Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Interesting recreational marijuana regulatory rules emerging in Alaska's laboratory

Download (1)Because Alaska is a "red state" and distinctive in various other ways, I have long been saying that The Last Frontier should be an especially interesting jurisdiction to watch as it develops rules for its recreational marijuana industry.   This local article reporting on the work of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board as it is finalizing the state's commercial marijuana regulations confirms my thinking on this front. Here are highlights from the article:

At the end of an all-day meeting Friday to craft Alaska's first regulations over the cannabis industry, the state Marijuana Control Board adopted new rules that could blow the door wide open to Outside investment. Marijuana businesses must be 100 percent Alaskan owned, but the definition of what makes an Alaskan was changed from matching what is needed to receive a Permanent Fund dividend to matching voter registration requirements, which is far easier to achieve. Assistant Attorney General Harriet Milks called it a “sea change” that could “upend the whole program.”

Qualifying for a PFD requires documents such as employment and school records or vehicle registration, and a certain number of days spent physically in the state. By contrast, for Alaska voter registration requirements, all that is needed is a physical address and no other voter registration elsewhere....

Board member Mark Springer said he proposed the amendment because there had been concerns that the requirement would limit opportunity for some Alaskans to be able to invest. “There are people in this state who travel out of state long enough not to get a dividend, but they live here, so I was looking at it as providing the opportunity,” Springer said. He said he’d consider it a “major failure” if non-Alaskans flew up, rented an apartment and claimed residency. He noted that the amendment still had to withstand the Department of Law's review.

Earlier in the day, the board had voted down two separate amendments that would have allowed for 25 percent Outside investment, but the final changes, some said, were actually far more inclusive for Outsiders. “When you have 75 percent ownership then you give immediate value to Alaska residents. Now, right now …. an Alaska resident is not needed to have a place in this market,” marijuana industry attorney Jana Weltzin said. “They don’t need us anymore,” Weltzin added....

With Tuesday’s deadline approaching, the board had met in downtown Anchorage on Friday with hopes of ironing out remaining questions and concerns surrounding Alaska’s marijuana regulations. Aspects small and large – from licensing fees to retail store hours to packaging requirements -- have been considered by the board in crafting its 133 pages of regulations. Forty-two pages of amendments were posted on the board’s website Friday morning.

Another big change Friday was allowing for marijuana retail licenses to have an area for on-site consumption of marijuana. An adult 21-years or older would purchase marijuana and consume it in a designated area on the store’s premises, similar to a bar. Details on the on-site consumption were not figured out Friday; they will be defined at a later date, Alcoholic Beverage Control and Marijuana Control Board director Cynthia Franklin said.

The vote passed 3-2; the audience, a room composed mostly of marijuana industry advocates, clapped after the vote. “Common sense finally prevailed on one issue,” Weltzin said later.

Other changes made Friday:

• The board voted to remove a cap on THC limits for marijuana concentrates. A prior draft version had capped THC at 76 percent, a calculation derived from the limit placed on spirits; board member Bruce Schulte argued that the cap was taking the idea of regulating marijuana like alcohol too literally.

• Marijuana can be packaged in such a way as to allow consumers to see the product before they purchase it in a retail store, the board voted Friday. A previous version of the regulations had specified that marijuana must be packaged in opaque plastic.

• A broker cultivation license was removed from proposed regulations. Under a previous draft version of the regulations, a license would have allowed for brokers to procure marijuana from small growers and then sell the marijuana to retailers. The license was seen as a way to help small black-market growers transition to the legal market, but the board decided that the broker did not fall under the auspices of a cultivation license.

November 22, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2015

"After federal raids, U.S. tribes cautioned about marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this AP article providing an effective review of the state of tribal affairs concerning marijuana reform roughly a year since the US Department of Justice issued notable guidance concerning federal law enforcement priorities in this arena.  Here are excerpts (with links from the source):

Tribes across the U.S. are finding marijuana is a is risky business nearly a year after a Justice Department policy indicated they could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as states.

Federal raids on tribal cannabis operations in California followed by a South Dakota tribe's move this month to burn its crop amid fears it could be next have raised questions over whether there's more to complying with DOJ standards than a department memo suggested last December.

The uncertainty — blamed partly on thin DOJ guidelines, the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal laws, and a complex tangle of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on reservations — has led attorneys to urge tribal leaders to weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.

"Everybody who is smart is pausing to look at the feasibility and risks of growing hemp and marijuana," said Lance Gumbs, a former chairman of the Shinnecock Tribe in New York and regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. "But are we giving up on it? Absolutely not."

At a conference on tribal economic development held in Santa Fe, tribal leaders and attorneys said Wednesday that the raids have shown there may be more red tape for tribes to negotiate when it comes to legalizing cannabis than states have faced.  That's especially the case for tribes that are within states where marijuana is not legal....

"Industrial hemp, medical marijuana and maybe recreational marijuana present a lot of opportunity. But for now, the best advice is to proceed with caution," said Michael Reif, an attorney for the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin, where tribal leaders filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after federal agents recently seized thousands of hemp plants grown for research.  "We're seeing the ramifications of things being unclear in a way states didn't."

The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota — a state where marijuana isn't legal — was the first to approve recreational pot under tribal law with a vote in June, and was one of the most aggressive about entering the industry, with plans to open the nation's first marijuana resort on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.

But after weeks of discussions with authorities who signaled a raid was possible, the tribe announced last week it had burned all of its marijuana plants.  Anthony Reider, the tribe's president, told The Associated Press the main holdup centered on whether the tribe could sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with issues over where the seed used for planting originated.  He suggested that by burning the crops, the tribe could have a clean slate to relaunch a grow operation in consultation with authorities.

In California, the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias launched tribally run marijuana operations that were raided by federal authorities, with agents seizing 12,000 marijuana plants in July.  The regional U.S. attorney's office said in a statement that the two neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party foreign.   It's not clear if the two tribes have plans for a new marijuana venture, and calls from the AP were not immediately returned.

The California and South Dakota tribes are three of just six so far this year that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana on their reservations.  The Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington state is another, and just opened a store last week for retail sales of the drug. But most expect the tribe to face fewer legal challenges because Washington allows for recreational marijuana use and the tribe entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines for taxing pot sales.

"The tribes are not going to be immune to what the local attitudes toward marijuana are going to be," Trueblood said.  "If there's one 30,000-feet takeaway from this year, it's that you're not going to be successful if you don't work with you local governments or U.S. attorneys."

Prior related posts:

November 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

GOP firebrand Sarah Palin suggests Republicans ought not be fighting against marijuana reform

Faith_PalinThough I somewhat doubt that Sarah Palin is still a significant voice in conservative circles, I do not doubt that it is still somewhat significant that the former GOP Vice-President candidate is saying pretty clearly that politicians ought not be too concerned about bringing an end to blanket marijuana prohibition. This Huffington Post article, headlined "Sarah Palin: Legalizing Weed Is 'No Big Deal'," highlights Palin's latest comments on this topic:

Supporters of marijuana legalization may have an unlikely ally: Sarah Palin. Breaking with many members of her party who oppose legalizing marijuana, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee on Thursday said it is "no big deal" and argued that it should not be a controversial issue.

"I look on the national scene and think, wow, of all things to be fighting over and battling over, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. I think, hmm, this is just not my baby," Palin told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

When Hewitt expressed disbelief that Palin's home state legalized recreational marijuana last year, she said the vote "didn't surprise me."

"We've got that libertarian streak in us," she said, explaining that Alaska, the most conservative state to legalize marijuana so far, already had lax marijuana laws, so it was a less divisive issue than in other states. "I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal anyway. It was absolutely no big deal. I mean you didn't smoke it because your parents would strangle you. And if you were a jock and you were, you know, a Christian going to youth group, you just didn't do it, right?" Palin recalled. "And I still believe that. But when it comes to picking our battles, for many of us in Alaska, legalization of marijuana just was never really a bright blip on the radar screen."

November 20, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Advocates for marijuana reform in Vermont highlight economic development

Vt_magnet_allI have long thought advocates for marijuana reform could and should focus on the economic development benefits that seem to flow from permitting a legal market in cannabis.  I now see from this local article in Vermont, headlined "Marijuana pitched for young VT entrepreneurs," that some folks in the Green Mountain State are making a pitch in this way. Here is how the article gets started:

Entrepreneurs are pitching marijuana as a cash crop that would keep college graduates in Vermont and create thousands of jobs. The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative says in a new report that if Vermont lawmakers bring “order to the chaos” of the underground illegal marijuana market, business opportunities would abound.

“This provides a whole new industry for our young millennials coming out of college and trying to find what to do in Vermont to jump in and become the next Steve Jobs, to become the next Ben and Jerry’s, to become the next Seventh Generation,” Alan Newman, a founder of Seventh Generation and Magic Hat Brewing Company, said Wednesday.

Newman spoke during a news conference in Burlington one day after legalization opponents rallied at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Newman and other members of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative group have been working for months on recommendations for a legal marijuana industry in the state.

The resulting report, titled “What Cannabis Can Do for Vermont,” suggests that any large-scale marijuana-growing operation should be at least 51 percent owned by Vermonters and certified as a benefit corporation, meaning the business would consider social and environmental values in addition to profit. The proposed Vermont marijuana economy also would include home growers with six or fewer plants, and artisanal craft growers with seven to 99 plants.

The idea is to create a market unlike the kind that Ohio voters recently rejected, which would have allowed just 10 commercial growers. “We think we have a chance here to grow an economy based on Vermont values, based on Vermont tradition, and one that embraces the already-existing infrastructure that can really help keep young people here and make Vermont an attractive place to live,” said Bill Lofy, former chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Lofy’s former boss is publicly coy on whether he will push a legalization bill during his final year as governor. Shumlin, a Democrat, favors legalization and last year accepted thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from the groups that are calling for legalization, but he has hesitated to set a date.

The governor promised this week to make up his mind by January. “I gotta be candid with you,” Shumlin said Monday. “I’m focusing on a lot of other things, like the budget, creating jobs. We will get to that, but I haven’t made a decision.”

Creating jobs is among the goals of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, which argues that legalization would create as many as 4,000 positions, because the industry would need growers, architects, lawyers, marketing experts, security experts and more. The group used a custom economic model to estimate the total market at about $250 million, assuming 50,000 pounds of marijuana would be consumed annually.

The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has a lot of reform resources collected at this web page, and its recent report, titled "What Cannabis can do for Vermont: How to grow a thriving, community-based, legal cannabis economy," is available at this link.

November 19, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Effective general overview of the state of US marijuana reforms as of Fall 2015

I am giving a lecture this afternoon to a local bar association about the state of marijana reform in Ohio and throughout the United States as of Fall 2015.  Helpfully, this recent article from BloombergBNA provides a useful national overview with a number of state-level specifics.  The piece is titled "Marijuana in America, 2015: A Survey of Federal And States' Responses to Marijuana Legalization and Taxation," and I recommend it for those looking to get up to speed on a lot of the legal and tax basics ASAP.

November 18, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Jersey legislature to hold (historic?) hearing on full marijuana legalization

Images (5)As reported in this local story, headlined "Legalize recreational marijuana in N.J.? Supporters to pitch for it at hearing," the Garden State is due to have a legislative hearing this afternoon that explores the pssibility of allowing gardens to grow an especially notable weed.  Here are the details:

Eighteen months after proposing a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey [text of bill here], state Sen. Nicholas Scutari will preside over a hearing Monday that allows only supporters to testify. "I am going to start positive, then open up the floor to the people are against it," said Scutari (D-Union). Opponents will get their turn at a future hearing, he said.

With a governor who firmly opposes legalizing recreational marijuana use, there is plenty of time to give everybody who wants to speak out a chance to do so, he said. He admits he thinks opponents offer "shallow arguments" to make their point.

"A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first," said Scutari, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the hearing. "The first step was introducing the bill and this is the natural next step — to talk about the benefits of legalization and the negative impact prohibition has had."...

Under the bill, local elected officials could impose an ordinance barring a dispensary or any pot-related business from opening, and dictate how many would be allowed, hours of operation and licensing fees and regulations. Sales tax and application fee revenue would be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, drug enforcement and prevention efforts, and women's health programs, which Christie has cut since taking office in 2010....

The invited speakers are:

  • Richard Smith, President, NAACP-NJ
  • Udi Ofer, executive director, ACLU-NJ
  • Lazaro Cardenas, Latino Action Network
  • J.H. Barr, Clark prosecutor and president of the NJ Municipal Prosecutors Association
  • Lt. Nick Bucci, retired, N.J. State Police
  • Annette DePalma, Maplewood prosecutor and incoming president of the Municipal Prosecutors Association;
  • Dr. David Nathan, director of Continuing Medical Education for Princeton HealthCare System and clinical associate professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Rev. James A. Dunkins, Shiloh Baptist Church, Vineland
  • Rev. Craig Hirshberg, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry
  • Evan Nison, director of the New Jersey chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • Ken Wolski, executive director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey
  • Bill Caruso, attorney with Archer & Greiner, member of NJ United for Marijuana Reform

As the title of this post hints, I think this hearing itself is historic for being the first significant state legislative hearing enabling a full and robust discussion of the pros and cons of full marijuana legalization. I am hopeful that, among other developments, this hearing will result in considerable discussion (and perhaps detailed written testimony) with detailed data on the impact of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington.

November 16, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

New California legalization effort starts with big mo (money and momentum)

Download (2)As reported in this local article, headlined "Sean Parker initiative ignites California marijuana legalization," there appears now to be a leading proposal for bringing a marijuana legalization initiative to California voters. Here are the details:

Billionaire technology and music industry disruptor Sean Parker upended another sector this afternoon, with the release of a new initiative to legalize marijuana in California in 2016.

Parker’s proposal — called the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act — calls for ending cannabis prohibition in California, and allowing folks to possess up to one ounce of bud and grow up to six plants. Cities would have wide latitude on cannabis commerce, but couldn’t ban small, secure personal indoor gardens.

The proposal upends the 2016 playing field for California reformers. Parker’s wealth is the first substantial amount of funds to be moved into play in the 2016 race. Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project are reportedly backing the Parker proposal. That leaves other camps far out of the running for lack of funds — including the post-Prop 19 coalition ReformCA, as well as group behind the MCLR.

The full measure also received enthusiastic support from respected social-justice and industry organizations. “This initiative provides a model for the country,” stated Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It breaks new ground not just with its pragmatic regulatory provisions but also in directing tax revenue to prevention and treatment for young people, environmental protections and job creation in underserved communities.”

“California voters are ready to end marijuana prohibition in 2016 and replace it with a more sensible system,” stated Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “That is exactly what this initiative will do, and that is why MPP is proud to support it. We look forward to working with the proponents and doing whatever we can to help pass this measure and make history in California next year.”

About a half-dozen groups have filed ballot language, which costs $200 and signifies little. Millions of dollars must be spent to gather several hundred thousand valid signatures by a state deadline, then run a potentially polarizing campaign against a united conservative right, and a fractured, bickering far left. About 53 percent of Californians support legalization in theory. The details could drag those numbers down....

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who chaired a Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, supported the measure, which was filed today by official proponents, Dr. Donald O. Lyman, MD, and Michael Sutton — a doctor and an environmentalist: “I am pleased that this thoughtful measure is aligned with the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations, and presents California its best opportunity to improve the status quo by making marijuana difficult for kids to access. It is backed by the broadest coalition of supporters to date and I believe that Californians will rally behind this consensus measure, which also serves to strengthen law enforcement, respect local preferences, protect public health and public safety, and restore the environment.”...

A number of groups have signed onto the initiative with letters of support, including: The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California, California Council of Land Trusts, California Native Plant Society, California State Parks Foundation, California Trout, California Urban Stream Partnership, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Pacific Forest Trust, Trout Unlimited and Trust for Public Land. 

November 2, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

All marijuana reform eyes on Ohio as state prepares to vote on controversial legalization initiative

As regular readers of this blog know well, and as lots of other folks are surprised to discover, one of the biggest elections concerning marijuana reform is taking place this week in the great state of Ohio.  Here are links to some of the most recent press stories, both local and national, talking about what is afoot in the Buckeye State:

November 2, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Highlighting how Ohio initiative has deeply split traditional marijuana reform groups

Jacob Sullum has this notable new Forbes article about the notable rift created by the unique marijuana reform proposal going to voters in Ohio next week.  The article is headlined "Why Antiprohibitionists Are Ambivalent About Ohio's Marijuana Legalization Initiative," and here is how the piece starts and ends:

Next Tuesday voters in Ohio will decide whether to legalize marijuana. If Issue 3 passes and if another constitutional amendment aimed at overriding it does not, Ohio will be the first state to leap from complete pot prohibition to legalization for both medical and recreational use.  It will also be the most populous state and the first state east of the Great Plains to legalize marijuana.  A legalization victory in Ohio, a bellwether in presidential elections, could have a big impact on politicians’ willingness to deviate from prohibitionist orthodoxy and on voters’ willingness to support next year’s crop of marijuana initiatives in other states.

Despite its potential significance, Issue 3 does not merit a mention in a message about marijuana legalization that I received yesterday from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). In the fundraising letter, DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann recalls last year’s successful initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., and he looks forward to next year’s contests, when “more people than ever before will have the opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization.”  But he says nothing about next week’s election. There is no discussion of Issue 3 on DPA’s website either, although a few posts mention Ohio as one of the states where marijuana might be legalized.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), another leading reform group, has a paragraph about Issue 3 on its website but is not calling attention to the initiative as the vote nears. Nor is its description an endorsement.  “We encourage residents to carefully consider the measure and be sure to vote this November!” it says.

DPA and MPP, which had prominent roles in legalization campaigns last year and will again next year, are not involved in the Ohio initiative, so maybe it’s not surprising that they are not promoting it.  But that lack of involvement reflects strategic and philosophical differences within the drug policy reform movement that have made many opponents of pot prohibition ambivalent about Issue 3.  It’s an ambivalence I share. Although I’d like to see Issue 3 pass, I’m not exactly rooting for it.

Some of the objections to Issue 3 have to do with timing. MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia thinks it’s risky to put a marijuana initiative on the ballot in a year when people are not electing a president, since turnout is lower then, especially among the younger voters who are most likely to favor legalization.  He worries that a defeat in Ohio could be portrayed as a reversal of the legalization movement’s momentum. “That failure will be the only failure in the country,” he says, “and then the media will feed on that: ‘Oh, my God, legalization is backsliding.’…If they lose, which is not guaranteed, it might change the national narrative for one year.”

Although Kampia has a point, my main problem with Issue 3 is the cannabis cultivation cartel it would create: Commercial production would be limited to 10 pre-selected sites owned by the initiative’s financial backers, who are investing in the gains to be made from the economic privileges they are trying to award themselves.  This approach has the advantage of quickly raising a lot of money — money that can be used to pay marijuana mascots and produce ads featuring sympathetic beneficiaries of legalization (such as the mother who moved from Ohio to Colorado so she could treat her daughter’s epilepsy with cannabis oil).  The downside is that the crony capitalism embodied in Issue 3 disgusts a lot of people who otherwise support legalization.

That reaction is not limited to libertarians like me. “Damn,” DPA’s Nadelmann said while discussing the initiative in San Francisco last February.  “This thing sticks in my craw. Ten business interests are going to dominate this thing?”  Despite objections from the Yes on 3 campaign, a.k.a. Responsible Ohio, the ballot description highlights that aspect of the initiative, which unites progressives and libertarians in revulsion almost as much as prohibition itself....

Russ Belville, a longtime marijuana reform activist and talk radio host, faults leading antiprohibitionists for doing little or nothing to help push Issue 3 over the top.  “Why isn’t every drug law reform group making their get-out-the-vote push and shouting it from the rooftops?” he asked in an October 12 Marijuana Politics post.  Belville noted that Issue 3 is in some respects superior to I-502, the 2012 Washington initiative, which got much more enthusiastic support from groups such as DPA, MPP, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).  Unlike I-502, for instance, Issue 3 allows home cultivation (although only with a state-issued license), and it does not create an arbitrary definition of drugged driving based on THC blood levels.

NORML, unlike DPA and MPP, has endorsed Issue 3, albeit under the headline “Investor-Driven Legalization: A Bitter Pill to Swallow.”  In that September 14 post, NORML founder Keith Stroup, now the group’s general counsel, noted that the board vote in favor of the initiative was “less than unanimous.”  He explained that “a couple of board members abstained, and one flatly opposed the endorsement, to register their displeasure with the self-enrichment aspects of the Ohio proposal.”  Stroup added that “this specific version of legalization ― in which the investors alone would control and profit from the 10 commercial cultivation and extraction centers (where marijuana-infused products would be produced) permitted under the proposal — is a perversion of the voter initiative process available in 24 states.”

This week Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) joined NORML in supporting Issue 3, without mentioning the perversion that troubles Stroup.  Instead LEAP emphasized the benefits of eliminating arrests for marijuana possession and moving the industry out of the black market.  The statement quoted Howard Rahtz, a retired Cincinnati police captain: “Legalization will take money away from the cartels, provide funding for public safety and health services, and reduce the violence associated with the illegal drug market.”

Belville urges antiprohibitionists to focus on the main issue: the government’s power “to abrogate my rights because the drug I choose to use is contraband.”  The Issue 3 campaign is a battle in a war, he says, and “the way the war is won is by taking from the authorities, state by state, the ability to fuck with adults who use marijuana.”  After that is accomplished, “we fight for cultivation rights,” and “we fight to make the business model more equitable,” but “we’ve got to get it legal first.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Ohioans will indisputably have more freedom if Issue 3 passes than if it doesn’t, and that victory can only accelerate the continuing collapse of marijuana prohibition across the country.  If we must choose between cartels, the one Issue 3 creates is clearly preferable to the ones Capt. Rahtz wants to push out of the marijuana business.

October 29, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2015

"Marijuana Politics and Policy: As Goes Ohio, so Goes the Nation...?"

The title of this post is the title of an exciting event that I have been helping some of my Ohio State University Moritz College of Law have been organizing for early afternoon next Friday, October 30, 2015. Folks can (and should) pre-register for this (free) event at this link, which is also where you can find this summary description:

National leaders in Marijuana Politics and Policy will gather at Moritz to discuss what we have learned from reform movements in states like Colorado, Washington and others, and how these movements relate to the impending Ohio Election. In addition to discussing the impact of marijuana reform on a variety of broader criminal justice and social reform movements, the event will include a discussion of what effects reform in Ohio would have both within the state and nationally.

Participants will include Professor Douglas Berman, John Hudak from the Brookings Institute, Philip Wallach from the Brookings Institute and local researchers and advocates.

October 19, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First poll on Ohio ballot issues suggests marijuana legalization (and litigation) likely

635803254591155258-marijuana3-copyAs reported in this Ohio local news piece, headlined "POLL: How Ohio voters really feel about legalizing marijuana," the first ballot-issue-specific polling of Ohio voters indicates fairly significant support for an issue that would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. Here are the basic details:

Kent State's Survey Research Lab and experts from the Department of Sociology and Department of Political Science in Kent State's College of Arts and Sciences fielded a survey of 500 registered voters in Ohio....

The WKYC/Kent State Poll also asked respondents how they plan to vote after providing them with a bit of information about Issue 2 and Issue 3 using summaries of actual ballot wording from the Ohio Secretary of State website.

54 percent of Ohioans plan to vote yes on Issue 2 (plus or minus 4 percent). 26 percent said they did not know how they would vote....

On Issue 3, 56 percent of Ohioans said they plan to vote yes (plus or minus 4 percent) and only 10 percent said they did not know how they would vote.

That means that, if the election were held today and nearly all registered voters participated, both Issue 2 and Issue 3 would likely pass, leading to a constitutional crisis, since Issue 2 contains a provision that is designed to nullify Issue 3....

Issue 2 would ban amendments that create marijuana monopolies and embed them in Ohio's Constitution. Issue 3 is ResponsibleOhio's plan to legalize recreational and medical marijuana for Ohioans ages 21 and older. It would create 10 growth sites owned by the campaign's investors that would be the exclusive source of commercial marijuana. But if both Issue 2 and 3 pass, there's a good chance the question of which takes precedence could wind up in court....

For Issue 2, partisanship matters relatively little. 57 percent of self-identified Republicans, 53 percent of self-identified Democrats, and 56 percent of self-identified Independents say they will vote yes on Issue 2.

However, for Issue 3, the party divide is wider. 45 percent of self-identified Republicans, 67 percent of self-identified Democrats, and 50 percent of self-identified Independents say they will vote yes on Issue 3.

In the WKYC/Kent State Poll sample of registered voters, about 30 percent are Republicans and 40 percent are Democrats. If turnout is higher among Republicans, it will pull the number of "yes" votes down from the 56 percent that said they would vote "yes" in the WKYC/Kent State Poll.

Age is also only slightly associated with voting on Issue 2. However, age is another important factor in voting on Issue 3. Here the WKYC/Kent State Poll estimates support for Issue 3 goes down about 6 percent for about every 10 years of age. Again, if turnout is low among young people -- and it will be compared to among older registered voters -- it will pull the number of yes votes down from the 56 percent that said they would vote yes in our survey.

In terms of other groups, women, blacks, and Hispanics are less supportive of both Issue 2 and Issue 3 than men and non-Hispanic whites, but the differences are only statistically significant for Issue 2.

October 14, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

If you legalize it, they will come (and buy even more than expected), Oregon edition

DownloadThis local article, headlined "Oregon's first week of recreational pot sales tops $11 million," spotlights the notable reality that individuals given legal permission to purchase marijuana seem eager to do so in large numbers. Here are the details:

After just one week of recreational marijuana sales, Oregon dispensaries have raked in an estimated $11 million. That figure could mean the state's estimate is shockingly low for how much money it'll make when pot taxes kick in this January.

At Nectar on Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 33rd Avenue, they're restocking the shelves a lot this week. "We're seeing about 500 people a day," said Nectar owner Jeff Johnson. Dispensary owners and customers are reporting Oregon's first week has gone very well....

The Oregon Retail Cannabis Association told KGW after tallying up sales from its members statewide and factoring in projections, they estimated there were $3.5 million in sales on the first day, October 1.

One week in, Oregon is already far ahead of dollars spent on pot compared to Colorado's first week of legal recreational sales, at $5 million. Washington took a month to sell its first $2 million, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

When Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana, the state set an estimate of $9 million in net tax revenue for the first full year of 2017. But the Oregon Retail Cannabis Association believes it'll bring in three to four times that much.

"It's just person after person after person," said Rachel Clerk, employee at Fresh Buds in Southeast Portland. For her store, these hundreds of new customers came at a crucial time. They were trying to stay afloat with only 15 medical customers a day.

"There for awhile, towards the end we were thinking we might have to close the doors because we weren't getting any kind of steady business," said Clerk. In this past week, they're back in the black, averaging 10 times as much foot traffic.

And dispensaries are seeing the customer base vary as much as the strains they're buying. "Obviously we're seeing a young crowd but we're also seeing people in their 50s and 60s that would never have bought the product if it wasn't legal," said Johnson.

Oregon recreational marijuana sales are all tax-free until January. Once that 25 percent tax gets added on, it'll go to help fund schools, mental health programs, state police and the cities and counties that are allowing recreational sales.

October 11, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting new Los Angeles Times article, and here is how the article gets started:

For years, Brandan Flores has treated his chronic back pain with marijuana, a remedy he champions as a natural alternative to traditional medication. But recently he heard rumblings that his drug of choice might be less wholesome than he had imagined.

"There was talk about Eagle 20," he said, "and it concerned me right away." Eagle 20 is a fungicide used to kill mites, mildew and assorted pests that flock to plants like hops and grapes. It also contains a chemical called myclobutanil, which produces hydrogen cyanide gas when burned.

Stunned that he might be inhaling toxic fumes, Flores and fellow medicinal pot user Brandie Larrabee, a brain tumor patient, sued the grower this week, filing the first product liability lawsuit against the marijuana industry. "I want these companies to take a step back and look at what they are putting into their products," said Flores, 24, who sued in Denver District Court. "These warehouses are getting big and really sloppy. They are adding chemicals to make things more efficient and more potent. But there are so many chemicals now that you might as well get prescription medication."

The target of the suit, LivWell Inc., owns nine pot shops in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use last year. LivWell operates one of the largest grow houses in the world. Company lawyer Dean Heizer did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier, he told the Associated Press that LivWell had stopped using Eagle 20 and that no consumer illnesses had been linked to marijuana pesticides.

In April, Colorado quarantined 60,000 pot plants from LivWell to check for Eagle 20 residue. The hold was lifted when only low levels of the chemical were found. Afterward, LivWell owner John Lord released a statement saying laboratory tests of his plants "showed that our products are safe — as we always maintained."

Neither Flores nor Larrabee contends that the marijuana has harmed them. But they say they would have never inhaled it if they knew it could release what the lawsuit calls "poisonous hydrogen cyanide." Their attorney, Steven Woodrow, said the growers "either knew or acted in disregard of the facts" when they sprayed the plants with Eagle 20. "The state of Colorado has a list of approved pesticides for marijuana," he said. "This is not one of them."

Woodrow said this is the first lawsuit to challenge the marijuana industry's grow methods. He is seeking class-action status for the suit and expects more plaintiffs to join in. "Unless the industry cleans itself up, we can expect more lawsuits like this in the future," he said.

October 8, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

California wisely includes mandate DUI research in recent medical marijuana reforms

This local article, headlined "Marijuana legislation calls for DUI study," reports on a notable (and I think very valuable) element of California's recent new law concerning medical marijuana. Here are the details and the context:

Recent legislation awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature not only seeks to implement a statewide regulatory system on the medical marijuana, but also calls for a study on how law enforcement can better detect stoned drivers.

Nestled within one of the bills — Assembly Bill 266 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) — is a sentence that calls for the state to commission the UC San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to develop a study that identifies how cannabis impacts motor skills. The language was written by Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired California Highway Patrol sergeant of 28 years who said he was motivated to coauthor the bill to give officers another tool to get impaired drivers off the street and to save lives.

“We’ve done a good job of reducing alcohol DUIs,” he said. “With drug impairment we have a long way to go. I believe this is a pioneering effort to allow that to take place.” Lackey — who made his first visit to Humboldt County on Tuesday along with two other bill authors to call on Gov. Brown to sign the bills — said that the study could provide data that he hopes will result in an improved field sobriety test specifically for marijuana impairment.

The three-bill package known as the “Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act” is currently sitting on Gov. Brown’s desk. If signed, the bills would create a licensing and regulatory scheme for all aspects of the medical marijuana industry including cultivation, distribution, transport, dispensary sales, laboratory testing, environmental protections and storage.

Unlike with alcohol, where a legal blood alcohol concentration has been established, local law enforcement officials say they are currently limited in their methods of detecting drivers under the influence of the marijuana’s main psychoactive component, THC, with no set level of impairment and no easy detection method like a Breathalyzer.

“We do not have a cutoff point where we can say we know they are impaired,” Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming said. “The proof goes back to whether or not their driving showed they were impaired.” When prosecuting someone for driving under the influence of marijuana, Fleming said evidence usually includes patrol car dash cam videos, testimony by drug recognition experts and observations by a law enforcement officer.

Even if such a level were established, a local defense attorney and several studies state that THC processing by the human body is more complicated than alcohol and other drugs. A former president of the DUI Lawyers Association and current member of National College of DUI Defense, Eureka-based attorney Manny Daskal said some studies have shown that drivers actually exhibited safer driving habits and kept more room between themselves and other drivers to compensate for their impairment, though other studies refute the findings. “Right now the research isn’t there for them to accurately predict when impairment occurs or at what level it occurs,” Daskal said.

Regardless of what type of drug a California Highway Patrol officer suspects a driver is impaired by, Humboldt County CHP Public Information Officer Cy May said they will perform the same field sobriety test. “Usually we’re not sure it’s cannabis,” May said, adding there are certain giveaway signs. Such signs include marijuana odor emanating from the car or driver, bloodshot or dilated eyes, and a higher pulse rate....

Two studies by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released in February found that 12.6 percent of surveyed drivers had evidence of marijuana use in their systems — up from 8.6 percent in 2007 — while those driving under the influence of alcohol dropped by one-third in the same time period.

Another study by the administration found that marijuana users were 25 percent more likely to be in a crash than non-marijuana users, but that the increased risk “may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes” — such as young men. “When you take all the confounding factors into account there is not much of an indication that marijuana causes an increase of crashing,” Daskal said.

Speaking at Tuesday’s rally in Eureka, Lackey said a September 2015 report by the Rocky Mountain High Drug Trafficking Area showed a 32 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado in 2014 — the same year recreational marijuana use became legal — compared to 2013. “We will not stand for that in California,” he said to the crowd.

While these studies state the risk of a crash is much higher when THC impairment is factored in, others — like a 2010 study in the The American Journal on Addictions — state some experimental studies have shown it can have the opposite effect. “Several reviews of driving and simulator studies have concluded that marijuana use by drivers is likely to result in decreased speed and fewer attempts to overtake, as well as increased ‘following distance,’ ” the study states. “The opposite is true of alcohol.”

October 7, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

"Requests pour in for opening night of Native American marijuana resort"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new article, which provide a speedy and notable follow up to this recent post: South Dakota tribe poised to open "marijuana resort" to serve as "adult playground.  Here are excerpts from the new article:

A South Dakota Native American tribe has been flooded with requests hours after it announced plans to open the United States’ first marijuana resort this New Years Eve, the tribe said Wednesday. “About 100 people have already called to say they’re coming,” Seth Pearman, tribal attorney for the Santee Sioux in Flandreau, South Dakota, told Al Jazeera. “We’re very excited about this process.”

Marijuana is not legal in South Dakota, but the U.S. Department of Justice said last year that Indian reservations would not face prosecution or federal interference for legally operating — under rules similar to those in states that have legalized recreational use of the drug — its distribution and cultivation facilities.

The Santee Sioux resort, converted from a 10,000 square-foot bowling alley on the reservation, will grow its own marijuana and will have an “upscale bar or club atmosphere” and live music, Pearman said. A nearby casino will provide rooms for overnight guests, he added.

The resort will be open to the public, will sell both marijuana and alcohol to adults over 21 years old and will allow them to consume it openly, Pearman said. A handful of private clubs have been allowed to operate in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use was legalized in 2012, but smoking in public is not legal.

Santee Sioux tribal officials have been researching the idea and touring other marijuana-growing facilities around the country. The tribe has also partnered with Colorado-based marijuana consulting firm Monarch America to learn about cultivating the plant. The tribe will grow its own marijuana in a 10,000 square-foot facility on the reservation with the help of industry experts. The pot will be “high quality, free from contaminants, and organic,” according to Pearman....

Sales will be tightly regulated, and any pot purchased must be consumed on site, Pearman said. Some reservation residents have publicly complained about the project, he said, comparing the situation to the concerns expressed when casinos became popular businesses on reservations in the early 1990s.

The Santee Sioux held several general council meetings inviting all tribal members while it was debating whether to go ahead with the resort. Some people opposed the plan but a tribal survey showed that most supported it, Pearman said. The tribe hopes the resort will boost the reservation’s economy, which is still recovering from the 2008 economic recession. “It’s a great opportunity, with a small investment, to make a lot of money for tribes who have been struggling for hundreds of years to get economic development going,” Pearman said.

Prior related posts:

October 1, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Could marijuana reform in part explain application and enrollment boost at University of Colorado Law School?

The question in the title of this post was the thought that kept coming to mind as I read this interesting article headlined "CU-Boulder law school sees enrollment boom as numbers fall nationally."  As those in and following closely the law school industry know all too well, both applications and enrollment has been way down at most law schools nationwide over the last few years.  But, as the article explains, the flagship school in a flagship state for marijuana reform now has a different story to tell:

At a time when interest in attending law school appears to be waning across the country, the University of Colorado Law School this fall has seen a 22 percent increase in first-year students. CU's newest crop of law students totals 205, up from 168 students in the first-year class of 2014.

Though they're still trying to determine the exact cause of the enrollment boost, Colorado Law administrators contend that the school is in a desirable location and has a reputation for putting students in jobs after graduation. "We've been really working hard at communicating our value proposition and why Colorado Law is a special place to be," Dean Philip Weiser said. "We are getting that story out there. That story picks up on the fact that we are really helping our students on the job front."

Since 2005, CU's first-year law classes have hovered between 160 and 180 students each year. The American Bar Association reported that fall 2014 first-year enrollment levels in the United States, the most recent data available, were the lowest since 1973. The 2014 new student enrollment figure represented a 4.4 percent decrease from 2013 and a 27.7 percent decrease from 2010, when first-year law school enrollment peaked. Nearly two-thirds of association-approved law schools experienced first-year enrollment declines last year....

It seems that trend is continuing into 2015, though official enrollment numbers aren't yet available. The Law School Admission Council reported in August that applications were down 4 percent from 2014. Despite that, applications to Colorado Law increased in 2015 to 2,383, up from 2,180 applications in 2014.

CU admitted a few more students this year and saw an increased yield rate, or the number of students who enrolled after being admitted. This year, the yield rate was about 19 percent, compared to 15 percent in 2014.

At the same time, the academic qualifications of the 2015 entering class stayed roughly the same as those of the 2014 class, Weiser said. The median LSAT score stayed the same and the median cumulative grade point average declined from 3.62 in 2014 to 3.6 in 2015.

Roughly 70 percent of the entering class of 2015 came from outside of Colorado, up from 59 percent in 2014. Weiser believes the law school's setting and collaborative environment drew students to Boulder this year. "Part of the story is Colorado," Weiser said. "One is that our community in Colorado is a special community that really wants to help each other and collaborate and that cultural appeal resonates."

He said the law school has always been less reliant on large, corporate law firms than other schools. Instead, Colorado Law graduates tend to be more innovative in their career choices. "We have a very entrepreneurial student population, alumni population, who have done all sorts of interesting things," Weiser said. "There are lots of opportunities for smart people who are creative, who know how to communicative, know how to analyze. "I remain excited about what our students are going to be able to do and the careers they're going to be able to have."

Not surprisingly, marijuana reform is not mentioned in this article as a reason for the uptick in both applications and entering students, but the fact that a much larger percentage of students in the entering class came from outside the state is notable and certainly reinforces my speculations. In addition, I am certain that marijuana reform has helped the overall Colorado economy and the business needs for legal help in a highly-regulated industry.

October 1, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oregon on the verge of becoming third state with lawful recreational marijuana sales

In a few hours, Oregon will officially join the ranks of Colorado and Washington as states with functioning state-authorized marijuana sales for recreational purposes.  This lengthy Oregonian article, headlined "Pot won't be for sale in many Oregon cities," provides the basic lay of the land on the eve of a new era in the Beaver State.   Here are excerpts:

When recreational cannabis sales start Thursday in Oregon, consumers will be able to buy the drug at most of the state's 300-plus medical marijuana dispensaries. But some communities — ranging from Portland suburbs to cities in eastern Oregon — are keeping the door shut to storefront pot sales of any kind.

In many towns, marijuana remains shunned by the majority and is seen as something that shouldn't be given any official stamp of approval. And even where voters agreed to legalize marijuana, there are worries that retail sales will encourage youth consumption, attract crime or tarnish their commercial districts....

The taboo against the drug is particularly strong throughout many of the state's rural communities. Carol Free, a medical marijuana patient and grower in Baker City, was unable to persuade her city or county to allow even a dispensary — perhaps not a surprise given the nearly 60 percent no vote locally against the Measure 91 legalization measure last year. "It's just a huge fear factor," she said. "People are so wrapped up in the negatives about it."...

In the 15 counties — all in eastern Oregon — where at least 55 percent of voters opposed Measure 91, city councils and county commissions can vote to prohibit marijuana businesses of any kind. In the rest of the state, local governments can refer a measure to the November 2016 ballot to ban sales.

Last, the Legislature decided to allow limited recreational sales at medical marijuana dispensaries starting Oct. 1 to give consumers a way to legally buy the drug after it's allowed under Measure 91 but before the state is ready to issue retail licenses. The Legislature left it to cities and county governments to decide whether to opt out.

At last count, governments in six eastern Oregon counties — plus 13 cities in those counties — have voted to ban medical and recreational marijuana sales, production or processing, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Meanwhile, Douglas County and eight other cities have decided to take the issue to voters next year....

In many cases, cities have placed tough zoning restrictions on marijuana businesses. Tualatin, for instance, requires a 3,000-foot buffer from residences, schools and parks that restricts them to one corner of the city. So far, no one has applied to open a dispensary there, according to City Manager Sherilyn Lombos.

Lake Oswego has a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries even though 55 percent of the city's voters approved Measure 91. At a Sept. 15 council meeting, officials fretted about how allowing marijuana businesses would affect life in one of Oregon's wealthiest enclaves....

In more isolated communities, many officials and voters hope to wall themselves off from the effects of Measure 91. "Just pure logic tells you, if there are retail sales, use will go up," said Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, who urged officials in both his county and Baker City to ban marijuana businesses....

Don Morse, a Portland dispensary owner who heads the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, said his group is organizing to fight local sales bans on the ballot next year. But he said his group is inclined to give places such as Baker County time for the culture to change. "We have no desire to go into a community and force something down their throat," Morse said. "There were some communities that remained dry for a long time after Prohibition ended."

September 30, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

South Dakota tribe poised to open "marijuana resort" to serve as "adult playground"

This new AP article, headlined "Nation's first marijuana resort to open in South Dakota," discusses the soon-to-be-up-and-running marijuana business at the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation. Here are the basic details:

The Santee Sioux tribe has already proven its business acumen, running a successful casino, a 120-room hotel and a 240-head buffalo ranch on the plains of South Dakota. But those enterprises have not been immune to competition and the lingering effects of the Great Recession, so the small tribe of 400 is undertaking a new venture -- opening the nation's first marijuana resort on its reservation. The experiment could offer a new money-making model for tribes nationwide seeking economic opportunities beyond casinos.

Santee Sioux leaders plan to grow their own pot and sell it in a smoking lounge that includes a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, and eventually, slot machines and an outdoor music venue. "We want it to be an adult playground," tribal President Anthony Reider said. "There's nowhere else in American that has something like this."

The project, according to the tribe, could generate up to $2 million a month in profit, and work is already underway on the growing facility. The first joints are expected to go on sale Dec. 31 at a New Year's Eve party.

The legalization of marijuana on the Santee Sioux land came in June, months after the Justice Department outlined a new policy that allows Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as some states.

Many tribes are hesitant to jump into the pot business. And not everyone in Flandreau, about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, believes in the project. But the profit potential has attracted the interest of many other tribes, just as the debut of slot machines and table games almost 27 years ago.

"The vast majority of tribes have little to no economic opportunity," said Blake Trueblood, business development director at the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. For those tribes, "this is something that you might look at and say, 'We've got to do something.'"

Flandreau's indoor marijuana farm is set against a backdrop of soybean fields. If not for a security booth outside, the building could pass as an industrial warehouse. Inside, men are working to grow more than 30 different strains of the finicky plant, including those with names like "Gorilla Glue," ''Shot Glass" and "Big Blue Cheese."...

Tribal leaders from across the country and South Dakota legislators will tour the Flandreau facility in mid-October. "This is not a fly-by-night operation," said Jonathan Hunt, Monarch's vice president and chief grower. Tribal leaders "want to show the state how clean, how efficient, how proficient, safe and secure this is as an operation. We are not looking to do anything shady."...

Unlike the vast reservations in western South Dakota, where poverty is widespread, the little-known Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation is on 5,000 acres of gently rolling land along the Big Sioux River. Trailer homes are scarce and houses have well-trimmed lawns. The Santee Sioux hope to use pot in the same way that many tribes rely on casinos -- to make money for community services and to provide a monthly income to tribal members. The existing enterprises support family homes, a senior living community, a clinic and a community center offering afterschool programs.

Reider hopes marijuana profits can fund more housing, an addiction treatment center and an overhaul of the clinic. Some members want a 24/7 day care center for casino workers....

Since the Santee Sioux announced their plans, the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Maine signed a letter of intent with Monarch to build a cultivation facility for industrial hemp. The Suquamish Tribe and Washington state officials signed a 10-year agreement that will govern the production, processing and sale of pot on the tribe's land.

In the long run, Reider is certain that the benefits will outweigh the risks of tribal marijuana enterprises. The tribe, he said, must "look at these opportunities because in order to preserve the past we do have to advance in the present."

Prior related posts:

September 29, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Highlighting federal tax dollars still being spent to eradicate marijuana in legalization states

This interesting local report, headlined "Feds still waging war on weed in Oregon," details that state marijuana reform does not necessarily reallocate federal resources spent on the drug war. Here are the details:

Cannabis may be legal in Oregon, but police are still waging a war on weed.  A KGW investigation found the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is sending more than $750,000 to police in Oregon this year to snuff out pot operations.

“I think the DEA’s marijuana eradication program is a huge waste of federal taxpayer dollars,” Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, told KGW.  “We have states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado that have legalized marijuana and then you’ve got the federal government trying to eradicate it,” said Lieu.  “That doesn’t make any sense.” Congressman Lieu is pushing to get rid of the DEA’s $18 million marijuana eradication program.

In Oregon, the bulk of the anti-pot money is used for police to search for marijuana farms by helicopter and then have officers trample though the woods to pull out plants. “Those of us in reform have always seen eradication programs as largely a make-work, overtime program for cops to go pull weeds and spend taxpayer money on helicopters,” said Russ Belville, executive director of Portland NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

Last year, state records show drug teams in Oregon spent $275,000 for police overtime and $685,000 for use of a helicopter. In 2015, Oregon will get $762,000 from the DEA’s eradication program. In August, the Oregon Department of Justice gave $450,000 of federal money to Brim Aviation of Ashland to help look for marijuana farms....

According to intelligence reports, violent Mexican drug cartels have been connected to large outdoor marijuana farms in Oregon. These sophisticated criminal gangs have been known to protect their grow operations with armed guards, booby traps and razor-wired fences. “This program has proven effective in dismantling and disrupting drug trafficking organizations, has protected public and tribal lands from illegal marijuana grows, and in 2014 was responsible for the removal of almost 5,000 weapons from cannabis cultivators,” said Special Agent Joseph Moses of the DEA....

In 2014, police in Oregon destroyed 16,067 cannabis plants, down from 26,597 pot plants in 2013 and 27,641 plants in 2012. Drug cops theorize that Mexican drug cartels have moved away from growing pot. Instead, they’re focused on trafficking other illegal drugs like heroin and methamphetamine.

“When there were huge cartel problems, we needed that money. But now we don’t,” said Jackson County Sheriff Corey Falls. Earlier this year, Falls disbanded a regional marijuana task force called SOMMER, or Southern Oregon Multi-Agency Marijuana Eradication and Reclamation. “I wanted to focus on person crimes,” said Falls. “Child abuse, sex assault, crimes against people.”...

“It makes no sense for one hand of government doing one thing, such as eradicate marijuana and have other parts of government, such as state governments, legalizing it,” said Rep. Lieu. “The war on marijuana has largely failed and the federal government should get out of the way.”

September 25, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is Ohio already the most interesting laboratory of democracy for marijuana reform?

A number of smart folks have talked about state-level marijuana reform as, in the words of GOP Prez candidate Ted Cruz,  "a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy.’”   These two new stories about marijuana reform efforts in Ohio has me thinking that the Buckeye state is already in the midst of one of the most interesting and dynamic experimental forms:

 "A medical marijuana farm for Ohio?"

Excerpt: Dr. Suresh Gupta ticked off a list of conditions that marijuana could help alleviate: nausea, cancer, glaucoma, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome.... Gupta is one of several wealthy donors who contributed millions to help bankroll ResponsibleOhio’s effort to place marijuana legalization on the ballot and limit marijuana growing facilities to 10 locations....

Gupta, along with a Columbus co-investor, wants to grow multiple types of marijuana at the Pataskala facility, focusing on treating specific conditions.  The nine other marijuana farms will focus on growing marijuana to be sold at retail stores.  He also plans to use about 40,000 square feet for a research facility he’s calling the International Cannabis Institute.  There, researchers, chemists and microbiologists would study the makeup of each crop and replicate the best strains, Gupta said.  “In the United States, there’s virtually no research being done,” Gupta said.

"ResponsibleOhio moves marijuana offense expungement law forward"

Excerpt: The group behind November's marijuana legalization initiative said Tuesday it had collected more than enough signatures to advance a separate measure that would allow marijuana convictions to be purged. ResponsibleOhio, the group backing Issue 3, said it collected 236,759 signatures of registered Ohio voters to put the Fresh Start Act before state lawmakers next year -- 91,677 are needed to qualify....

Issue 3 would legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use for adults over age 21. Commercial growing would be limited to 10 sites belonging to initiative backers, and Ohioans could grow small amounts of marijuana at home. The Fresh Start Act would allow people with convictions made legal by Issue 3 and offenses made legal in the future to file a petition in court to reduce or eliminate their sentences or expunge, or destroy, their criminal records....

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said many low-level offenders are unable to obtain employment or secure housing because of criminal background checks. "This allows people ability to move forward," James said at a news conference with several Ohio clergy members.

As an initiated statute, the Fresh Start Act would go before the legislature in January 2016. Lawmakers would have four months to pass the bill, pass a revised version, or reject the bill. If the language is changed or rejected, ResponsibleOhio would have to collect some 92,000 more signatures to put the measure before voters.

The Fresh Start Act would not automatically erase records or free inmates, and it wouldn't apply to federal marijuana offenses. Offenses that are illegal now and would remain illegal under Issue 3, such as driving under the influence of marijuana, would not be eligible for expungement under the proposed law.

Both of these stories suggest marijuana legalization in Ohio, if passed by voters this Novermber, would trigger novel legal and practical development that could significant reshape future marijuana reform efforts. Indeed, the existing ballot measure in Ohio, Issue 3, is already novel and interesting because it is trying to get Ohioians to support moving from blanket prohibition to full legalization in one vote and the effort is being backrolled by a group of investors poised to have a legal advantage in the future marijuana market based on the provisions of Issue 3.

How these experimental elements of proposed reform play out in the Buckeye state is already making Ohio a laboratory of democracy worth watching. And if Issue 3 is approved by voters, Ohio seems sure to have lots of experimental developments and data that should help advance the national dialogue and debate on these matters for years to come.

September 23, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)