Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Illinois lawmakers propose legalizing recreational marijuana"

Despite lingering uncertainty about enforcement of federal drug law under the Trump Administration, marijuana reform continues in the states. Yesterday, legislators in Illinois introduced bills that would legalize small amounts of marijuana. According to The  Chicago Tribune:

Lawmakers are proposing to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois but say the legislation probably won't come up for a vote until next year.

 

Sponsors on Wednesday introduced bills that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow and buy limited amounts of marijuana.

 

The state would license and regulate businesses to grow, process and sell the plant, and it would establish safety regulations such as testing and labeling requirements, sponsors said.

 

The measure would also allow residents to possess up to 28 grams of pot, or about an ounce, and to grow five plants.

 

The bills propose taxing marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce wholesale, plus the state's standard 6.25 percent sales tax.

 

Based on sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates sales in Illinois could generate about $350 million to $700 million per year.

 

Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan reserved judgment, as they typically do with new bills. But the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposes legalization, saying marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety, and causes potential enforcement problems because it conflicts with the federal prohibition on marijuana.

 

The co-sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Democrats from Chicago's North Side, said they don't plan to call the bill for a vote this session but will hold hearings to get feedback and see whether some version of a legalization bill can get support next year.

 

"If we bring this out in the open, we can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market," Steans said.

 

Cassidy said marijuana prohibition creates far more problems than it prevents. "Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer," she said.

 

Eight states have allowed the sale of the drug, generally by referendum. But in Illinois, it's very difficult to get a binding vote on the statewide ballot, so it probably would take legislative action to change the law.

 

If approved, the plan would make Illinois the first state in the Midwest to allow the general public, including out-of-state visitors, to buy marijuana, though it would remain illegal to transport it across state lines. The proposal also calls for dividing the tax revenue, with half going to the state's general fund and the rest to schools and drug abuse treatment and prevention.

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Congressional Research Service report on "The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward"

The folks at the Congressional Research Service do a terrific job summarizing complicated law and policy issues for members of Congress, and their latest marijuana publication is no exception. This latest CRS report is titled "The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward," and it covers an amazing amount of marijuana law and policy in under 50 pages. Here are excerpts from its summary:

Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana — all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  As of March 2017, nearly 90% of the states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, allow for the medical use of marijuana in some capacity.  Also, eight states and the District of Columbia now allow for some recreational use of marijuana.  These developments have spurred a number of questions regarding their potential implications for federal law enforcement activities and for the nation’s drug policies as a whole.

Thus far, the federal response to state actions to decriminalize or legalize marijuana largely has been to allow states to implement their own laws on marijuana.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) has nonetheless reaffirmed that marijuana growth, possession, and trafficking remain crimes under federal law irrespective of states’ positions on marijuana. Rather than targeting individuals for drug use and possession, federal law enforcement has generally focused its counterdrug efforts on criminal networks involved in the drug trade.

While the majority of the American public supports marijuana legalization, some have voiced apprehension over possible negative implications.  Opponents’ concerns include, but are not limited to, the potential impact of legalization on (1) marijuana use, particularly among youth; (2) road incidents involving marijuana-impaired drivers; (3) marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized it into neighboring states that have not; and (4) U.S. compliance with international treaties.  Proponents of legalization have been encouraged by potential outcomes that could result from marijuana legalization, including a new source of tax revenue for states and a decrease in marijuana-related arrests.  Many of these potential implications are yet to be fully measured.

Given the current marijuana policy gap between the federal government and many of the states, there are a number of issues that Congress may address.  These include, but are not limited to, issues surrounding availability of financial services for marijuana businesses, federal tax treatment, oversight of federal law enforcement, allowance of states to implement medical marijuana laws and involvement of federal health care workers, and consideration of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. The marijuana policy gap has widened each year for some time.

March 16, 2017 in 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 (2)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why it Matters"

The title of this post is the title of a notable new report issued by National Families in Action. The report can be downloaded at this link, and this press release about the report provides a summary of its themes and core contents:

A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favor legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana.  NFIA is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.

The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period.  The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal.  The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states.  The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent — sometimes by hundreds of times — the people who opposed marijuana.

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs.  And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot.  In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).

March 15, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, 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)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pennsylvania's Auditor General suggests marijuana legalization could help state close budget deficit

Regulating Marijuana FINALA notable bean-counter is making a notable case for marijuana reform in the Keystone State. This official press release, headlined "Auditor General DePasquale Recommends Regulating, Taxing Marijuana as Right Move to Help Deal with Critical Issues: Result would bring in revenue, create jobs, reduce corrections costs," explains:

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today Pennsylvania should strongly consider regulating and taxing marijuana to benefit from a booming industry expected to be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 in the next decade. “The regulation and taxation of the marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” DePasquale said during a news conference at the state capitol.

“I make this recommendation because it is a more sane policy to deal with a critical issue facing the state. Other states are already taking advantage of the opportunity for massive job creation and savings from reduced arrests and criminal prosecutions. In addition, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that could help tackle Pennsylvania’s budget problems.”...

In 2012, Colorado voters approved legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. Last year, Colorado – which has less than half the population of Pennsylvania – brought in $129 million in tax revenue on $1 billion in marijuana sales from the new industry that had already created an estimated 18,000 jobs. “The revenue that could be generated would help address Pennsylvania’s revenue and spending issue. But there is more to this than simply tax dollars and jobs,” DePasquale said. “There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional, and financial devastation that may result from such arrests.”

In Colorado’s experience, after regulation and taxation of marijuana, the total number of marijuana arrests decreased by nearly half between 2012 and 2014, from nearly 13,000 arrests to 7,000 arrests. Marijuana possession arrests, which make up the majority of all marijuana arrests, were nearly cut in half, down 47 percent, and marijuana sales arrests decreased by 24 percent. “All told, this decrease in arrest numbers represent thousands of people who would otherwise have blemished records that could prevent them from obtaining future employment or even housing,” DePasquale said. “Decriminalization also generates millions in savings from fewer arrests and prosecutions.”

DePasquale said Pennsylvania has already benefited by some cities decriminalizing marijuana. In Philadelphia, marijuana arrests went from 2,843 in 2014 to 969 in 2016. Based on a recent study, the RAND Corporation estimated the cost for each marijuana arrest and prosecution is approximately $2,200. Using those figures, that’s a savings of more than $4.1 million in one Pennsylvania city. Last year, York, Dauphin, Chester, Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties each had more arrests for small amounts of marijuana than Philadelphia. Those counties had between 800 and 1,400 arrests in 2015.

“Obviously, regulation and taxation of marijuana is not something that should be entered into lightly,” DePasquale said. “Should Pennsylvania join the growing number of states benefiting financially and socially from the taxation and regulation of marijuana; there are many things to consider, including details about age limits, regulatory oversight, licensing, grow policies, sale and use locations, and possession limitations.

“As I said earlier, the train has indeed left the station on the regulation and taxation of marijuana,” DePasquale said. “It is time for this commonwealth to seriously consider this opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.”

March 6, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"Recreational Cannabis — Minimizing the Health Risks from Legalization"

Nejmp1614783_f1The title of this post is the title of this notable new piece by RAND's Beau Kilmer appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Here are excerpts from the start and end of a useful short commentary:

The cannabis-policy landscape is undergoing dramatic change. Although many jurisdictions have removed criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis and more than half of U.S. states allow physicians to recommend it to patients, legalizing the supply and possession of cannabis for nonmedical purposes is a very different public policy.  Since the November 2016 election, 20% of the U.S. population lives in states that have passed ballot initiatives to allow companies to sell cannabis for any reason and adults 21 or older to purchase it.  Although other states may move toward legalization, uncertainty abounds because of the federal prohibition on cannabis.  The Obama administration tolerated these state laws; it’s unclear what the Trump administration will do.

There is also tremendous uncertainty about the net effect of cannabis legalization on public health.  Most adults who occasionally use cannabis find it pleasurable and don’t experience substantial problems.  There is a growing body of research on the medical benefits of consuming cannabis flowers or extracts, and legalization should make it easier to study the therapeutic potential and allow access for patients who could benefit.

But cannabis use comes with important risks.  For example, cannabis intoxication impairs cognitive and psychomotor function, and there’s strong evidence that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis, increases the risk of psychotic symptoms or panic attacks.  Approximately 9% of people who try cannabis meet criteria for cannabis dependence at some point.  The rate roughly doubles for those who initiate use before 17 years of age and is much higher for adolescents who use cannabis weekly or more often....

Jurisdictions considering legalizing cannabis for nonmedical purposes will have to make several decisions that could have profound consequences for public health.  For example, decision makers will have to determine how cannabis will be supplied (see diagram Continuum of Recreational Cannabis Supply Options.).  Allowing sales by for-profit companies is only one option.  Since daily and near-daily cannabis users account for the vast majority of cannabis expenditures, many businesses will target and attempt to expand the number of heavy users. Experiences with alcohol and tobacco suggest that profit-maximizing firms and their lobbyists will eventually fight to weaken regulations intended to protect health.

Even if states allow for-profit companies to produce cannabis, local governments could limit retail sales to nonprofit organizations or sell the drug through a government monopoly.  Jurisdictions less focused on generating tax revenue could simply permit home production and gifting (as Washington, D.C., does) or allow user cooperatives (an option offered in Uruguay).

Second, jurisdictions will have to decide how cannabis should be priced.  The post-legalization retail price of cannabis will not only influence revenues and the size of the illicit market, it will also affect consumption. Legalizing cannabis can dramatically reduce production and distribution costs for at least three reasons: suppliers no longer have to be compensated for the risk of seizure and arrest; it allows producers to take advantage of economies of scale; and it makes it easier to incorporate new technologies into the production process.  Jurisdictions seeking to ensure that cannabis retail prices don’t drop precipitously have many options.  For example, they could limit production, impose costly regulations on suppliers, require a minimum price, or levy an excise tax.

Third, jurisdictions will need to decide whether to update their prevention messaging — and whether prevention campaigns will start before legal cannabis is available.  They could target young people with such messages to counter commercial promotion where it’s allowed and encourage adults to talk to them about the effects of cannabis, especially on driving.  Prevention also includes efforts to limit access and exposure to cannabis products. Policymakers can learn important lessons about prevention from research on alcohol and tobacco.

Fourth, given the dearth of information about the consequences associated with high-potency cannabis products and our inability to measure cannabis impairment, risk-averse policymakers may consider initially limiting access to certain types of products or imposing a cap on products’ THC content.  Another option, offered by Stanford social psychologist Robert MacCoun and others, is to tax cannabis according to THC content, thereby giving jurisdictions a lever to nudge users toward lower-potency products.

Finally, since each supply option has trade-offs, some jurisdictions may want to start with a middle-ground option before embracing a for-profit model (see diagram).  One strategy is to implement a sunset clause allowing policymakers to decide after a predetermined period whether to maintain the status quo or switch approaches. Since no one knows the best way to tax or regulate cannabis, creating flexible rules would make it easier to make midcourse corrections and incorporate new research and other insights into policies.

Although public health outcomes are clearly important, they aren’t the only considerations when setting cannabis policy.  The costs of enforcing prohibition, racial and ethnic disparities in cannabis arrests, the size of the illicit market, impact on public budgets, and nonmedical benefits of using cannabis (e.g., pleasure, stress relief) are just a few of the other issues that warrant discussion.  In addition, we should be skeptical of people who claim to know what the net effect of cannabis legalization on public health will be.  Much will depend on implementation decisions, but jurisdictions’ ability to minimize health risks will also depend on how they respond to new information and other sources of uncertainty.

February 25, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nevada lawmakers seemingly moving quickly to make recreational marijuana reform operational

Nevada-marijuana-billIn Massachusetts and Maine and even in California there have been various moves made by various state officials and politicians to slow the process and progress of implementing 2016 ballot initiatives that legalized recreational marijuana in those states.  But the state-level implementation story seems quite different in Nevada according to this new local article headlined "Nevada officials fast track plan to regulate recreational marijuana." Here are the details:

State officials plan to move quickly with a task force for regulating recreational marijuana, the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee heard Wednesday. The first steps will be putting temporary regulations in place by July to allow medical marijuana establishments to sell recreational marijuana. By the end of the year, permanent regulations are to be in place.

In the world of state government, that is a fast-tracked process for completing regulations. It can take a year or so for that to happen. “The idea is that we would get going pretty quickly,” said Deonne Contine, executive director of the Nevada Department of Taxation.

In November, Nevada voters approved Question 2, which legalized recreational marijuana and tasked the state’s Department of Taxation with developing regulations to guide the new industry. Recreational marijuana has a strong place in the budget plans of Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has proposed a 10 percent tax on the retail recreational marijuana sales to generate an estimated $70 million for public education.

The state is piggybacking on its medical marijuana program, which started in 2014. The temporary program will allow licensed medical marijuana establishments to sell recreational marijuana. Those licenses will be good until Dec. 31, or 30 days after permanent regulations are in place, whichever is first. To get temporary regulations in place, the state will have a public workshop in mid-March followed by an adoption hearing on May 8 at the Nevada Tax Commission meeting. The state would start accepting applications for temporary licenses in May and begin issuing them on July 1.

During that time, the legwork for the permanent regulations will be underway. Sandoval issued an executive order this week for a 16-member statewide task force to develop regulations, with input from local government, public safety and public health officials. That task force will meet monthly between February and April and issue a report in May. The goal is to send a draft of permanent regulations to the Legislative Counsel Bureau for review in July. That will be followed by a public workshop in the fall and adoption by December.

February 9, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Detailing regulatory realities and challenges for marijuana reform states

Sln_jan27_mapA busy week prevented me from finding time earlier to blog about this notable Stateline piece headlined "As More Voters Legalize Marijuana, States Left With Regulatory Hurdles."  Here are some highlights:

The battle to legally grow, sell, buy and smoke pot in California has been a long one. Voters in the state ushered in medical marijuana 20 years ago, but took until last fall to approve a plan to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.

Now, California officials are faced with setting rules for a product that has been outlawed by the federal government since the 1930s — a challenge that lawmakers and regulators in the other states that chose some form of marijuana legalization in the November election also are confronting.

Like California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana. They also will need rules about where pot shops can be located and whether dispensaries can sell food and candy infused with marijuana. They will also have to dovetail their recreational regulations with an existing medical marijuana industry, while Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota will be building medical systems from the ground up.

It could take several years. Colorado and Washington paved the way for recreational marijuana by legalizing it in 2012, but they are still sorting out policy details.

There is often a gap between the language of ballot measures like California’s and the detailed regulations needed to get marijuana markets off the ground. And the referendums that voters approve often call for quick implementation, giving legislators and regulators little or no time to enact policies before the drug becomes legal. “There’s no perfect implementation, there’s no perfect legalization effort,” said Michael Correia, a federal lobbyist for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “There’s going to be hiccups.”...

Arkansas and Massachusetts already are discovering the difficulty of setting up a regulatory system. Arkansas has delayed the launch of its medical marijuana program to give public agencies more time to prepare and lawmakers have introduced bills to restrict how the drug is used. Massachusetts lawmakers delayed the opening of marijuana shops by six months and proposed bills that would limit how much can be grown and possessed.

States also face banking challenges, licensing skirmishes and drugged driving debates. But despite all the difficulties, more states are expected to jump into the legalization fray. Already this year, at least 12 states are considering legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana. Another seven are looking at measures to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and nearly 30 ballot measures related to marijuana are being considered for elections in 2017 and 2018....

Three years after marijuana could first be bought and sold in Colorado, officials are still working through regulatory changes. This year already, bills have been introduced that would create a licensing system for marijuana smoking clubs, prohibit advertising marijuana without a sales license, and allow the use of medical marijuana for stress disorders.

Similarly in Washington, which legalized marijuana on the ballot in 2012, lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow retailers to sell marijuana merchandise like clothing that bears a store’s logo, regulate in-home marijuana production, and standardize the packaging and labeling of edible marijuana products....

One test of how well legalized marijuana is working will be when California, with about 39 million people and the sixth largest economy in the world, opens its recreational marijuana shops. Market researchers estimate that the California cannabis market will grow by 18.5 percent annually over the next five years, reaching $6.5 billion by 2020. By comparison, revenue in Massachusetts and Nevada, which also legalized recreational marijuana in November, is expected to be about $1.07 billion and $629.5 million, respectively.

But regulating the California market won’t be easy. Already there are rumblings of pushing implementation back a year from 2018 to 2019. And it won’t be entirely up to the state. Local governments will have a lot of say in determining when and where marijuana is bought and consumed.

February 3, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Textbook on Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority

I’m happy to announce that my first-of-its-kind textbook on Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority will soon be published by Aspen. It will be out in April (in e form) and May (in print). The teacher’s manual and a companion website will be available soon thereafter. Many thanks to Doug and others who have provided helpful feedback on this book over the last 2.5 years!

The book covers a lot of ground, befitting a field that implicates so many different areas of law. The first chapter of the book is now available on SSRN. That chapter provides more details about the book’s coverage and approach, and it also explains why this is such an interesting and worthwhile area of law to study – and not just for those who are interested in practicing in this burgeoning field.

Not coincidentally, I will be posting more this month (both here and at Prawfsblawg) on topics drawn from the book. My first post at Prawfsblawg briefly laid out the case for teaching and writing about marijuana law. Even though most people who read this blog are already sold on the subject, I’ll copy the relevant passage here:

“For one thing, state marijuana reforms and the federal response to them have sparked some of the most challenging and interesting legal controversies of our day. May the states legalize a drug while Congress forbids it? Even so, are state regulations governing marijuana preempted by federal law? Does anyone (besides the DOJ) have a cause of action to challenge them as such? Can the President suspend enforcement of the federal ban? Do state restrictions on marijuana industry advertising violate the First Amendment? These are just a handful of the intriguing questions that are now being confronted in this field.

Just as importantly, there is a large and growing number of people who care about the answers to such questions. Forty-three (43) states and the District of Columbia have legalized possession and use of some form of marijuana by at least some people. These reforms – not to mention the prohibitions that remain in place at the federal level – affect a staggering number of people. Roughly 40% of adults in the U.S. have tried marijuana, and more than 22 million people use the drug regularly. To supply this demand, thousands of people are growing and selling marijuana. In Colorado alone, for example, there are more than 600 state licensed marijuana suppliers. There are also countless third parties who regularly deal with these users and suppliers, including physicians who recommend marijuana to patients, banks that provide payment services to the marijuana industry, firms that employ marijuana users, and lawyers who advise all of the above.

All of these people need help navigating a thicket of complicated and oftentimes conflicting laws governing marijuana. Colorado, for example, has promulgated more than 200 pages of regulations to govern its $1 billion a year licensed marijuana industry. Among many other things, Colorado’s regulations require suppliers to carefully track their inventories, test and label their products, and limit where and how they advertise. These regulations are complicated enough but doubts about their enforceability (highlighted in the questions above) only add to the confusion and the need for informed legal advice.”

In the coming weeks, I will blog about some of the questions noted above. In the meantime, if you are interested in teaching a course or a unit on any aspect of marijuana law, contact me – robert<dot>mikos<at>vanderbilt<dot>edu -- I would be happy to chat.

February 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Books, Business laws and regulatory issues, Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two notable new pieces from two notable marijuana reform states (co-authored by two notable former students who took my OSU College of Law marijuana seminar)

One of many reasons I have been bullish on teaching marijuana reform at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is because I view the new marijuana reform universe to be a particularly exciting potential "growth industry" for junior lawyers.  For that reason (and others), I was so very pleased to see this week the publication of these two (very different) pieces discussing marijuana reform developments in two (very different) states that were both co-authored by students who took my marijuana reform class. Here are links to the pieces and their starting paragraphs:

From California here, "Reclassifying Marijuana Convictions on Your Criminal Record Under California's New Proposition 64," a piece co-authored by Cat Packer, who is now a policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance based in California.

On November 8, 2016, Californians took a major step towards ending the war on drugs and repairing some of the damage inflicted on people’s lives by marijuana prohibition, by passing Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Although, the most serious marijuana-related crimes such as providing marijuana to minors, or attempting to smuggle marijuana across state lines remain felonies, under Prop. 64, most marijuana-related misdemeanors and felonies have been reduced or altogether eliminated. These sweeping reductions in criminal penalties are retroactive, meaning past convictions for marijuana offenses reduced or eliminated under Prop. 64 can be reclassified on a criminal record with the courts for free.

From Pennsylvania here, "Medical Marijuana Comes to Pennsylvania: What to Expect As the Keystone State Rolls Out its New Medical Marijuana Program," a piece co-authored by Kelly M. Flanigan, an Associate at K&L Gates

A lack of consensus regarding both medical and recreational marijuana has sparked intense debate across the country. Combined with federal law prohibitions, the state-by-state mosaic creates a dynamic legal landscape. Marijuana remains illegal federally and retains its classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  However, 26 states and the District of Columbia have enacted state laws legalizing marijuana in some form.  On April 17, 2016, Pennsylvania joined other states that have recognized some medical use for marijuana when Governor Tom Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act (“Act 16”) into law.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) is charged with implementing Act 16, and it promptly developed the medical marijuana program.  The DOH has been rolling out temporary regulations (three sets so far) and it anticipates that medical marijuana will become available in Pennsylvania in early 2018.  The first critical date for those interested in becoming a medical marijuana organization is January 17, 2017, when the DOH releases its applications for grower/processors and dispensaries through its website.

January 19, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, 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, January 13, 2017

"Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new article from The Hill.   Here are excerpts:

Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced measures to loosen laws restricting access to or criminalizing marijuana, a rush of legislative activity that supporters hope reflects a newfound willingness by public officials to embrace a trend toward legalization.

The gamut covered by measures introduced in the early days of legislative sessions underscores the patchwork approach to marijuana by states across the country — and the possibility that the different ways states treat marijuana could come to a head at the federal Justice Department, where President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general is a staunch opponent of legal pot.

Some states are taking early steps toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. In his State of the State address this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he will push legislation to remove criminal penalties for non-violent offenders caught with marijuana.  “The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo’s office wrote to legislators.  “The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana.  Legislation has passed the Republican-led state House in recent years, though it died when Sununu’s predecessor, now-Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), said she did not support the move.

Several states are considering allowing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states already have widespread medical marijuana schemes, and this year legislators in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have introduced bills to create their own versions. Republicans in control of state legislatures in most of those states are behind the push.

Legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey will consider recently introduced measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

There is little consensus on just how to approach legalization: Three different bills have been introduced in Connecticut’s legislature.  Two have been introduced in New Mexico, and three measures to allow medical pot have been filed in Missouri.

In 2016, voters in four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California — joined Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado in passing ballot measures legalizing pot for recreational purposes. Those efforts, marijuana reform advocates say, have lifted the stigma legislators might have felt. “Now that voters in a growing number of states have proven that this is a mainstream issue, many more lawmakers feel emboldened to champion marijuana reform, whereas historically this issue was often looked at as a marginalized or third-rail issue,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

Just because measures get introduced does not mean they will advance. In many cases, Angell said, it is governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — who stand in the way. Though Democrats control the Connecticut legislature, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has made clear he is no supporter of legalized pot. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has not said he would veto a legalization bill, though he is far less friendly to the idea than his predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin.

In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has called decriminalizing marijuana a “horrible, horrible idea.” Democratic legislators are considering a plan to put legal marijuana to voters, by proposing an amendment to the state constitution. If New Jersey legislators advance a legalization law, they would run into an almost certain veto from Gov. Chris Christie (R).

While 14 state legislatures have legalized marijuana for medical use, no state legislature has passed a measure legalizing pot for recreational use. “Every year, we’ve seen legalizers throw everything at the wall to see what might stick,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “I’m not surprised by any means. I don’t think there’s much appetite to legalize through the legislature.”...

In Washington, the incoming Trump administration has sent signals that encourage, and worry, both supporters and opponents of looser pot rules. The Obama Justice Department issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys downplaying the importance of prosecuting crimes relating to marijuana in states where it is legal.

Trump’s nominee to head the next Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has been sharply critical of states that have legalized marijuana. In his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said current guidelines, known as the Cole memo, are “truly valuable.”

Marijuana industry advocates seized on those comments in hopes of locking Sessions into maintaining the status quo. “The current federal policy, as outlined by the Cole memo, has respected carefully designed state regulatory programs while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

January 13, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Free marijuana to be handed out Inauguration Day"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article that reports that the "DC Cannabis Coalition says it plans to hand out thousands of joints of marijuana on Inauguration Day — for free — to urge federal legalization of pot." Here is more:

The group plans to start handing out joints at 8 a.m. Jan. 20 on the west side of Dupont Circle in the nation's capital, where recreational marijuana is legal.  Then, marchers will walk to the National Mall where the real protest will begin.

"The main message is it’s time to legalize cannabis at the federal level," said Adam Eidinger, the founder of DCMJ, a group of D.C. residents who introduced and helped get Initiative 71 passed in the District.  Initiative 71 made it legal to possess 2 ounces or less or marijuana, to grow it, and to give it away, but it is not legal to sell it.

Eidinger is worried, though, that all this progress will be lost with the incoming administration, specifically, with President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. "We are looking at a guy who as recently as April said that they are going to enforce federal law on marijuana all over the country. He said marijuana is dangerous," Eidinger said.

The great marijuana giveaway is legal, as long as it's done on D.C. land. "We don't want any money exchanged whatsoever.  This is really a gift for people who come to Washington, D.C.," he said.

There will 4,200 gifts, to be exact.  Then, at 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump's speech (420 is the internationally known code for weed), protesters are encouraged to light up.  That part, is most definitely illegal.  "We are going to tell them that if they smoke on federal property, they are risking arrest. But, that's a form of civil disobedience," said Eidinger. "I think it's a good protest. If someone wants to do it, they are risking arrest, but it's a protest and you know what, the National Mall is a place for protest."

Eidinger said this is not an anti-Trump event, or even an attempt at disrupting the ceremony. Everyone is welcome....  Eidinger said the DC Cannabis Coalition is hopeful the new administration will not be a problem, but they are preparing for the worst.

January 4, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New survey finds Washington teens perceive less risk from marijuana use

A recent study reveals that Washington teens' view of the harmfulness of marijuana has decreased since the state legalized the drug for recreational use by adults in 2012. They're also reportedly using it more. According to this Reuters article:

For the new study, the researchers used data from a national survey of 253,902 teens in grades eight, 10 and 12. The survey, conducted between 2010 and 2015, included questions about how harmful adolescents perceived marijuana to be and whether they had used it within the past month.

 

In Washington state, eighth graders' perception of marijuana's harmfulness fell by about 14 percent from before legalization (2010 to 2012) to afterward (2013 to 2015). Similarly, among 10th graders, the perception of harmfulness decreased about 16 percent.

 

Additionally, the proportion of kids reporting marijuana use in the previous month rose 2 percent among eighth graders and about 4 percent among 10th graders over that same period.

 

Those changes were significant when the researchers compared them to states that hadn't legalized recreational marijuana, where teens' perception of harm fell by 5 to 7 percent and their use of the drug only increased about 1 percent.

 

There were no significant changes in perceived marijuana harmfulness or use among 12th graders in Washington, however. The researchers speculate that older students may already have a fully formed opinion of marijuana.

 

Additionally, the researchers didn't see any significant before-and-after-legalization differences among students in Colorado. Possibly, they say, this might be because adolescents there were exposed to a robust medical marijuana industry before its recreational use was legalized.

The findings on teen usage are particularly interesting given the recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health numbers showing a substantial decrease in marijuana use by Colorado teens since that state began selling legal weed in 2014. As The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reported:

The state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 18.35 percent of Coloradans ages 12 to 17 had used marijuana in the past year in 2014 or 2015, down sharply from 20.81 percent in 2013/2014. (In this survey, years are paired for state-level data to provide larger sample sizes). That works out to roughly a 12 percent drop in marijuana use, year-over-year.

 

Year-over-year teen marijuana use fell in most states during that time period, including in Washington, the other state to open recreational marijuana markets in 2014. But that drop wasn't statistically significant...

 

This federal data released this week is the first clear evidence of a drop in teen marijuana use in Colorado following legalization. Legalization supporters have long argued that the best way to prevent underage marijuana use is to legalize and regulate the drug.

January 1, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Masschusetts legislature moves quickly in order to move slower on allowing retail marijuana sales

As reported in this local article, "Massachusetts lawmakers quietly shuttled a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk delaying the implementation of recreational marijuana by six months." Here is more:

The bill does not affect the provisions that are already in effect: Personal possession inside and outside a person's primary residence, as well as home growing. Those provisions went into effect on Dec. 15, 2016. Under the new law voters passed in November, retail pot shops were likely to open in 2018, after the set-up of a Cannabis Control Commission.

But the bill on its way to Baker's desk changes the deadlines for the commission to draft and approve regulations, vet applicants and issue retail licenses for selling and cultivation. The commission was originally due to be set up by March 2017. The Massachusetts House and Senate passed the bill on Wednesday. Marijuana legalization advocates have repeatedly called for the timelines and deadlines to stay the same, saying they are doable.

"The legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety. This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law," Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said in a statement. "Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country," he added, referring to states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

December 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lots of notable headlines from lots of notable 2016 marijuana reform states

As regular readers know, 2016 was a banner year for marijuana reform.  Specifically, in addition to eight states in which voters enacted significant recreational or medical marijuana reforms by ballot initiatives, two important "rust-belt, swing-states," Ohio and Pennsylvania, enacted medical marijuana reforms via the traditional legislative process.  Here is a round-up of some recent notable news from a number of these states:

From Alaska here, "Downtown Anchorage retail marijuana store opens up shop"

From California here, "Legalization is opening doors for new marijuana entrepreneurs. Are we about to see a pot gold rush?"

From Florida here, "Medical marijuana questions linger after Amendment 2"

From Maine here, "Recount bid ends, clearing way for legal marijuana in Maine"

From Montana here, "Hundreds of patients apply for medical marijuana after court ruling"

From Nevada here, "How will legalized recreational marijuana affect the gaming industry?"

From Ohio here, "Survey finds Ohio physicians not yet sold on medical marijuana"

From Pennsylvania here, "Pa. senator says he used medical marijuana despite ban"

December 18, 2016 in 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)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"It’s official: Marijuana is legal in Massachusetts"

The title of this post is the headline of this Boston Globe article, which gets started this way:

It was 1911.  The New England Watch and Ward Society (née the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice) was battling against drugs and other “special evils.”  And in April of that year, the group’s leaders successfully petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature to outlaw possession of several “hypnotic drugs,” including cannabis.

One hundred five years, seven months, and 16 days later — Thursday — marijuana became legal again in Massachusetts.  The Governor’s Council, a Colonial-era body that vets judges and accepts election tabulations, on Wednesday formally certified the results of a ballot question that allows marijuana for recreational use.

The initiative passed last month with 1.8 million people voting for the measure, despite the opposition of top politicians, the Catholic Church, doctors and business groups, and an array of other civic leaders. About 1.5 million people voted against it.

Perhaps the loudest voices opposed to the measure came from law enforcement.  But on Wednesday, police were learning how to enforce what one top public safety official called “a complex web” of rules for licensed and unlicensed sellers, for those who sell the drug for profit and those who give it away.

Even as pot remains illegal under federal law, possession, use, and home-growing are now allowed under state law for adults 21 and over.  But public consumption of the drug remains forbidden in Massachusetts, as do several related activities, such as smoking weed anywhere tobacco smoking is prohibited.  It will also be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, though there is no cannabis equivalent in the law to the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit.

Selling pot, too, remains outlawed until the state treasurer sets up a regulated marketplace and licenses retail stores.  The law sets a January 2018 time frame for pot shops to open, creating a legal gray zone until then — buying up to an ounce of pot from a dealer is legal, but the dealer is breaking the law.

The Massachusetts measure is part of a national trend.  Voters here were joined on Nov. 8 by those in Maine, California, and Nevada. The people of Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, Alaska, and the District of Columbia also voted to legalize marijuana in recent years.

December 15, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Will Maine recount extend into the new year delaying legalization?

The question in the title of this post comes from this local article on the progress of the recount of the marijuana legalization initiative in Maine, which began last week and (very likely?) could extend into 2017. The unofficial result from Election Night was a victory of 4,073 votes for marijuana legalization, but an automatic recount is required by state election law because the result was by a margin of less than one percent. Officials have until the end of the week to complete the count, otherwise the counting will resume after the holiday break on January 1. From the article:

The recount of the marijuana legalization vote moves into its second week Monday with the No on 1 campaign picking up a small number of votes.

 

The recount of the contentious ballot issue began last Monday and focused on the largest cities in Maine, including Portland and Bangor. Sixteen percent of ballots cast statewide have been recounted by hand.

 

The start of the recount was delayed until 11 a.m. Monday because of snow.

 

The No on 1 campaign says it continues to pick up votes, but did not provide specific numbers. The Secretary of State’s Office will not release new vote totals until the recount is over.

 

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot appeared to have legalized marijuana by a margin of just over 4,000 votes.

 

David Boyer, manager of the Yes on 1 campaign, said last week the no side picked up 26 votes in Portland, a number he characterized as statistically insignificant. The results released on Election Day showed Portland residents approving Question 1 by a vote of 25,594 to 13,008. He said the yes side has gained votes in other towns...

  

The recount could take a month to finish and cost up to $500,000, largely in costs for State Police to collect ballots from 503 municipalities.

    

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot passed by 4,073 votes – 381,692 to 377,619 – according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office. Opponents did not have to pay for the recount because the margin was so small at less than 1 percent of votes cast.

 

If the election results stand, the new law will take effect as soon as the first week of January, though the exact date is unclear because the recount must be completed first. The process of reviewing as many as 700,000 ballots from roughly 500 communities could delay implementation even if the review does not uncover enough counting errors to overturn the results.

 

The new law makes it legal for adults to possess as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants. It also allows for retail stores and social clubs, which likely won’t open until 2018 because the state has to develop licensing and regulatory rules.

December 12, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Are Rhode Island and other New England states now sure to follow Massachusetts on the path the marijuana legalization?

Massachusetts-Cities-Map.mediumthumb

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "R.I., Mass. marijuana markets intertwined: It's one reason legalization in Rhode Island is seen as inevitable." Here are excerpts:

If you want a sense of the connections between the Massachusetts and Rhode Island marijuana markets and the growth that entrepreneurs imagine, look no further than Rhode Island's first approved marijuana cultivator.

Medici Products and Solutions Inc., of Warwick, hopes to have a final license in hand by the end of the year.  Its owners, John M. Rogue and Christopher E. Roy, have been selling marijuana to the state's three medical dispensaries as caregivers in a joint grow for two years.

Roy, a retired Woonsocket police officer, has been involved even longer, selling through a separate company, Grow Smart Solutions.  With the state shutting down caregiver sales to dispensaries on Jan. 1 and converting to a licensed commercial-grower system, the pair needed a license to keep doing business.  State startup fees for a 10,000-square-foot facility, the smallest category: $25,000.

But that's a drop in the bucket compared to their plans in Massachusetts.  Rogue and Roy have three medical dispensary and cultivation applications pending in the Bay State under the name Hope Heal Health Inc.  They've already received provisional approval for a flagship site on West Street in Fall River. The investment they'll need to make in the building they hope to open next year: $4 million to $7 million, according to Rogue.

Massachusetts documents show the company's projected revenues for the first year at $5.3 million, with $3.1 million in expenses.  They expect to sell 952 pounds of medical marijuana at $350 an ounce. "I saw this as an opportunity where we could provide to patients the medicine they need," said Rogue, 65, of Warren. "... My wife passed away from cancer. My partner's mother passed away from cancer. We're just trying to give back."

On Thursday, the pair will be at a North Attleboro selectmen's meeting, seeking town approval for a second cultivation site.  They're eyeing Berkley for a third site, said Rogue, whose career before marijuana ranged from technology company management to real estate development. In all matters in Massachusetts, the pair are represented by former Fall River Mayor William Flanagan.

And with Massachusetts voting to legalize marijuana last month, Rogue said the company is interested in moving into the recreational market as well.  He acknowledged there are many unknowns, but the ballot question appears to give those who have opened or applied for medical dispensaries preference when recreational sales begin, possibly by 2018.

Massachusetts, which has roughly double Rhode Island's population of marijuana patients, at 33,000, currently has nine medical dispensaries. Another 67 applications for dispensaries, cultivation and processing sites, including Hope Heal Health in Fall River, have received provisional approval....

As for Medici's future in Rhode Island, Rogue — like so many others — says legalization here is inevitable.  If not this year, then the next, was his guess.  At a Publick Occurrences forum co-hosted by The Journal last Monday, 84 percent of the audience members polled said it was just a matter a time before the state legalizes marijuana.

In an interview last month, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello noted that, given Massachusetts' legalization, soon Rhode Island will have "a lot of the concerns that marijuana creates" and "none of the revenues to help us address that."  Asked if Rogue will be up on Smith Hill pushing for movement this year, he said he'll leave that to the membership. "It's going to happen," he said.

December 11, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"7 Reasons President Trump Is Unlikely to Fight Legal Marijuana"

America_We_DeserveThe title of this post is the headline of this effective new Time magazine article.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some key excerpts and major headings:

With Donald Trump nominating Cabinet members who have spoken out against legal marijuana, some are arguing that the war on drugs may make a comeback. But while there’s reason for anxiety among those selling recreational marijuana legally in states like Colorado and Washington, an all-out war remains unlikely.

Experts say that trying to undo legalization at this point would come with serious economic and political hurdles. “It’s certainly come so far,” says Sam Kamin, a marijuana law expert at the University of Denver, “that it can’t be undone without a heavy cost.” Others are even more skeptical. Says Mike Vitiello, a marijuana law expert at the University of the Pacific, “It’s kind of like illegal immigration: You can’t build a wall high enough.”

Here are seven reasons that it would be hard to stop what the states have started.

Waging a war on pot would go against the will of many voters.

“It would be a very blatant finger to the voters,” says the Drug Policy Alliance’s Amanda Reiman. In November, voters in eight states cast their ballots for some form of marijuana legalization. That means that medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and recreational marijuana is legal in eight, including the nation’s most populous: California. With that powerhouse on board, a total of about one quarter of the population lives in a place where voters have decided that adults should be able to consume cannabis much the same way they consume alcohol. And all but six other states have legalized a non-psychoactive form of cannabis known as CBD, which people use to treat conditions like juvenile epilepsy.

Public opinion on marijuana is going in the opposite direction. ...

Trump himself has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize. ...

It does not seem high on his list of priorities. ...

Waging a war costs money. ...

There’s a lot of money in marijuana these days and the prospect of much more in the future.

If legal marijuana markets didn’t exist tomorrow, that would mean the shuttering of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. It would buoy the black market. And it would also make for a lot of unhappy investors. The market for legal marijuana in America is already worth an estimated $7 billion and, according to market research firm ArcView, it will be worth more than $20 billion by 2020. While many bigwig venture capitalists and corporations are still wary of writing checks because of prohibition, others are proving eager to cash in on the “green rush.” Among them is even a member of Trump’s transition team, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. “There’s a huge amount of capital formation,” says Vitiello. “There are literally billions of dollars of investment in these gray market establishments.”

The extent of federal government’s authority over these matters is unclear. 

December 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"California backers of legalized marijuana fear possible battle with attorney general pick Jeff Sessions"

Today, The Los Angeles Times reports on how marijuana legalization advocates are preparing for potential political and legal battles with the presumptive next attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). The Times's Patrick McGreevy writes:

Marijuana industry leaders in [California] and around the U.S. have launched an opposition campaign to the Senate confirmation of the Republican senator from Alabama and are appealing to the Trump camp to make sure the president-elect’s policies are consistent with his campaign comments that he favors allowing states to decide how to enforce marijuana laws...

 

Sessions said at a legislative hearing in April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” a drug that he said is “dangerous.” He went on to say, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”... 

 

 

Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law, and industry leaders and some elected officials fear Sessions might repeal a policy directive from the Department of Justice that has prevented enforcement in the states, or take California to court and argue that federal law preempts state legalization measures.

 

If that happens, there will be a fight, supporters say.

 

"California voters supported legalization by a historic and overwhelming margin, and their elected leaders are not going to stand aside and allow the senator from Alabama to turn back California’s clock,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading proponent of Proposition 64...

 

Opponents of Proposition 64 are encouraging Sessions to reverse the federal policy that has allowed states to legalize and regulate recreational use without federal enforcement.

 

“The issue is really as simple as stating that federal law is, in fact, the law of the land and will be enforced across the entire nation,” said Kevin Sabet, president of the opposition group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

 

Sabet’s group has urged Sessions to send a letter to the governors of states that have legalized pot use and notify them that issuing licenses for marijuana sales is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Sabet suggested the states be given six months to roll back their regulations before enforcement begins...

 

However, supporters of Proposition 64 said they believe the state would be obliged to defend the measure if it is challenged in court.

 

“We would expect a very, very strong pushback from the state, because the reality is it’s a public safety issue,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. “They have decriminalized a product, so if you don’t allow any sort of regulation in place for people to access that product, the underground market is only going to grow.”

 

Bob Hoban, an attorney and marijuana industry consultant, said Trump’s selection of Sessions is “alarming,” but he is hopeful that Trump will keep the federal government’s hands off the states.

 

A series of court challenges to Colorado’s law have been dismissed, and the Supreme Court in March declined to hear a lawsuit by neighboring states Oklahoma and Nebraska, Hoban said. The two states argued that Colorado’s legalization regulations are unconstitutional and have a negative impact on them because marijuana is flowing across state lines.

 

Hoban also said it is “a very positive sign” that Trump’s transition team includes PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, whose investment firm has a $75-million stake in the marijuana industry.

 

Even so, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), a leading legislative proponent of decriminalization, said California officials are “preparing to dig in” to defend the state’s  values if there is a federal challenge.

 

Among its options, the state could mount a defense of its marijuana laws in court if the federal government challenges Propositions 64 and 215, the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, experts say.

 

California can also wield political clout given that the state has the largest delegation in Congress. That power was exercised when Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel) coauthored a rider to the federal budget that has for the last two years prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws...

December 1, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Marijuana advocates sceptical about Canada path to legal pot"

The title of this post comes from this BBC.com article, which states in part:

 

The current domestic black market for marijuana is CA$5bn ($3.7bn; £3bn).

 

Chris Horlacher is president of Jade Maple, a consulting agency in the cannabis industry and one of the founding members of the Cannabis Growers of Canada (CGC). They represent small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs trying to establish
ImagesCanada's "craft cannabis" industry.

 

He says there is frustration and fear that the federal government will simply allow already established legal medical marijuana suppliers to take over the recreational marketplace.

 

"The government has created this brand new camp that is trying to gain its share of the market and they don't necessarily understand the product, the culture," Mr Horlacher says.

 

"We have all these people who are actually newcomers who don't have any experience with the product and now they're saying: 'We're the legitimate ones and you're the evil profiteers.'"

 

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada but, since 2014, registered patients can only get their cannabis shipped from licensed large-scale suppliers. They have also recently been allowed to grow their own.

 

There are currently 36 licensed growers in Canada. Many are openly positioning for the eventual legal recreational market.

 

Canadians, especially its youth, are among the world's biggest pot users.

 

Ottawa says legal pot under a new "strict regulation" regime will make it easier to keep it away from young people, to pull profits from organised crime, to reduce the burden on police and the justice system, and to improve public health.

 

A federal legalisation task force is wrapping up its work and is expected to send its recommendations to the government soon.

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