Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto
As reported in this local article, "Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont." Here is more:
At a highly anticipated press conference in his Montpelier office, the Republican governor said he could not sign S.22, which passed the Vermont House and Senate in the waning days of the recently concluded legislative session. But Scott said he was open to revisiting the debate with legislators — perhaps as soon as an expected veto session next month.
Vermont’s Democratic legislature is unlikely to override Scott’s veto, given that the bill squeaked through the House two weeks ago on a 79-66 vote.
The legislation would have allowed adults over age 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow as many as two mature plants per household, starting in July 2018. Similar to Washington, D.C.’s marijuana law, it would not have allowed for sale or commercial growing of the drug. The bill would also have created a commission to study how Vermont could tax and regulate marijuana sales, as Colorado and several other states have done.
The governor has said he does not consider marijuana legalization a priority and has concerns about the lack a roadside test to detect driver impairment.
Had Scott signed the bill, Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through legislative action rather by public referendum.
Prior related post:
UPDATE: I have now had a chance to read Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's remarks explaining his veto, and they are available at this link. Here are some of the interesting particulars:
I have been clear since the campaign and throughout the session: I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana, and I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction. However, I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward.
We must get this right. Let the science inform any policy we make around this issue, learn from the experience of other states, and take whatever time is required to do so. In my view, policymakers have an obligation to all Vermonters – and those who visit us – to address health, safety, prevention and education questions before committing the state to a specific timeline for moving forward.
More specifically – as I have said repeatedly throughout the campaign and this session – we should know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not, and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing.
From my vantage point, S.22 does not yet adequately address these questions. Therefore, I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.
I’ll be providing the Legislature with recommended changes. And to be clear, if they are willing to work with me to address my concerns in a new bill passed during the veto session this summer, there is a path forward on this issue.
Those recommendations include the following:
First, in its attempt to equate marijuana with alcohol. This bill appears to weaken penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors. Sections of this bill must be rewritten to make clear that existing penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors and on school grounds remain unchanged.
Weakening these protections and penalties should be totally unacceptable to even the most ardent legalization advocates.
Second, I am asking for changes to more aggressively penalize consumption while driving, and usage in the presence of minors....
Third, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission section must be enhanced in order to be taken seriously. It must include a broader membership, including representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse prevention and treatment community. The Commission must be charged with determining outcomes, such as an impairment threshold for operating a motor vehicle; an impairment testing mechanism; an education and prevention strategy to address use by minors; and a plan for continued monitoring and reporting on impacts to public health.
May 24, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by Zhuang Hao and Benjamin Cowan published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Here is the abstract:
We examine the spillover effects of recreational marijuana legalization (RML) in Colorado and Washington on neighboring states. We find that RML causes a sharp increase in marijuana possession arrests in border counties of neighboring states relative to non-border counties in these states. RML has no impact on juvenile marijuana possession arrests but is rather fully concentrated among adults. We do not find evidence that marijuana sale/manufacture arrests, DUI arrests, or opium/cocaine possession arrests in border counties are affected by RML.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
In a post last month, I asked "Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?" based on data showing increased marijuana sales in Colorado the first two months of this year. Now, via this new Cannabist piece, headlined "Colorado marijuana sales top $131M, set record in March 2017," we have additional data on ever-increasing sales, though there is no way to tell from basic sales data if the market is experiencing general growth or if folks in Colorado may be stocking up on marijuana in light of uncertainty concerning federal marijuana policies under a new administration. Speculations about reasons aside, here are the basic sales details along with some perspectives via The Cannabist:
The Colorado cannabis industry’s unbridled growth hasn’t waned — in fact, it’s still setting records. The state’s licensed marijuana shops captured nearly $132 million of recreational and medical cannabis sales in March, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state sales tax data made public Tuesday.
The monthly sales haul of $131.7 million sets a new record for Colorado’s relatively young legal marijuana industry, besting the previous high of $127.8 million set last September, The Cannabist’s calculations show. It’s the tenth consecutive month that sales have topped $100 million.
Sales tax revenue generated for the state during March was $22.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. March’s sales totals were 48 percent higher than those tallied in March 2016, according to The Cannabist’s calculations. The month closes out a quarter in which sales were up nearly 36 percent from the first three months of last year.
In 2016, the year-over-year quarterly growth rate ranged between 29 percent and 39.6 percent. The Cannabist also found that March 2017’s year-over-year percentage growth outpaced much of what was seen on a monthly basis last year. Monthly growth rates from calendar year 2015 to 2016 averaged nearly 34 percent.
It was this continued rate of growth that caught the attention of some analysts and economists contacted by The Cannabist. Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, separately calculated out the year-over-year monthly growth rate for Colorado cannabis sales and saw a trend emerge.
“The year-over-year rates of growth have continued at a steady pace, which to me indicates that we have not yet reached the point at which we are starting to cap out the market,” he said. At that point, he added, the growth rates would start to decline.
If the current growth rates keeps up, April 2017 should be another record month, and the summer of 2017 should set new highs, Livingston predicted. And by the end of the year, that could add up to an industry boasting $1.6 billion in sales, he said.
“We’re surprised that sales continue to grow so quickly,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based financial, policy, research and consulting firm focused on the marijuana industry. “We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space.” Adult-use sales, which hit a new monthly high of $93.3 million, accounted for the lion’s share of the March totals. Medical cannabis transactions totaled $38.4 million.
Light and other economists have previously projected that Colorado’s marijuana market would eventually hit a ceiling as the draw from the black market becomes more complete, regular economic cycles take hold and other states implement adult-use sales. It’s hard to predict when that plateau may occur, but the license and application fees in the March 2017 report were telling, Light said.
Ten months into Colorado’s fiscal year (the latest report for March sales show tax revenue remitted in April), the license and application fees for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana businesses were down 25.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue report. “This shows that fewer new firms are entering and, I believe, shows that … sales should be tapering off or declining,” he said.
Whatever the particular reasons for the strong and steady sales growth in Colorado, there numbers seem certain to keep investors and other business players "bullish" on the marijuana industry at least for the time being. And such business bullishness will likely continue to fuel various efforts in various jurisdictions to continue moving forward with or expand the reach of marijuana reform.
Prior related post:
May 11, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting on very big news out of the Green Mountain State. Here are the details:
Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill.
Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.
Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures....
Wednesday's vote closed a divisive debate over legalization, particularly in the House, that once prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe to predict that legalization would take a "miracle" to pass this year. Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to support the limited bill, which was pitched as a compromise between the House and Senate approaches on marijuana.
The proposal incorporates H.170, the House-supported bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants or four immature marijuana plants for adults over 21. The effective date has been pushed back one year until July 1, 2018. The bill also sets up a nine-member commission to study the best way to regulate marijuana in the future.
"There's no slam dunk of any kind," said Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking about the prospect of a legal marijuana market. "It just is doing work that could be used next year or in subsequent years." The proposal would continue to prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana and the use of marijuana in public places. Employers, landlords, schools and prisons could continue to restrict marijuana use.
Friday, May 5, 2017
Will Michigan become the ninth US state, and first in Midwest, to fully legalize marijuana via ballot initiative in 2018?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "Pot petition drive officially begins for 2018 Michigan ballot." Here are the basics:
Marijuana would be legalized for recreational uses and taxed at a rate of 16% under petition language that will be turned in to the Secretary of State today.
If the petition language is approved by the state Board of Canvassers, the group pushing the initiative — the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol — will have 180 days to collect 252,523 signatures from valid registered voters in Michigan. In order to get a cushion to account for signatures that might be thrown out, the group is setting a goal of gathering 350,000 signatures.
That’s a task that will take money, said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the Coalition. The group hopes to raise between $8 million and $10 million to both pay people to gather the signatures needed to get on the ballot and to wage a campaign to get the measure passed in November 2018.
“Prohibition is a failed big government program,” said former state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who is the political director of the coalition. “We have 20,000 people arrested every year in Michigan. And we’re now going to be in a position to give our citizens a choice to end that.”...
The coalition will have an advantage this year over previous efforts to get the issue on the ballot. The national Marijuana Policy Project, which has gotten involved in several other states where marijuana legalization has succeeded, has jumped into Michigan’s ballot drive. So far eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, while 29 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana use.
The last group to try and get the issue on the 2016 ballot – MiLegalize – gathered more than 350,000 signatures, but not within the 180-day time frame. MiLegalize, as well as the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization or Norml, have signed on to the latest effort and will bring its army of volunteers to the push to free the weed.
Marijuana Policy Project has an extraordinary recent track record of success with marijuana reform initiatives, and my sense is that MPP will not get involved in a state campaign unless it feels confident it has a good chance of winning. Michigan will be such an interesting state to watch in the run up to 2018 because of both politics and geography: the state has an (outgoing) Republic Gov and it supported Prez Trump in 2016, but it has two Democratic senators and is sometimes thought of as more of a "blue" state; the state borders Canada and a number of upper-Midwest states (Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin) that currently have fairly restrictive marijuana policies and politics.
Monday, May 1, 2017
The Colorado Springs Gazette, which has tended to take a skeptical/critical perspective on marijuana reform in Colorado, has this big new series of big new articles under the banner "State of Marijuana." Here are the headlines and links:
May 1, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The title of this post is how West Academic Publishing is promoting its latest notable nutshell publication authored by Mark Osbeck and Howard Bromberg. In part because I think it is near impossible to summarize modern marijuana law in short form, I view this nutshell effort as extraordinary in various respects. And here is how West briefly describes the product:
Concise yet comprehensive text that provides an overview of marijuana law. It discusses important issues pertaining to public policy, legal history, constitutional law, criminal law, and jurisprudence, as well as practical legal issues that concern both marijuana-related businesses and individuals, in areas such as banking, employment, tax, bankruptcy, and child custody.
The text provides in-depth coverage of federal laws governing marijuana, along with an overview of international, state, and local laws relating to marijuana regulation. It also provides an overview of arguments for and against medical and/or recreational legalization, as well as an analysis of how marijuana compares to other potentially harmful substances, both legal and illegal.
April 26, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 17, 2017
The Denver Post, as highlighted here, this past weekend had a section of its "Sunday Perspective" focused on marijuana reform. Included among the section's contributors were "former Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, L’Eagle grow and dispensary owner Amy Andrle, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting, and former teachers turned science-based marijuana curriculum developers Sarah Grippa and Molly Lotz." Here are the headlines of the pieces with links:
April 17, 2017 in 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 | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 3, 2017
Governors of first four legalization states write to AG Sessions and Secretary Mnuchin in support of Cole Memo
As reported in this Huffington Post piece, "Governors from four states where recreational marijuana is legal for adult use sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday urging them to respect state cannabis laws." The full relatively brief letter is available at this link, and here are some key passages:
As governors of states that have legalized marijuana in some form, we ask the Trump Administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems. The balance struck by the 2013 Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo) has been indispensable – providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections.
We understand you and others in the administration have some concerns regarding marijuana. We sympathize, as many of us expressed apprehensions before our states adopted current laws. As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies.
The Cole Memo and the related Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance provide the foundation for state regulatory systems and are vital to maintaining control over marijuana in our states. Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states. Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity. The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.
Among the many exciting topics for student presentations in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming wee is a look at "recent trends and varying approaches in allowing/restricting home growing marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes and the plant count and possession limitations these laws impose." As preparation for this topic, my student has provided these links for background reading:
Law review article: Ryan Stoa, “Marijuana Appellations: The Case for Cannabicultural Designations of Origins.”
A research paper expounding upon the possible iterations of a post-legalization marijuana market in the United States. Predictions concerning the form of a future market and the potential regulatory hurdles in the way. The possibility of the marijuana market evolving similarly to the wine industry and avoiding the widespread concern with “Big Marijuana."
Press article: "Costs of Growing Cannabis at Home vs. Buying Bud at a Dispensary"
A helpful guide comparing the costs to a consumer of either cultivating their own marijuana or simply purchasing marijuana from a dispensary.
A recent article from Denver concerning home grown marijuana entering into the black market.
A helpful visual summary of which states have adopted medical/recreational marijuana policies.
Press article: "Home Cannabis Cultivation Laws by State"
A quick reference to the laws of each state that has legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes with regard to home cultivation.
April 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
"Too Stoned to Drive? The question is trickier than you’d think for police and the courts to answer."
The title of this post is the headline of this ABA Journal article appearing in the April 2017 issue. Here are excerpts:
Massachusetts is one of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, where recreational marijuana use is now legal. Twenty more states have legalized medical marijuana. But science and the law have not kept pace with this rapid political change.
We take for granted that not being able to walk a straight line or stand on one leg means you’re drunk, and that being drunk means it’s unacceptably dangerous to drive. But there is no clear scientific consensus when it comes to smoking pot and driving. And few of the tools police officers have long relied on to determine whether a driver is too drunk to drive, such as the Breathalyzer, exist for marijuana....
Most (but not all) studies find that using pot impairs one’s ability to drive. However, overall, the impairment appears to be modest — akin to driving with a blood-alcohol level between 0.01 and 0.05, which is legal in all states. (The much greater risk is in combining pot with alcohol.)
The increased crash risk with pot alone “is so small you can compare it to driving in darkness compared to driving in daylight,” says Rune Elvik, a senior research officer at the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway, who conducted several major meta-analyses evaluating the risks of drugged driving. “Nobody would consider banning people from driving in the dark. If you tried to impose some kind of consistency standard, then there is no strong case, really, for banning it.”
When it comes to alcohol, science and the courts have long established a direct line between number of drinks, blood-alcohol level and crash risk. As one goes up, so do the others. Not so for pot. Scientists can’t say with confidence how much marijuana, in what concentration, used in what period of time, will reliably make someone “high.” (This is especially difficult to gauge because most of the existing studies used pot provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which tends to be a lot less potent than what smokers can buy on the street or in shops.)
Blood levels of THC — the chemical component of pot that makes you high — spike quickly after smoking and decline rapidly in the hours afterward, during the window when a smoker would feel most high. What’s more, regular smokers could have THC in their blood for days or weeks after smoking, when they are clearly no longer high.
Still, laws in 18 states tie drugged driving charges to whether drivers have THC or related compounds in their blood. Some states prohibit driving with any amount, and some specify a threshold modeled after the 0.08 limit states use for blood alcohol. But the lag time between being pulled over and being transported to a hospital for a blood draw — on average, more than two hours — can lead to false negatives, while the tolerance developed by regular users (and the tendency for THC to stick around in their bloodstreams) can lead to false positives. This is why, researchers say, blood THC laws make little sense....
The more sensible strategy appears to be prohibiting driving while high, and 31 states take this approach. But proving that a driver is high turns out to be tricky terrain, too....
Research shows that failing a standard field sobriety test correlates closely with having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit—and officers have the Breathalyzer to confirm their findings. But “the gap between assessment, cannabis use and driving is really not completely closed,” says Thomas Marcotte, co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California at San Diego....
Some police departments use drug recognition experts — specially trained officers dispatched to evaluate suspected drugged drivers. These officers, commonly referred to as DREs, use an hourlong, 12-step process that includes taking the suspect’s blood pressure and pulse and conducting eye exams and balance tests. They use this information to generate an opinion about whether the driver is intoxicated — and, if so, by what. Preliminary research seems to indicate their opinions are of mixed quality, and not all judges allow DREs to testify to their findings.
“They’re not EMTs. They’re not medically trained,” says [Nicholas] Lovrich, the Washington State professor who, in a recent study of five years of DRE data in Washington and New Mexico, found a false-positive rate for pot intoxication ranging from 38 percent to 68 percent. “Everyone in the DRE business knows it’s really hard to do this.”
The gold standard would be a Breathalyzer-like device that can objectively measure whether someone has recently smoked, as well as how much. Lovrich is working on developing such a tool, using the same type of technology that security screeners use at airports to check for explosives. He says it will be at least two years before the technology is perfected, miniaturized and engineered to be durable enough to toss in the back seat of a squad car.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
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.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
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
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
A 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
The 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.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
In 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.
Friday, February 3, 2017
A 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.
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)