 months,” about five months longer than the 180-day window cited in state law, he said. Still, the same law allows a committee to prove that a stale signature is valid — that is, it still refers to a registered voter at the address listed at the moment the signature is submitted to state officials.

“We used the state’s own records to validate most of our signatures. We’re confident that we have the 253,000 or so that we need,” Hank said. Moreover, the dispute is about more than marijuana, Hank said.  "It’s about the average citizen's ability to directly participate in our form of government,” he said.  Gathering signatures to put a question on election ballots “was meant to be used by the citizens when the system isn’t responding to them, and we all know that state government has absolutely not been responsive to Michigan voters on some key issues,” he said....

A spokesman for the state Bureau of Elections confirmed Thursday that MILegalize submitted “an estimated 354,000 signatures” on Wednesday.  Now comes a waiting game for both those who favor and those who oppose legalizing cannabis in Michigan.  “The review and verification process will take at least two months before a report is made to the Board of State Canvassers," Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said.  Sometime after that, with no scheduled date, "the board will vote on whether enough valid signatures were filed," Woodhams said Thursday.

Although leaders of the petition campaign said that the two-month wait seems excessive, that much time is needed for state officials to verify the signatures, Woodhams said. The two months "also includes a time period for challenges to be filed against the signatures by members of the public,” he said. 

June 3, 2016 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)