Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Free marijuana to be handed out Inauguration Day"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New survey finds Washington teens perceive less risk from marijuana use

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 18, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Will Maine recount extend into the new year delaying legalization?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

    

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

 

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

 

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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

Massachusetts-Cities-Map.mediumthumb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waging a war costs money. ...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Marijuana advocates sceptical about Canada path to legal pot"

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Highlighting how in California marijuana legalization = sentencing reform

Nomoredrugwar2As long-time readers know, my modern professional interests in marijuana law policy and reform emerged directly from my professional interests in criminal justice reform general and sentencing reform in particular.  For that reason, I will be watching especially closely the application and impact of the criminal justice/sentence provisions that were part of California's marijuana legalization proposition, Prop 64.   This new article from the San Francisco Chronicle, headlined "Green wave: Legalized marijuana setting scores of defendants free," provides an early report:

Chris Phillips, a marijuana entrepreneur and Livermore father of four, faced five felony counts and possible prison time after he was accused of illegally growing pot at his home, which police raided in June. But when California voters legalized cannabis for recreational use Nov. 8, they retroactively erased several small-time pot crimes and reduced the penalties for bigger ones like growing, selling and transporting.

So at 9 a.m. the next day, Phillips sat in a courtroom in Pleasanton. He was first on the docket, and it wasn’t long before his attorney Bill Panzer and Alameda County prosecutors hammered out a deal for the 36-year-old to plead guilty to just one misdemeanor possession charge. “It was literally a sigh of relief,” said Phillips, who runs several pot farms, a medical dispensary in Long Beach and an extract brand — and had been out of jail on a half-million-dollar bond....

California judges are now setting free scores of people whose pending cases are no longer cases at all. Thousands more in jail or prison, or on probation or parole, are beginning to petition to reduce their sentences. And potentially tens of thousands of citizens with a rap sheet for pot can clear their names.

California does not keep detailed records on pot crimes, but the attorney general’s office said police made 8,866 felony pot arrests in 2015, involving 7,987 adults and 879 juveniles — mainly for possession for sale, cultivation and transportation. Roughly 2,000 jail and prison inmates are affected by Prop. 64, according to estimates from the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group that helped sponsor the initiative.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office said Prop. 64 could result in net court savings of tens of millions of dollars per year. Counties that took the hardest line on pot in the past are seeing the biggest shares of sentence reductions and dismissals, lawyers say. “We’re getting calls many times throughout the day,” said Joe Rogoway, an attorney who practices in San Francisco and the North Bay and specializes in cannabis law. “It’s cathartic. I’m elated to be able to go into court and help people.”

The changes are profound. For example, illegally growing a single marijuana plant used to be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Today, it’s no longer a crime. About a dozen other crimes were either deleted or downgraded. Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick, an office spokeswoman, said local judges were sending felony pot cases to misdemeanor court, though she didn’t have the exact number of cases. “We’re absolutely following the law,” she said.

Sacramento County prosecutors say they have about 75 affected cases. San Mateo officials report approximately 100 pending cases, mostly felonies for alleged cultivation, while San Francisco prosecutors report about 200 affected cases, mostly involving small-time sales. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said defendants being held in county jails because they could not post bail are being released if they’ve already served more time than they would if convicted of what’s now a misdemeanor. “That will be common,” he said. “There’ll be plenty of those.”

Wagstaffe, who is also president of the California District Attorneys Association, expects Prop. 64 to cause police officers to arrest and cite fewer people for remaining pot crimes that are now misdemeanors, because the effort is “not worth” the paperwork and police time....

Because young, low-income people of color have felt the brunt of drug enforcement, they stand to gain the most from the law’s changes, said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “That’s certainly what we’re hoping,” he said. Now, citizens who potentially faced years in jail are sometimes facing days. Omar Figueroa, a Sebastopol attorney specializing in cannabis, said one of his clients was looking at up to nearly five years in prison for felony transporting of pot and possession for sale, as well as a related probation violation. After Prop. 64, Figueroa said Sonoma County prosecutors agreed to an infraction charge, with no jail and no probation.

In Los Angeles, attorney Allison Margolin spoke of a client with a 3-year-old warrant alleging hash possession. The defendant never surrendered, and now he doesn’t have to. “Possession of hash is no longer a crime at all,” she said. “We can take away his warrant.”

Beyond those in jail, or awaiting trial on pending cases, an estimated tens of thousands of Californians on probation or parole have begun petitioning to reduce or end supervision, which would give them full rights to travel, refuse a search and use marijuana medically. Many crimes that once yielded three, five or seven years of probation now have a maximum term of one year under Prop. 64.

Margolin noted that Prop. 64 builds on Proposition 47, which reduced drug possession and low-level theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors when California voters approved it in 2014. While Prop. 47 diverted most drug users out of the felony court system, she said, Prop. 64 diverts pot growers, sellers, transporters and all juveniles, as well. “It’s really awesome for a lot of people, of course,” Margolin said. “A young person who sold weed in college and gets caught and then has it affect their whole life — there’s probably more than 100,000 people in those situations.”

The biggest group touched by Prop. 64 — those who have already been punished for past pot convictions — may number in the hundreds of thousands. Many are now eligible to clean up their records, which could improve their job prospects or give them the right to possess a gun. “I cannot overstate the significance of this,” said Rogoway. “It really is a paradigm shift.”

The California Judicial Council posted forms online last week for any pot convict or defendant — adult or juvenile — to petition for a resentencing, for reduced charges, or to expunge and seal their record. Those who are awaiting trial or are behind bars don’t need a form. They can petition for a Prop. 64 sentence reduction orally at their next court date.

Margolin plans to hold a Prop. 64 legal clinic Dec. 3 while offering to help people address past convictions for $1,000. She said such expungements may not totally clear people’s records in all databases, but they will no longer have to check employment application boxes saying they were convicted of a felony.

For those aiming to make a living in the marijuana business, Prop. 64 may be even more pivotal. Felons who felt locked out of the industry “now have a reason to strive forward,” said Phillips, the Livermore entrepreneur, who announced with pride that he had become Puerto Rico’s first medical marijuana licensee. “You can make your new life happen.”

Ironically, Phillips had spent a year opposing Prop. 64, believing the law would lead to a corporate takeover of cannabis that would undermine medical patients. But just two weeks before the election, Phillips said he sat down with his lawyer, read the 62-page initiative and realized it would set him free. “How stupid I was for a whole year talking about this,” he said.

November 26, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How will Sen. Sessions' selection as attorney general impact marijuana legalization in California?

The Brookings Institution's John Hudak discussed with The New York Times:

How worried should California’s emerging marijuana industry be about Mr. Sessions?

As attorney general, Sessions would have the ability to rescind two Justice Department directives — known as the Cole and Ogden memos — that called for stepping back from marijuana prosecutions. He could also use federal law enforcement power against operators and sue state regulators to block state systems. The only person who can stop the attorney general is the president, and it is unclear whether Trump will direct or delegate drug policy — the latter option being what should worry California the most.

• What’s your read on Mr. Trump’s posture toward states with legal marijuana?

Trump has made statements that seem supportive of states’ rights around marijuana and made others that are unclear. It is also unclear whether this is a policy he will direct from the White House or just let his attorney general steer this ship. It all means, pot policy in the U.S. is up in the air.

• What might a marijuana crackdown in California look like?

First, the Justice Department would likely sue the state to prevent the enforcing of Prop 64. They could use other law enforcement entities — outside of the Drug Enforcement Administration — to begin physical crackdowns on existing operators. The law enforcement efforts would be expensive. The litigation approach might be cheaper and easier — if less effective.

• What does all this mean for the individual consumer?

It would be nearly impossible for federal officials to arrest every marijuana consumer in California (or elsewhere), but if the Trump administration strikes at the heart of the industry — shutting down the supply chain — it would drive producers underground and consumers back to the black market.

November 22, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Some California communities have sought to limit local participation in legal marijuana market

Californians may have approved recreational marijuana use last Tuesday, but that doesn't mean they can expect weed shops to be as ubiquitous as 7/11s any time soon. Even before it passed, many municipalities had taken advantage of Prop. 64's  provision leaving to local communities the authority to restrict the commercial cultivation, distribution and retail sale of the drug (these communities, however, can't restrict possession or private consumption). Indeed, in some large suburban communities east of Los Angeles and Orange Counties that make up the Inland Empire, legalized weed may be no more accessible than it was before Prop. 64 passed. This local article explains: 

With its great commercial capacity and relatively cheap land prices, the vast and logistics-savvy Inland Empire might seem like a good place to set up various seed-to-store marijuana-related businesses now that California voters have approved the legalization of recreational marijuana.

 

While local cities may be bursting with industrial property and easy access to highway and even an airport, a number of them also may be sporting an equal amount of distaste for marijuana. Already, many have already enacted laws banning the commercial cultivation, distribution and retail sale of recreational pot, even though Proposition 64 doesn’t allow for the issuance of business licenses until 2018...

 

Inland Empire city leaders who have banned marijuana cultivation, distribution and sale — for either medicinal or recreational purposes — cite concern over family values and public safety.

 

“With prospective sales, it brings about an unwanted criminal element,” [Fontana Mayor Acquanetta] Warren said. “It’s a really touchy situation because I’ve had a chance to really study how medical marijuana (helps some), but we just have a responsibility to keeping our citizens and commercial businesses safe.”...

  

[Community development director for Chino Hills, Joann ]Lombardo said Chino Hills is a family community and when leaders looked at the appropriate use of medical marijuana establishments in the city, they determined “it is not in keeping with that family atmosphere that is typical of Chino Hills.”

 

Meanwhile in the city of San Bernardino, voters on Election Day passed Measure O, which replaces a citywide ban with a regulatory plan.

 

The new marijuana law in San Bernardino could bring $19-24 million in new revenue to the city, according to the research firm Whitney Economics.

 

Experts say the emerging industry may take foothold first in the Inland Empire farther east, in the less populated desert communities, such as in Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs, where city leaders have already approved medical marijuana cultivation.

November 14, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who voted to legalize marijuana in California?

Largely, the people who most needed a silver lining in last week's federal election results. The L.A. Times:

The initiative that legalized recreational use of marijuana in California found its strongest support among those who voted for Hillary Clinton for president, African Americans and voters ages 18 to 29, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times post-election poll.

 

Proposition 64 passed with 56% of the overall vote, but was supported by 68% of Clinton supporters and Democratic voters while it was opposed by 59% of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to the poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

 

A breakdown of the vote by race found the ballot measure drew support from 64% of African American voters, 58% of whites and 56% of Latino voters.

 

Though marijuana legalization was supported by 66% of voters ages 18 to 29, backing from those ages 50 to 64 was weaker at 49%.

November 14, 2016 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

California and Nevada on path to legalize recreational marijuana, but Arizona not that into it

Enough results are in, and I am eager to call it a night on this blog, so I am going to rely on the votes as of now in Arizona, California and Nevada to conclude that marijuana will be legal for recreational use in California and Nevada, but not in Arizona.  Thus, as I call it a night, it looks like marijuana reform has won in at least seven and perhaps in eight of the nine states in which it was on the ballot, and seemed to win fairly big in the the big states of California, Florida and Massachusetts.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Massachusetts votes to legalize recreational marijuana and Maine might have too

I have been watching the marijuana legalization results on Politico from Maine and Massachusetts, and the results are clear enough in Massachusetts, currently 53.5% for reform and 46.5% against, for everyone to be declaring victory for marijuana legalization in the state.  In Maine, where the vote is currently 50.5% for reform and to 49.5% against, the race is too close to call. But it looks like there may be two New England states on the fast path to full marijuana legalization, and I suspect a number of other states nearby are going to be seriously considering following their lead before too long.

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

How might marijuana legalization in California affect the nation?

The question in the title of this post comes from this Forbes article examining how passage of Proposition 64 -- California's marijuana legalization initiative -- on Tuesday could change marijuana policy nationwide. The article begins:

California’s Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana is going to have a big influence on the rest of the United States.

 

It is highly likely the measure will pass Tuesday. On Oct, 16, a SurveyUSA poll showed 51% in favor and 40% against. More recently, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 58% for and 34% against the ballot measure.

 

Jessica Rabe, research associate Convergex, a global brokerage company based in New York, said that the great size of the California economy — sixth largest in the world if it were a standalone country, with GDP of $2.5 trillion in 2015 — will “put pressure on the government to reclassify or deschedule the drug to help ‘cannabusinesses’ better conduct their operations with more access to banking services.”

 

According to cannabis investment company MedMen, passage of Proposition 64 could add $8.38 billion in annual sales to an already robust medical market worth an estimated $2.83 billion. CEO Adam Bierman said that the California vote is one of the major milestones in the institutionalization of the marijuana industry. “I have a meeting on Tuesday in San Francisco with half a dozen of what some people would refer to as the illuminati of Silicon Valley,” said Bierman. “That meeting doesn’t happen six months ago. That meeting doesn’t happen two months ago. It’s happening now.”

 

Sarah Trumble of Third Way, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., sounds a cautionary note. “I’ve heard that saying, if California goes then this inevitable that all states will go, but that’s not necessarily true,” she said.  “California didn’t do a very good job with its medical marijuana industry and its lack of regulation. If they screw up recreational, it will hurt the overall effort.”

 

Trumble believes that if the analysts are right in their sales estimates and the industry becomes a multi-billion dollar one, then the big banks will reluctantly begin working with these customers. She noted that the amounts of money are so large that it wouldn’t be feasible to work only in cash and the smaller banks and credit unions could be overwhelmed. It could be the tipping point for major financial institutions.

 

“The exponential increase in mainstream venture capital interest will attract talent from the established industries that the state has long supported from tech to aerospace and agriculture, which will be a boon for innovation and job creation across the diverse spectrum of cannabis companies,” said Mike Bologna, Chief Executive Officer of Green Lion Partners. “The potential economic impact of Prop 64 cannot be understated, and we hope that a victory in California will inspire other state governments to reconsider their archaic and destructive stance on cannabis.”...

 

In addition to the financial and cultural aspects, there is also the feeling it will benefit the medical community. Rob Hunt, President of Teewinot Life Sciences said, “California is the epicenter of biotechnology and there are many scientists that are desperate to study the efficacious nature of cannabinoids,” He went on to say, “Legalizing cannabis provides a great deal of insulation to these people and provides them comfort in conducting trials that will ultimately lead to breakthroughs in medicine. It is ironic that the passage of adult use may drive cannabinoid based science far more than a medicinal law ever did.”...

November 7, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Economic Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"

The title of this post is the title of this recent report produced by the Marijuana Policy Group, which describes itself as a "non-affiliated entity dedicated to new market policy and analysis [seeking] to apply research methods rooted in economic theory and statistical applications to inform regulatory policy decisions in the rapidly growing legal medical and recreational marijuana markets." Here is part of the report's synopsis:

The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) has constructed a new model that accurately integrates the legal marijuana industry into Colorado’s overall economy. It is called the “Marijuana Impact Model.”  

Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015.  Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries....

Legal marijuana demand is projected to grow by 11.3 percent per year through 2020.  This growth is driven by a demand shift away from the black market and by cannabis-specific visitor demand. By 2020, the regulated market in Colorado will become saturated.  Total sales value will peak near $1.52 billion dollars, and state demand will be 215.7 metric tons of flower equivalents by 2020. Market values are diminished somewhat by declining prices and “low-cost, high-THC” products.

In 2015, marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source, with $121 million in combined sales and excise tax revenues.  Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol, and 14 percent larger than casino revenues. The MPG projects marijuana tax revenues will eclipse cigarette revenues by 2020, as cigarette sales continue to decline.  Marijuana tax revenues will likely continue increasing as more consumer demand shifts into the taxed adult-use market.

As a first-mover in legal marijuana, the Front Range has witnessed significant business formation and industry agglomeration in marijuana technology (cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and testing).  This has inspired a moniker for Colorado’s Front Range as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.”  Secondary marijuana industry activities quantified for the first time in this report include: warehousing, cash-management, security, testing, legal services, and climate engineering for indoor cultivations.

November 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Opponents of marijuana legalization say licensing requirements laid out in ballot measure are inadequate"

With the election just days away, California is poised to legalize recreational marijuana use for persons 21 years old or older. Most likely voters support the state's legalization initiative; and, with both The O.C. Register and The San Diego Union-Tribune recently endorsing the initiative, most of the state's largest newspapers agree with them. But legalization opponents still have a few days to convince enough legalization supporters that continued prohibition is better than the alternative. This week, opponents hope to achieve this in part by arguing that the initiative's licensing requirements unjustifiably exempt websites that provide guides to and reviews of industry participants, as detailed by this The Los Angeles Times article by Patrick McGreevy, in which he writes: 

Opponents of an initiative to allow recreational marijuana use in California said Wednesday that its extensive licensing requirements would not include websites, including Weedmaps, that provide guides to cannabis stores, varieties and doctors without handling the product.

 

A spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign called the complaint “silly and desperate” and noted that existing laws regulate such websites.

 

The issue was looked at by the Office of Legislative Counsel, the nonpartisan public agency that prepares legal opinions, at the request of state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), an outspoken opponent of Proposition 64.

 

Proposition 64 requires state licenses for businesses that grow, transport, process and sell marijuana.

 

“Because the technology platform would not sell or deliver marijuana products within the meaning of Proposition 64, it follows that it would not require licensure as a distributor or retailer,” wrote Richard Mafrica, deputy legislative counsel. “Therefore, it is our opinion that the technology platform would not be required to obtain a license under Proposition 64.”

 

That also would mean that the website would not be subject to Proposition 64’s restrictions on advertising, Mafrica wrote.

 

The opposition campaign noted that Weedmaps, an Irvine company, has contributed close to $1 million to the campaign for Proposition 64.

 

“This is a blatant and egregious example of a special interest writing regulations that maximize profit at the expense of public health that do not even apply to the largest advertising platforms in the pot industry,” said Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.

 

Federal law considers marijuana to be an illegal drug, which cannot be advertised on federally regulated television and radio stations.

 

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign, said the opponents are “brazenly attempting to mislead voters.”

 

He said under Proposition 64, advertising by licensed marijuana businesses on any platform will be subject to restrictions in the measure “and any future restrictions set forth by state regulators or the Legislature. Moreover, as the Legislative Counsel clearly points out, any technology platform will be further subject to all existing state advertising and marketing restrictions.”

November 3, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)