Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Just a short five years ago it would have been unusual for a member of Congress to ask the US Attorney General about federal marijuana policies. But circa 2017 it now seems near impossible to have a congressional hearing involving the AG in which marijuana policy is not raised. But, as detailed in this new Forbes piece by Tom Angell headlined "Sessions: Obama Marijuana Policy Remains In Effect," AG Sessions did not really have much new to say on this front during a hearing on Capitol Hill today:
Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday during a congressional hearing. He also conceded that cannabis is not as dangerous as heroin and that a current budget rider prevents the Department of Justice from prosecuting people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
"Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes," Sessions said, referring to his predecessors as attorney general during the Obama administration.
Sessions made the comments in response to a question from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. Later, Sessions said, "I think that's correct," when Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) argued that cannabis isn't as dangerous as heroin. Under current federal law, both are classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category that's supposed to be reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value....
Also during Cohen's line of questioning, the attorney general said, "I believe we are bound by" a federal budget rider that bars the federal government from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws. A federal court ruled last year, over Justice Department objections, that the rider specifically bars prosecution of patients and providers who are acting in accordance with those laws. Earlier this year, Sessions, sent a letter to congressional leadership asking that they not continue the annual rider into the next fiscal year.
Sessions, a longtime vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, has previously said that the separate Obama policy on state marijuana laws remains in effect while the Department of Justice reviews potential changes, but has not before so clearly tied the Trump administration approach to that of his predecessors....
[I]n April, Sessions directed a Justice Department task force to review the Obama administration memo and make recommendations for possible changes. However, that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force’s report to the attorney general. Sessions did not refer to any ongoing consideration of enforcement policy changes during the House hearing.
During a Senate hearing last month, the attorney general said that allowing more researchers to legally grow more marijuana for scientific studies would be "healthy." He has yet to respond to pending written questions stemming from that hearing about a federal budget rider that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.
November 14, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United 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)
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "With Phil Murphy's win, it's 'full steam ahead' for legal marijuana." Here is how it gets started:
Democrat Phil Murphy's victory in the governor's race Tuesday night drives New Jersey "full-steam ahead" toward legalizing marijuana and cultivating an estimated $1.3 billion industry, the sponsor of the legislation said.
Throughout the campaign, Murphy has embraced the idea of making marijuana available for recreational use for people 21 and older. Early on, he made his support well-known that he would sign a legalization bill when it arrived on his desk.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who controls which bills the 40-member Senate debate and vote on, said his goal was to get the measure passed within 100 days of the Murphy administration.
Murphy has said he is also counting on the sales tax from legal cannabis -- an estimated $300 million -- as a key revenue source to help fund education programs and the public worker pensions.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Los Angeles Times editorial. Here are excerpts:
Make no mistake, the war on marijuana has not been colorblind. Despite national surveys showing that white people and black people use marijuana at approximately the same rates, blacks have over the years been nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
That disparity is as true in Los Angeles as it is elsewhere in the country. African Americans comprise less than 10% of the population in L.A. Yet between 2000 and 2017, blacks represented 40% of marijuana-related arrests. Latinos made up 44% of arrests. Whites made up only 16% of arrests, according to a city consultant’s analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data. And even as Los Angeles and other cities allowed the growth of a quasi-legal, hugely profitable medical marijuana industry run mostly by white entrepreneurs, police arrests for marijuana possession and sales continued to target African Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly.
A drug arrest — especially if followed by a conviction — can have terrible consequences. Even after a person has completed his or her sentence, it remains harder to get a job, get into college, rent an apartment or get a loan. A drug conviction is a barrier to economic opportunity.
Now that California has voted to legalize marijuana for adults, a crucial question is whether there a way to repair the damage created by decades of unequal enforcement practices. The answer being considered by the Los Angeles City Council is to make it easier for people who were arrested or otherwise affected by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws to get in on the ground floor of the emerging multibillion-dollar cannabis industry.
The idea behind the proposed “social equity” program is that the people most affected should now be helped to partake in the profits and benefits of legalization. The challenges of opening a marijuana business are so great — there are huge upfront costs, serious impediments to getting bank loans and extremely intricate regulations — that many would-be entrepreneurs would be locked out without government assistance.
Without question, Los Angeles ought to use a portion of future marijuana tax revenue to help communities that have been disproportionately targeted for marijuana enforcement. Tax money could fund drug education and treatment, legal clinics to help people expunge their marijuana conviction records, and reentry programs for individuals leaving prison.
The city could also help encourage entrepreneurs from communities that have had disproportionate numbers of marijuana arrests to enter the business by offering training, compliance assistance and priority licensing. Priority licensing is important because, due to zoning restrictions, only a limited number of applicants will ultimately be granted the right to host a marijuana business. The first batch of licenses will be offered to medical marijuana shops that have operated since 2013 in L.A. with limited immunity under Proposition D. Under the city’s proposed rules, the second batch of licenses would be divided equally between general applicants and social equity applicants — giving the latter a better shot at snapping up those opportunities. The third batch of licenses would be open to all applicants.
But here’s where the social equity program raises concern: The current proposal gives special advantages, waives fees and offers the most assistance to low-income people who themselves have marijuana-related convictions. It’s one thing to target assistance broadly to communities that have felt the impacts of unequal enforcement. It’s another thing to reward people who broke the law and got caught by giving them priority over people who did not break the law. That doesn’t seem fair. Nor does it seem like a great idea to incentivize people with convictions for selling or possessing marijuana to return to the drug trade — why not help them enter other businesses instead?
To be sure, people with nonviolent drug convictions shouldn’t be barred from owning marijuana businesses or from working in them. But they shouldn’t be pushed to the front of the line either.
November 4, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Maine Gov vetoes bill designed to establish structure for voter-approved recreational marijuana industry
As reported in this NBC News piece, "Maine Gov. Paul Lepage’s decision to veto a bill on Friday that would have built a recreational marijuana retail market is a major buzzkill for those in the state who voted to legalize the drug last year." Here is more on the decision and its impact:
In his veto letter, LePage urged the Maine legislature to “sustain this veto” because he did not believe that the bill was satisfactory. The bill passed with enough votes to overturn a veto in the state Senate, but not the statehouse.
LePage said his greatest grievance is that he did not know how the Trump administration intended to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalized recreational marijuana. “If we are adopting a law that will legalize and establish a new industry and impose a new regulatory infrastructure that requires significant private and public investment, we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments,” LePage wrote....
In his letter, LePage also expanded on his grievance that the bill conflicted with Maine’s existing medical marijuana laws, which he claims are being exploited by his constituents, and created “unrealistic deadlines” to craft regulation at the executive level....
In the letter, LePage said that he “sought guidance” from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has had to oversee his state’s recreational marijuana market since Colorado legalized the drug in 2012. LePage said that Hickenlooper “urged” him to “not rush just to get something in place” and connected Colorado’s crime rates and traffic deaths to recreational marijuana use.
The full statement by Gov LePage is available at this link, and here are its concluding paragraphs:
When I sought guidance from my counterpart in Colorado, he was adamant that Maine should learn from the mistakes made by his state and others that have pursued legalization efforts. He urged that we take the time necessary to get our law right from the start and not rush just to get something in place. There have been serious negative effects of legalization in other states — effects that should not be repeated in Maine. In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized. The Institute for Highway Safety reached similar findings, noting that automobile collisions increased by three percent in states that have legalized marijuana. Alarmingly, the violent crime rate in Colorado increased nearly 19 percent since legalization, more than double the national rate. If Maine is going to legalize and regulate marijuana, it is imperative that we do it right.
Outside specific concerns about this bill, I continue to be concerned about expanded legalization of marijuana in Maine. The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated. Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates. Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.
For these reasons, I return LD 1650 unsigned and vetoed. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it and continue to work to get this important law right.
November 4, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Alaska marijuana tax revenues growing, which means more resources to help reduce criminal recidivism
As reported in this new local article, headlined "Alaska cannabis tax revenue tops $700K in September," the Last Frontier is continuing to reach new firsts when it comes to taxes collected from marijuana reform. Here are the details:
Alaska's marijuana tax revenue continued a steady climb upward in September, with $723,757 collected statewide, according to a state official. Sixty-four growers from across the Interior, Southcentral and Southeast paid taxes to the Alaska Department of Revenue last month, wrote Kelly Mazzei, excise tax supervisor in the tax division.
Under Alaska's law, growers pay the tax of $50 an ounce for bud, and $15 an ounce for other parts of the plant, like leaves and stems. A total of 716 pounds of bud was sold wholesale in September, and 630 pounds of trim, according to data provided by Mazzei....
To date, Alaska has collected $3,741,810 in cannabis taxes. Most of it — a full 68 percent — has been paid in cash, Mazzei wrote. Alaska's first marijuana shop opened for business Oct. 29, 2016. Revenue was slow to start, as demand outweighed supply, and retailers struggled to get enough cannabis in their shops to keep their doors open.
In June, revenue nearly doubled after three months of hovering around $250,000. Since then, tax revenue has steadily climbed. Mazzei wrote that October's revenue could top $1 million, a potentially "amazing milestone" for the state. Many local governments have also put additional cannabis sales taxes in place.
Last year, the Alaska Legislature budgeted half of the cannabis tax to programs aimed at reducing repeat criminal offenders. The other half goes into the general fund.
Because I think of marijuana reform as, first and foremost, a form of criminal justice reform, I love the fact that Alaska has decide to commit half of its marijuana tax revenue to improving public safety and its criminal justice system. This article from July 2016, headlined "Here's where half of the revenue from Alaska's legal pot will go," provides these details:
Gov. Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 91, a comprehensive criminal reform bill meant to reduce the state's prison population and its associated costs. Included in the bill is a provision that diverts half of the state's cannabis excise taxes to programs aimed at reducing repeat criminal offenders, under a newly created recidivism reduction fund.
Marijuana will be taxed at $50 an ounce. Based on projected marijuana sales, the state hopes $3 million will go toward the recidivism reduction fund in fiscal year 2017, and $6 million in subsequent years.
The marijuana tax money will be used to fund the Department of Corrections' Substance Abuse Treatment Program, which will receive $700,000, and community residential centers, which will receive $300,000; the Department of Health and Social Services' Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery Grants, which will receive $1 million; and the Department of Public Safety's Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which will also receive $1 million.
Because fiscal year 2017 for Alaska started in July and the first 3 months have already brought in nearly $2 million in taxes and revenue growth is continuing, it would appear Alaska could have even more tax revenue than expected going to these important criminal justice concerns.
October 31, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 29, 2017
A growth in lawsuits might well be seen as a sure sign that the marijuana industry is reaching a new level of development. For that reason, supporters of marijuana reform might see these two detailed articles from Marijuana Business Daily about legal issues facing marijuana companies as a positive sign. And students in my marijuana reform seminar might see these articles as a preview of what legal practice in this field can involve:
October 29, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, October 27, 2017
This past week brought two notable articles providing two important perspectives on how 2018 is shaping up to be yet another big year in the marijuana reform space:
From the Washington Examiner here, "Will 2018 be the year marijuana takes over?":
So far, all the states that have legalized marijuana have done so through grassroots petitions and ballot initiatives meant to bypass risk-averse lawmakers in state houses.
California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have all followed Colorado and Washington either to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana or, at a minimum, to decriminalize possession and consumption of small amounts of the drug.
But 2018 may be a tipping point — the moment when the momentum of pot makes it impossible for state lawmakers to avoid. State legislatures are poised to begin passing marijuana reform laws next year. The taboos against smoking dope may go up in a cloud of narcotic smoke.
From Marijuana Moment here, "These States Will Probably Vote On Marijuana In 2018":
Last November, nine statewide marijuana ballot initiatives went before voters, and eight were approved. Next year, voters in a number of additional states are likely to see cannabis questions when they go to their polling places.
Here’s an in-depth look at those states that have the best chance of qualifying marijuana initiatives, followed by some brief info on a few that seem like longer shots…
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
In this prior post, I noted reports on the robust sales and tax revenues generated in Nevada in July, the state's first month of legalized recreational marijuana commerce. This new story, headlined "Nevada recreational marijuana sales reach $33M in August," details that month two saw growth over month one:
Nevada dispensaries sold more than $33 million in recreational marijuana and the state pulled in nearly $5 million in total taxes in August, according to numbers released by the Nevada Department of Taxation Monday. That’s up from the $27 million in sales and $3.7 million in taxes in July, the state’s first month of recreational weed sales.
The recreational sales numbers were significantly ahead of the state’s projected $21.5 million in sales for August. In fact, the state did not project any month in the first year of recreational sales to eclipse $28 million.
Andrew Jolley, CEO of The+Source dispensaries and president of the Nevada Dispensary Association, said those projections will likely prove to be fairly conservative, and expects the market to continue to grow steadily over the next several months. “I think it is a good indication that there was a large, pent-up demand that was being served by the black market,” Jolley said....
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, also known as the godfather of pot in Nevada, said he was initially a little worried that the novelty of legal marijuana could lead to a drop off in the second month of sales. But after talking to the industry, he said it was clear that wasn’t going to be the case for August.
“Obviously there’s a demand,” Segerblom said. And Segerblom said he doesn’t think the sales and tax numbers will level off for at least two years, and pointed to the recent opening of five dispensaries in Henderson.
Segerblom also heaped the praise onto the industry as well as the state regulators for ensuring the market got off to a smooth start. “Everyone’s just been really been working perfectly together,” he said.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
As reported in this local piece, headlined "Colorado’s 2017 marijuana sales reach $1 billion in just eight months," sales of recreational marijuana hit a new benchmark in Colorado. Here are the details:
Legal marijuana is a bona fide billion-dollar industry in Colorado. And it’s hitting the mark faster than ever. In 2017, Colorado eclipsed $1 billion in marijuana sales in eight months; in 2016, it took 10 months.
Colorado’s marijuana retailers logged upward of $1.02 billion in collective medical and recreational sales through August, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state tax data released Wednesday. Year-to-date sales are up 21 percent from the first eight months of 2016, when recreational and medical marijuana sales totaled $846.5 million.
This year’s cumulative sales equate to more than $162 million in taxes and fees for Colorado coffers.
During the month of August, sales of flower, edibles, concentrates and accessories were nearly $137 million — $100.3 million from recreational cannabis sales and $36.5 million from medical marijuana — according to The Cannabist’s calculations....
The special sales tax rate for recreational marijuana increased to 15 percent from 10 percent in July, as the result of a new law that also exempted recreational marijuana products from the 2.9 percent standard state sales tax. Medical marijuana and accessories are still subject to that 2.9 percent sales tax rate. The Cannabist’s calculations for July and August 2017 recreational sales are based on revenue reported for the new 15 percent sales tax.
Economists and state officials have projected that the annual growth rates for Colorado’s cannabis sales will eventually moderate as the local market matures and other states adopt recreational cannabis measures.
Here’s a look at Colorado’s previous cumulative yearly sales totals:
As the title of this post suggests, I think the marijuana industry in Colorado can and should in some sense thanks Prez Trump for the ever increasing sales. The Trump Administration has not yet decided to crack down legally on the industry, but it also has hinted in various ways that a crackdown might be coming. That combination likely contributes to a view among consumers that they ought to be sure to purchase marijuana through "legal" channels while they still can.
Monday, October 9, 2017
Effective use of marijuana reform revenues, in my view, is essential to both the arguments supporting reform and to the sustainability of those arguments over time. For that reason and others, I always find interesting and important any accounting of reform revenues, and this local article from Oregon provides just that. The piece is headlined "Oregon pays out $85 million in pot taxes to school fund, cops, other services," and here are excerpts (with a few comments to follow):
The checks are in the mail. That's the message the Oregon Department of Revenue sent Friday when it announced it will pay out $85 million in marijuana taxes for schools, public health, police and local governments by next week.
The payouts represent the first distributions of state marijuana tax revenues since Oregon opened its legal recreational cannabis market. Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. The state put $9.56 million toward the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s “start-up costs” for regulating the industry and toward the Department of Revenue's work to collect the taxes.
The rest was divvied up according to a formula spelled out by law: The state school fund gets 40 percent, or $34 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services get 20 percent, or $17 million; Oregon State Police get 15 percent, or $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority gets 5 percent, which comes to $4.25 million.
Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91, which legalized recreational cannabis sales in Oregon, said the amount of tax revenue exceeded supporters’ early projections. He hopes the idea of marijuana taxes flowing into schools and public health and safety spur other states to legalize marijuana, he said. “I am glad to hear that the revenue is finally being distributed,” Johnson said. “This is what the voters intended. It shows that legalizing and regulating cannabis can help generate revenue for important governmental services.”
The largest share goes toward schools. The ballot measure said tax revenue would go to the Common School Fund, an endowment or trust fund of sorts for K-12 schools that makes distributions to districts twice a year. Lawmakers this year voted to move marijuana tax revenue to the State School Fund, which flows directly to school districts for costs such as teachers and textbooks. The fund has a budget of $8.2 billion for the biennium, the vast majority of which is made up of general fund and lottery dollars....
Otto Schell, legislative director for Oregon PTA, said while voters often assume marijuana tax revenue is providing major funding for schools, the reality is that it's among the "tiny fixes" the state has come up with to solve a major problem. To put the amount of pot taxes headed to schools in context, Schell said it's important to keep in mind how much it costs to operate the state's K12 system: roughly $30 million a day. "We keep using Band-Aids to fix something that is a systemic problem and challenge," he said.
A spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority said Friday that marijuana tax revenue will replace general fund dollars spent on existing programs, such as outpatient treatment, housing, transportation and detox. About $1 million will be spent on drug and alcohol abuse prevention, the state’s youth marijuana prevention campaign and drug and alcohol use data collection.....
Local governments may get marijuana tax revenue in two ways: Many levy their own sales tax or they are home to marijuana businesses, making them eligible for a slice of the revenue from the 17 percent state tax on pot sales. Ninety-five Oregon local governments impose a local sales tax of up to 3 percent; the Department of Revenue collects those taxes on behalf of 71 local communities, including Portland.
In the first quarter of this year, the state collected $1.2 million in local sales taxes. Scott Winkels, a lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities, said pot tax dollars are welcome but dwarfed by revenue generated by local liquor sales. “It’s helpful, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But we aren’t going to smoke our way to fiscal bliss.”
As this final quote highlights, even though many millions are being raised through marijuana reform, the amounts are still relatively small for a lot of "big ticket" items in the state budget like schools or municipal funding needs. That reality means, for good of for bad, the revenue from marijuana reform with have different impacts and different meaning to different recipients. I think advocates and opponents of reform will be well-advised to take a very close look at how these revenues are being utilized in order to have a refined understanding of some critical echo effects of modern reforms.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
CNN Money has this new article focused on the three states about to have their recreational marijuana markets up and running in the wake of 2016 legalization votes. The piece is headlined "Retail marijuana is spreading to California, Massachusetts and Maine," and here is how it gets started:
The mainstreaming of marijuana is about to get huge boost. Recreational marijuana sales will launch in three states next year, including the biggest one of all: California.
It's already for sale in five states, but the addition of a legal retail marijuana market in California, with its massive economy and population, will dramatically change the landscape. California is aiming to open retail marijuana stores by January 1, Massachusetts and Maine plan to open stores next summer.
"We obviously still have a lot to do, but yes, we're going to be ready to go on January 1," said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California. "We will be issuing new regulations in November, so we're hard at work on those at the present time."
Among the checklist of expected regulations is new oversight on water usage -- like drip irrigation and reusing waste water -- that could prove expensive for marijuana businesses. Other rules will require licensing and background checks for distributors and safety and education training for consumers.
Dispensaries like Green Alternative, which has 10,000 patients in San Diego, are getting ready to add non-medical customers to their clientele. "We are in the process of stockpiling cannabis in order to fulfill the market needs," said Zach Lazarus, COO of the Green Alternative. "We believe there will be a huge rush. We go through two to four pounds [per day] on average, and we anticipate going through three to four times as much when we open the doors for recreational." This requires not only stockpiling pot, but negotiating hurdles on the state and local level, for licensing, zoning, taxation and other issues.
Erik Altieri, executive director of the pro-legalization group NORML, said it might take longer than January "to set up the regulation process and to work out how the new recreational market will exist alongside its already quite large medical market."
The Bureau of Cannabis Control in California put its proposed regulations up for public review and began holding community workshop meetings in Long Beach, Fresno and Sacramento in September.
Massachusetts will implement retail marijuana sales on July 1, once state officials finalize whether certain localities will be able to maintain a marijuana ban in their respective towns, said Altieri. "We are committed to make that deadline," said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission in Boston, which held its first meeting on September 12 on developing and implementing regulations.
Maine would have the smallest market, and it's unclear when they'll get it off the ground. Dan Tartakoff, clerk for the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee of state lawmakers, said draft regulations were released in September proposing a 20% tax rate.
Monday, October 2, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable recent AP article, which starts this way:
Scientists. Tax collectors. Typists. Analysts. Lawyers. And more scientists.
Recreational marijuana sales become legal in California in 2018, and one of the things to blossom in the emerging industry isn't green and leafy. It's government jobs.
The state is on a hiring binge to fill what eventually will be hundreds of new government positions by 2019 intended to bring order to the legal pot economy, from keeping watch on what's seeping into streams near cannabis grows to running background checks on storefront sellers who want government licenses. Thousands of additional jobs are expected to be added by local governments.
The swiftly expanding bureaucracy represents just one aspect of the complex challenge faced by California: Come January, the state will unite its longstanding medical cannabis industry with the newly legalized recreational one, creating what will be the United States' largest legal pot economy.
Last January, just 11 full-time workers were part of what's now known as the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state's chief regulatory agency overseeing the pot market. Now, it's more than doubled, and by February the agency expects to have more than 100 staffers. The agency is moving into new offices later this year, having outgrown its original quarters. It's expected new satellite offices will eventually spread around the state.
There also will be scores of jobs added to issue licenses for sellers, growers, truck drivers, manufacturers and others working in the projected $7 billion industry. The state has taken to Facebook to lure applicants. The bureau is using a video snippet of actor Jim Carrey, hammering his fingers into a computer keyboard, to catch the eye of prospective applicants online. "Get those applications in ... before this guy beats you to it," it reads. "New job just ahead," reads another post. "We're hiring."
This year's state budget contained about $100 million to fund regulatory programs for marijuana, which includes personnel to review and issue licenses, watch over environmental conditions and carry out enforcement.
Planned hiring into 2018 covers a range of state agencies: Fifty people are bound for the Public Health Department, 65 are slated to join the Water Resources Control Board, and 60 new employees are expected at the Food and Agriculture Department, which will oversee licensing for cultivators.
Some of the work is highly specialized. Environmental scientists will be responsible for developing standards for pot grows near streams, to make sure fertilizer or pesticides do not taint the water or harm fish. An engineer will monitor groundwater and water being diverted to nourish plants. Lawyers are needed to help sort out complex issues involving the state's maze of environmental laws.
Pay varies with position but can be attractive, with some scientist posts paying over $100,000 annually. Special investigators with the Consumer Affairs Department could earn in the $80,000 range.
Though not mentioned in this article, most states have funding government jobs in the marijuana arena through the fees and taxes that the marijuana industry produces for state coffers. In a black marketplace, of course, there are no fees and taxes going to the government, though taxpayers are still paying for the costs of trying to enforce prohibition -- which, ironically, largely serves to drive up the tax-free profits that black market participants can secure. With legalization and regulation, the monies paid by marijuana consumers gets channeled to fund state regulatory jobs that should help ensure the consumer gets a safer product at a lower cost. From an economic perspective, it should be a win-win if all goes well (though all does not always go well, and there are other obvious concerns such as public health).
October 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, September 29, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting that "Nevada dispensaries raked in more than $27 million during the first month of recreational marijuana sales, generating more than $3.6 million in taxes, according to figures released Thursday by the Nevada Department of Taxation." Here is more:
How does that stack up against the other states with legal marijuana? It’s nearly double. Colorado and Oregon each sold about $14 million in marijuana during their respective first months of sales. Washington sold $3.8 million in its first month.
“We came out of the gate like a shotgun,” said Matt Morgan, CEO of Reef Dispensaries. Morgan said that, even three months into recreational sales, Reef’s dispensary located behind the Fashion Show Mall has a line inside the store at nearly all times and outside about 40 percent of the time.
Nevada’s market will only grow, he said. “I still don’t think everyone understands that it’s recreational in Nevada yet,” Morgan said.
For Nevada, $2.7 million in tax revenue came from the 10 percent special excise tax on recreational marijuana, all of which is destined for the state’s rainy day fund. That falls right in line with Nevada’s marijuana sales estimates even though there were no state projections for July because of uncertainty about when stores would begin sales. State officials have projected that special sales tax will generate $63.5 million over the first two years of sales....
Tax Department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said the state expects that excise tax to grow over the next two years as more cultivators get licensed and begin to operate. The state has also pulled in $6.5 million for marijuana license and application fees. Those revenues will be used to cover the administrative costs to regulate the industry for the Tax Department and local governments, and all remaining funds go to the state’s public education fund.
Recreational sales started on July 1, and the state has issued 250 recreational marijuana licenses thus far, 53 of those to dispensaries.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
The District of Columbia — which, if anyone cares, is where I was born a long, long time ago — has long been a distinct part of the United States as a matter of law and practice. For that reason and others, it should come as no surprise that marijuana reform takes on distinctive dynamic in our nation's capital. This new AP piece, headlined "Giving the gift of green in the ‘District of Cannabis’," provides a profile of this interesting story, and here are excerpts:
A 2014 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use passed overwhelmingly. But unlike the eight states that have legalized recreational use, the Washington initiative also maintained it was still illegal to buy or sell the drug.
So instead of the straightforward marijuana storefronts common in Colorado or Nevada, Washington has developed a thriving “gift economy” marijuana industry. These businesses — many offering delivery — sell everything from coffee cups to artwork — all overpriced and all coming with a little something extra.
It’s a curious legal and semantic tightrope, and one the District’s politicians and police seem determined to keep walking. “It’s definitely unique,” said Morgan Fox of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. “The DC city council and the city government don’t want to be busting people for weed. They want this to work and work smoothly.”
Washington’s local government didn’t choose to make the District a real-time sociology lab for alternative legalization. The roots of this strange legal middle ground lie in the District’s tortured relationship with the federal government. “We would have regular stores if we had the normal rights of a U.S. state,” said Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ, a pro-legalization group that helped draft the initiative’s text.
All District laws are subject to review by a congressional committee, which can veto them or alter them by attaching riders to federal appropriations bills. After the initiative passed, Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from neighboring Maryland, introduced a rider prohibiting the District government from spending any funds or resources on developing a regulatory or taxation system for marijuana sales.
Harris, an anesthesiologist and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, remains a staunch opponent of recreational marijuana use and has no regrets about complicating the District’s legalization model. “I think the District of Columbia made a bad decision,” Harris said in an interview. “I would hope the District comes to its senses and realizes the dangers.”
According to marijuana merchants, the change has resulted in spiraling supply and demand. The relative ease of availability without risking arrest or having to maintain a relationship with a dealer has brought a wave of consumers of all ages and demographics. And that wave of demand has brought a wave of new suppliers. In addition to the dozens of different businesses working through the gift loophole, there are now hundreds of marijuana-themed public events taking place across the city — most openly advertised on social media. “Seven days a week, you can find an event going on,” said Gregory Moorer, whose Laid Back Lords company offers marijuana gifts to accompany $50 baseball caps and $80 sweatshirts.
One such event, known as Cannemania, happens weekly at a closed Ethiopian restaurant. Inside isn’t so much a stoner party as a fairly businesslike trade show. On a recent night, about 150 people crowded in to peruse about 25 different vendors’ tables offering large jars of buds and a huge variety of edibles, from brownies to marijuana-infused gummi bears. There were also marijuana vape pens and “concentrates” — a substance that looks like candle wax and requires a waterpipe and a blowtorch to consume.
Vendors hawked their wares like THC sommeliers and offered free hits of concentrates. But there was, according to the rules, no smoking of marijuana buds. For the most part everyone kept to the necessary gift loophole script: your money technically bought you a raffle ticket, some expensive rolling paper or, in one case, the baseball card of former Cleveland Indians shortstop Julio Franco.
Despite the ubiquity of the drug, it would be inaccurate to describe the District as some sort of marijuana free-for-all. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government has worked hard to establish clear lines on what is and is not permitted. It remains illegal to smoke in public. Arrests for public consumption have actually spiked since the legalization initiative came into effect. Bowser also personally lobbied the city council to defeat a proposal to permit pot smoking in bars or restaurants — fearing it would lead to private cannabis clubs.
The police have also pounced on entrepreneurs who push things too far. In late 2015 they arrested Nicholas “Kush God” Cunningham, who had deployed a fleet of cars covered in marijuana-leaf decals that would hand out pot edibles in exchange for “donations.”...
Police maintain that the gift loophole isn’t fooling anyone. “In our estimation, that’s still illegal,” said Lt. Andrew Struhar of the Narcotics and Special Operations division of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department. But Struhar also admitted that police aren’t “actively out hunting” for marijuana violators as long as everything stays low-key and the neighbors don’t complain.
“We serve the citizens and if they say there’s a problem on this or that block, we’re going to do something about it,” he said. “If you’re going to flaunt it and you’re going to stick it in our face and force us to take action against it, then we’re going to take action.”
For now the model seems to be staggering along, but it’s debatable how long this can continue. Legalization activists say that a quasi-legal grey area was never their goal. Members of the District’s government are even less enthusiastic; they complain about the intrusiveness of the congressional oversight and point to a study which estimated $130 million in potential annual revenue from taxing marijuana sales. “I don’t think it’s sustainable,” said City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “We have legal marijuana but we can’t regulate it. It’s stupid, it’s just stupid.”
September 28, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 25, 2017
"Cannabis use among patients at a comprehensive cancer center in a state with legalized medicinal and recreational use"
The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new research paper in the journal Cancer. Here is the paper's abstract (with key points emphasized):
Cannabis is purported to alleviate symptoms related to cancer treatment, although the patterns of use among cancer patients are not well known. This study was designed to determine the prevalence and methods of use among cancer patients, the perceived benefits, and the sources of information in a state with legalized cannabis.
A cross-sectional, anonymous survey of adult cancer patients was performed at a National Cancer Institute–designated cancer center in Washington State. Random urine samples for tetrahydrocannabinol provided survey validation.
Nine hundred twenty-six of 2737 eligible patients (34%) completed the survey, and the median age was 58 years (interquartile range [IQR], 46-66 years). Most had a strong interest in learning about cannabis during treatment (6 on a 1-10 scale; IQR, 3-10) and wanted information from cancer providers (677 of 911 [74%]). Previous use was common (607 of 926 [66%]); 24% (222 of 926) used cannabis in the last year, and 21% (192 of 926) used cannabis in the last month. Random urine samples found similar percentages of users who reported weekly use (27 of 193 [14%] vs 164 of 926 [18%]). Active users inhaled (153 of 220 [70%]) or consumed edibles (154 of 220 [70%]); 89 (40%) used both modalities. Cannabis was used primarily for physical (165 of 219 [75%]) and neuropsychiatric symptoms (139 of 219 [63%]). Legalization significantly increased the likelihood of use in more than half of the respondents.
This study of cancer patients in a state with legalized cannabis found high rates of active use across broad subgroups, and legalization was reported to be important in patients' decision to use. Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information about cannabis use during their treatment from oncology providers.
Friday, September 15, 2017
In preparation for coming reforms, UMass to study marijuana use in Bay State before start of recreational sales
As reported in this press release, as "Massachusetts prepares to begin sales of recreational marijuana in 2018, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS), in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health (DPH), have begun a one-year baseline study to assess the level of marijuana use before legal, recreational sales go into effect." Here is more:
The investigation will be funded by a $275,000 contract from DPH as part of the DPH Marijuana Baseline Health Study to provide public health officials, legislators and others with information to assess baseline rates and patterns of marijuana use, related risk behaviors such as use in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs and impaired driving. They will also look at outcomes such as marijuana-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities. Public health professors Rosa Rodríguez-Monguió and Jennifer Whitehill will lead the research at SPHHS.
David Buchanan, SPHHS chair of health promotion and policy, helped to organize two forums last year for Massachusetts lawmakers to hear about impacts of legalization in Colorado and Washington State. He says that agency directors in both states strongly recommend pre/post studies to evaluate the impact. After the forums, the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana unanimously recommended that a baseline study be conducted in Massachusetts, and it was later mandated as part of legislation passed in December 2016 that tweaked the ballot question passed by the voters.
As part of the baseline study, Whitehill and Rodríguez-Monguió have designed a statewide survey plus other studies that will complement the efforts of investigators from DPH, John Snow, Inc., Mathematica Policy Research, and the UMass Donahue Institute. Findings from the various lines of investigation will be presented to a legislative committee in July 2018.
Rodríguez-Monguió says one question to be addressed with the collection of new survey data is whether increased marijuana availability leads to increased use of other substances, particularly alcohol and prescription drugs, or whether marijuana use might serve as a substitute for prescription drugs and other substances. The UMass Amherst team will also analyze several existing national and state databases to explore associations between recreational marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug use, and involvement in fatal car crashes and calls to poison control.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming article authored by Beau Kilmer and Robert MacCoun which is soon to be published in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. Here is its abstract:
Public support for legalizing marijuana use increased from 25% in 1995 to 60% in 2016, rising in lockstep with support for same-sex marriage. Between November 2012 and November 2016, voters in eight states passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana sales for nonmedical purposes—covering one-fifth of the US population. These changes are unprecedented but are not independent of the changes in medical marijuana laws that have occurred over the past 20 years. This article suggests five ways in which the passage and implementation of medical marijuana laws smoothed the transition to nonmedical legalization in the United States: (a) They demonstrated the efficacy of using voter initiatives to change marijuana supply laws, (b) enabled the psychological changes needed to destabilize the “war on drugs” policy stasis, (c) generated an evidence base that could be used to downplay concerns about nonmedical legalization, (d) created a visible and active marijuana industry, and (e) revealed that the federal government would allow state and local jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from marijuana.
September 13, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Surprising new marijuana lobbyist, a bombastic NY Republican, might be especially significant in the age of Trump
This new New York Post article, headlined "Former New York senator who opposed smoking pot joins marijuana lobbying group," reports on a very interesting and shrewd hire by the Marijuana Policy Project. Here are the details:
Alfonse D'Amato is going from Senator Pothole to Senator Pot. The former Republican U.S. senator from New York has been hired as a senior adviser by the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-pot group that for the first time is starting an affiliate in the Empire State.
The MPP says it was founded in 1995 to advocate nationally for “sensible and compassionate” laws governing pot use. In New York, the group will initially focus on promoting ways to strengthen the state's existing medical marijuana program, though D'Amato didn't rule out the idea that the group will be part of any future discussions about legalizing the recreational use of pot for adults.
In addition to D'Amato, the MPP also hired attorney and community organizer Landon Dais to serve as its New York political director. Both D'Amato — who served in the Senate from 1981 to 1999 — and Dais said that after a slow start, New York's medical marijuana program can be transformed into a national leader. "The (state) Health Department and the governor's office have come a long way in making the utilization of medical marijuana easier, better, more professional," D'Amato said. "That's a work in progress."
D'Amato said the MPP will push for Gov. Cuomo to sign into law a bill making medical marijuana available to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. D’Amato said the group will also seek to educate the public and medical community on the value of medical marijuana. "I'm happy to see we have really moved in the right direction in New York," D'Amato said.
The former senator-turned lobbyist and consultant said the state should also start discussing whether to legalize pot for adults. While he hasn't yet taken a stand on the issue, D'Amato said "if we want to be realistic, you've got to look at the nation, what is taking place around us. It's been implemented in (seven) states."...
D'Amato's linkage to a marijuana group is a change for a man who for most of his life was against the use of pot. He said he began evolving on the issue during a discussion with radio personality Howard Stern in 2009. "I think I'm a conservative, but I don't think I'm a right wing kook," he said.
D'Amato also knocked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with whom he served in the Senate, for wanting the federal government to crack down on states that have legalized recreational- and even medicinal- marijuana. "It's a ridiculous position," he said. "I say how can you on the one hand be for states’ rights and on the other hand say the states that have legalized the use of marijuana, that you're not going to recognize that. You can't be a states’ rights person only when you like what the states are doing and not what the feds are doing. It's one or the other."
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, who backed D’Amato during his three terms in the Senate, said “I hope the former senator doesn’t partake in a move that would open the door for legalization of marijuana.” But he said he wasn’t particularly surprised D’Amato hooked up with the Marijuana Policy Project. “He’s a lobbyist now, certainly a person who opens the door for a lot of people,” Long said.
As this article highlights, former Senator D'Amato has a little history from his time in the Senate with current AG Jeff Sessions. But I think even more important is D'Amato's history as a successful bombastic New York Republican politician. In various ways, he seems cut from the same cloth as President Donald Trump, and the two surely have some relationship given that D'Amato was a leading New York political figure during the 1980s and 1990s when Trump was building his NYC real estate empire. In addition, I am sure D'Amato is able to get the ear of still-very-important New York political figures ranging from Rudy Giuliani to Michael Bloomberg to Chuck Schumer.
September 13, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 10, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable extended commentary appearing at the Heath Affairs Blog authored by Rebecca Haffajee, Alex Liber, and Kenneth Warner. Here are excerpts:
Those crafting marijuana laws can draw upon lessons learned about the harms of combusted tobacco and the smoking control policies that followed. Given what we already know about the health hazards of combusted marijuana and the difficulty of controlling the sale of commercially established products, policy makers should capitalize on this opportunity to create a legal marijuana market that mitigates potentially significant harms associated with inhaling combusted marijuana while still facilitating desired benefits of recreational marijuana....
Combustible marijuana likely poses similar risks to those of combustible tobacco, while vaporizing or eating marijuana products offers a “cleaner” delivery mechanism. Why repeat the devastating public health harms of smoking tobacco when policy makers can reasonably mitigate similar consequences of smoking marijuana?...
In a recent comprehensive review of the scientific literature, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that “smoked marijuana…is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.” The report and other reviews found strong evidence linking combusted marijuana to increased risk for chronic bronchitis....
Edible and vaporized marijuana products offer the potential to deliver therapeutic and euphoric benefits of marijuana while avoiding cardiopulmonary-related harms of combustion. Although precise estimates of the decreased risks associated with this substitution are not available, by analogy the health risks for smokeless and vaporized tobacco products are estimated to be roughly 90 percent less than those of combusted tobacco.
Valid concerns have been raised about the potential health harms from commercially marketed edibles, especially their attractiveness to, accessibility by, and increasing exposure and overdoses among children. We strongly support prohibitions on the sale of marijuana products — including edibles — to minors, clearly labeling product THC content and requiring child-proof packaging. Additionally, if marijuana is only legally available for sale in forms that do not resemble cigarettes, children may be less likely to cross over between products....
Policy makers in jurisdictions considering legalization are not bound by custom to make available all forms of marijuana for recreational use. Little prior interstate commerce of legal marijuana products exists, and most states have yet to legalize recreational use. The environment is ripe to experiment with different types of markets, and entrepreneurial policy makers could embark on implementing a safer legal marijuana market that omits combustibles, based on our current and developing knowledge.
While uncertainty still exists regarding the relative harms of different marijuana products and robust research is warranted, waiting for perfect scientific consensus about the scope and nature of harms related to marijuana combustion is unwise. The evidence base around marijuana combustion harms is already strong, and growing. Arriving at total consensus will take decades — as it took to link cigarettes to lung cancer — and waiting to embark on an alternative, very likely safer policy regime has real costs, measured in disease and death. Permitting the sale of THC extracts for consumption in edible or vaporized form will neither compromise therapeutic nor euphoric benefits of recreational marijuana use. In addition, creating variation in recreational marijuana policy regimes — between those already enacted that permit marijuana combustion and those enacted in the future that don’t — would create natural experiments ripe to study the differential effects and quantify harms versus benefits. Policy makers in favor of legalization should seize the opportunity to design a new market that permits recreational sale of marijuana only in edible or vaporized form, to minimize the potential for the kind of disease burden associated with smoked tobacco.
September 10, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), which serves as a chief research arm for Washington’s legislature in Olympia, has been been tasked with assessing the costs and benefits of marijuana legalization in the state. It is required to produce reports in 2015, 2017, 2022, and 2032. The first 2015 WSIPP report, blogged about here, largely said it was too early to start reaching any conclusions about the impact of legalization. This second 2017 WSIPP report, released this past week, is similarly cautious about reaching firm conclusions about the impact of the state's initiative providing for marijuana legalization, the the report does have this useful summary of findings:
Our outcome analyses were designed to identify causal effects of I-502. However, I-502 is a multi-faceted law that may affect outcomes through a variety of mechanisms including changes to criminal prohibitions; the creation of a regulated cannabis supply system; and investments in substance abuse prevention, treatment, and research. The findings we present in this report are only one portion of a larger body of work designed to address multiple aspects of the law.
In these initial investigations, we found no evidence that I-502 enactment, on the whole, affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions. Further, within Washington State, we found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions.
The bulk of outcome analyses in this report used the within-state approach to focus on identifying effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales. We found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected youth substance use or attitudes about cannabis or drug-related criminal convictions.
We did find evidence that higher levels of retail cannabis sales affected adult cannabis use in certain subgroups of the population. BRFSS respondents 21 and older who lived in counties with higher levels of retail cannabis sales were more likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days and heavy use of cannabis in the past 30 days. We also found two effects that are difficult to interpret. Among the portion of the population aged 18 to 21, BRFSS respondents living in counties with higher sales were less likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days, in some analyses. It may be that legal cannabis sales have made cannabis more difficult to access by persons below the legal age, for instance, by reducing black market supply through competition.
We also found that in the portion of the BRFSS sample who smoked cigarettes, respondents living in counties with higher levels of legal cannabis sales were less likely to report past-month cannabis use. It is particularly difficult to explain why increased sales would lead to lower cannabis use among cigarette smokers.
We look forward to updating these results with additional data to see if these effects persist.
Though not mentioned in this summary, the report reveals a notable decline in marijuana-specific criminal charges in the wake of the legalization vote in Washington. And, not to be overlooked, Washington now has a significant job sector and tax revenue stream as a result of legalization. It seems this WSIPP report was much more focused on changes in marijuana use than in other impacts, which strikes me as the reason why this report creates the impression that there is not much to report.