Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Regular readers know that I have been flagging Ohio as a state to watch closely in for the distinctive and dynamic marijuana reform discussions and debates taking place in the Buckeye State. This new report from Time with the latest news on the latest developments highlights why I now have a front-row seat for watching novel issues unfold in the months ahead. The headline of the piece is "Ohio Legislature Strikes Back Against Marijuana Legalization Bid," and here are excerpts:
A campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio took a step closer to making November’s ballot Tuesday, after its promoters turned in more than twice the required number of signatures.
But the measure will face competition at the polls. Ohio legislators also approved their own ballot measure on Tuesday to undermine the pot plan, which lawmakers worried would amount to a “marijuana monopoly” because of its provision that only 10 growers would control the wholesale pot market. The lawmakers’ measure would block other measures that benefit select economic interest groups.
The marijuana ballot measure campaign, dubbed Responsible Ohio, is just one of many ballot measures in recent history that are designed to benefit their backers. The companies funding the Responsible Ohio campaign would control — and likely profit from — the marijuana growth sites should the measure pass.
As detailed by the Center for Public Integrity, the campaign’s director, Democratic activist Ian James, came up with the idea and is planning to pay his own firm $5.6 million to push the ballot initiative.
Ohio Rep. Mike Curtin, a Democrat, said he sponsored the anti-monopoly measure because he opposes the way Responsible Ohio is using the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, not because he opposes pot legalization. “Are we going to allow a small group of investors, who have literally no background in drug policy… to carve themselves a special niche in our state’s founding document?” he said. “To me it’s galling. It’s nauseating.”
But James said voters should have the right to decide the issue. “Some statehouse politicians believe the voters are smart enough to elect them, but they aren’t smart enough to decide ballot issues like marijuana legalization,” he said in an earlier statement....
If voters approve both of the conflicting measures, Ohio law says whichever gets the most votes would win. But Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, recently said that if both passed, the legislatively referred anti-monopoly measure would block Responsible Ohio’s plan because citizen-initiated measures take 30 days to go into effect.
The issue could end up before a judge. If both pass, “we have a very interesting court fight on our hands,” Curtin said.
Some prior related posts:
- "What, Ohio a trendy pot state?"
- "What’s Right for Ohio: A Discussion about Marijuana Reform"
- "Marijuana & Ohio: Past, Present, Potential"
July 1, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
As reported in local pieces linked below, two notably different northern states have two notably different marijuana reforms becoming effective today:
Unsurprisingly, the events in Oregon are a bigger deal from a national marijuana reform perspective, as this story from the national news outlet Reuters highlights. It is headlined "Crowds count down to legalization of marijuana in Oregon, then light up," and starts this way:
Crowds counted down the minutes to midnight then lit up joints as smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on Wednesday, part of a growing legalization movement spreading down the United States' west coast.
Hundreds gathered on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and smoked under the glow of a neon city sign, marking the moment that the law allowing recreational use, backed by voters in November, came into effect.
The legislation opens the way for shops to sell marijuana by next year - though some lawmakers say they will still try to block retail outlets.
Similar legislation is already in force in Alaska and Washington State, reflecting a shifting legal landscape for a drug that remains illegal under federal law.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The Motley Fool folks have been keeping an eye on the modern marijuana industry, and this recent article highlights why these folks reasonably think the industry is likely to continue to grow. The article is headlined "These 3 Charts Show Why More States Will Soon Legalize Marijuana," and here are excerpts (along with a reprinting of one of the referenced charts):
Want to know why states are legalizing recreational marijuana? Let me give you a hint: It has something to do with the color green. Not the color of the plant, but the color of money.
Because recreational marijuana has now been legal in Colorado and Washington for 18 months and 11 months, respectively, we're finally starting to see just how lucrative the recreational-marijuana business is.... In March alone, consumers in Washington purchased $21.9 million worth of recreational cannabis through legal channels. That was more than twice the amount of the $8.3 million spent on medical marijuana that month.
The rapid ascent of recreational-marijuana sales is nothing short of extraordinary. In July 2014 -- i.e., the inaugural month of recreational sales in Washington -- the handful of stores open at the time sold a mere $2.8 million worth of weed. Over the next eight months, this figure climbed by a factor of 10....
The upshot for the state is a rapidly expanding tax roll. If you add together the taxes that Washington receives from both recreational- and medical-marijuana sales, it's creeping up on $4 million a month. And for the record, it may have eclipsed that mark already, given that the latest available data covers just the month of March.
Colorado is experiencing a similar windfall, as it generates even more tax revenue from legal marijuana sales than Washington does. Last month, taxes from the industry came in at $9.6 million. And if you include the $1.1 million in revenue it received from licensing and other types of fees, you get more than $10.6 million....
In short, say what you will about the legalization of marijuana, particularly for recreational sales, but one thing seems certain: As sales and taxes from the industry continue their sharp ascent, it's going to be hard for other states to stand by idly and watch their neighbors get rich.
June 21, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 18, 2015
As reported in this local article, headlined "Oregon launches campaign saying what's legal with marijuana," an important public service campaign has gotten underway in Oregon roughly seven months after Oregoinians voted to legalize marijuana in the state. Here are the details:
As Oregonians prepare to enter the new world of legal marijuana, the state wants folks to know a few things.
With the slogan, "Educate Before You Recreate," The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched a public education campaign to put across the message that although it will be legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana starting July 1, it is not yet legal for anyone but medical marijuana patients to buy it — including bringing it back from across the border in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is already legal. The $350,000 campaign includes paid ads, an official website with a PowerPoint presentation, and posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Under Measure 91, starting July 1, anyone over 21 in Oregon can possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana, such as dried buds at home and up to one ounce outside the home. You can consume marijuana at home or on private property. You can grow up to four plants per residence at home out of public view. You can make brownies and other edible products at home and receive them as gifts. And you can give away marijuana and receive it as a gift.
It is illegal to buy or sell recreational marijuana and to transport it across state lines. That includes buying some from a legal retail outlet in Washington state and bringing it home to Oregon. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in public or to drive while stoned. Measure 91 will not protect you if your employer prohibits drug use, especially if there is a federal connection, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And if your landlord prohibits smoking in your apartment, you can be evicted for smoking marijuana, but not for eating it...
The OLCC does not expect to have the chain of retail recreational marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and sales outlets permitted and operating until late in 2016. There has been talk in the Legislature about jumpstarting that by allowing recreational marijuana sales through medical marijuana dispensaries as early as October, but that remains up in the air....
John Bishop, executive director of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, says anyone buying or selling marijuana without a license is still subject to arrest. But he adds that authorities will continue to focus on large amounts of marijuana.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing NPR piece, which somewhat reinforces my belief that the modern marijuana reform movement is going to have to work through a number of notable environmental issues in the years ahead. Here are excerpts:
The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved....
As any farmer will likely say, damage to the crop equals damage to the bottom line. [Colorado grow ownwer Nick] Dice's employees used to spray the crop with mild chemicals. They would switch between multiple pesticides and mildew treatments, treating anywhere from every three to four days. Dice says he's seen other operations crumble as their cannabis succumbs to mildew or bugs. Pest controls ensure a good yield. And when it comes to cannabis, yields really matter.
Dice estimates the grow room is worth as much as $180,000. Protecting that yield is hard work. That's why many growers in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana use chemicals. But it's the federal government that tells farmers which pesticides are safe to use. And so far, the feds wants nothing to do with legalized marijuana. Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw says that's left growers to experiment with little oversight. "In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to just whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate," he says.
Tobacco farmers, for example, have a stable of pesticides the government says are safe to use. But Cranshaw says marijuana growers have none. "Sometimes they've used some things that are inappropriate, sometimes unsafe," he says.
Brett Eaton is a plant expert with American Cannabis Company, a Denver-based consulting group. He's concerned about what the pesticides are doing to the product as well as the consumer. "Anybody can get their hands on harmful chemicals, and they can just spray away all the way up until the last day of harvest," he says.
Safety concerns led Denver officials to place a hold on tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year, pending an investigation. Colorado doesn't require growers to test the crop for traces of pesticides before being sold. But state agriculture officials did recently release a list of pesticides deemed appropriate for use on cannabis. Washington state, Nevada and Illinois have similar lists. Eaton says regulators are only playing catch up. "Other agricultural industries already have policy in place for the safe use of spraying certain pesticides and fungicides," he says. "This being a new industry, it hasn't been addressed yet."
And with more states turning marijuana into a legal commodity crop, it'll take a mix of policy, science and industry self-regulation to figure out what's appropriate, and what's not.
June 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new report showing the results of a statewide study funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As this AP article, reports these basics (with my emphasis added):
Results from the 2014 survey were announced Monday. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that 13.6 percent of adults currently use pot. Of those, more than a third said they use pot every day. Almost half, 48.9 percent, said they’ve ever used pot. Adults with higher incomes and more education were more likely than others to have used marijuana.
To begin any analysis of this data, I think we must start by whether the data conclusively shows whether marijuana use truly has increased in Colorado recently as a result of legalization or whether just more current and former marijuana users feel more comfortable admitting in a government survey that they are marijuana users. In addition, there is reason to suspect a not-insignificant number of marijuana users moved into Colorado in the wake of its 2012 vote to legalize the drug, and such migration to a relatively low-population state could also move the numbers a bit here.
More important that unpacking the basics of this data is to integrating it with other critical public health data. Even if marijuana use has increased in Colorado significantly, I would be eager to know if there has been any corresponding significant change in illegal drug use patters, and well as in patterns of alcohol and tobacco use and abuse. Without such data (and lots more), I think it is nearly impossible to draw any definitive public health and safety conclusions from use survey data in the short term.
The quoted portion of this post comes from the headline of this recent Reason piece by Jacob Sullum, which canvasses at length the comments made by 2016 presidential candidates about whether they would respect state effort to reform their marijuana regimes in the shadow of federal prohibition. Here is how the piece starts and ends:
Last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his intention to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it if he is elected president. In an interview on Face the Nation, Christie answered "yes" when asked whether he would "return the federal prosecutions in these states," "yes" when asked if he would "go after" marijuana, and "correct" when asked if legalization would be "turned off."
If he were president, Christie could make a lot of trouble for state-licensed growers and retailers, but he would not actually have the power to make Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon recriminalize marijuana. Furthermore, any attempt to override the decisions made by voters in those states would arouse strong objections — and not just from supporters of legalization. Illustrating that point, another Republican presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, disagreed with Christie. "Colorado voters made a choice," she said in a Fox News interview last Tuesday. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice."
As I noted in March, that stance is pretty common among Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination, and it seems politically smart, since even voters who hate marijuana do not necessarily think the federal government should force prohibition on states that do not want it. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that three-fifths of Americans think the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized pot. Even more striking: A 2012 CBS News survey found that 65 percent of Republicans thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide," even though only 27 percent supported Colorado-style legalization....
In short, Chris Christie's determination to stamp out marijuana legalization puts him in the minority among presidential candidates, among Republicans, and among the general public. "I don't believe that people want to be told just what they want to hear," he said on Face the Nation. "I believe they want to be told the truth as the person who is running sees it." There's a startling proposition: In 2015, it seems, promising to keep marijuana illegal counts as courage.
June 16, 2015 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)
Monday, June 15, 2015
Colorado Supreme Court affirms statutory interpretation permitting dismissal of medical marijuana user
As reported in this local article, a long awaited Colorado Supreme Court ruling concerning application of the state's employment laws for marijuana user finally was handed today. Here are the basics:
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower courts' rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it's off-duty. The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.
Coats challenged Dish's zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The firing was upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. When the case went to the state Supreme Court, legal observers said the case could have significant implications for employers across Colorado. They also noted that the ruling could be precedent-setting as Colorado and other states wrangle with adapting laws to a nascent industry that is illegal under federal law.
As such, the question at hand is whether the use of medical marijuana — which is in compliance with Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment — is "lawful" under the state's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.
"Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute," Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion. The justices said the court will not make a new law. Current Colorado law allows employers to set their own policies on drug use.
Coats' attorney Michael Evans, of Centennial-based The Evans Group, called the decision "devastating."
"For people like Brandon Coats, there really isn't a 'choice,' as MMJ is the only substance both he and his (Colorado-licensed) physicians know of to control his seizures due to his quadriplegia," Evans said. "He has to have it. " A silver lining of the decision, Evans said, is that it provides clarity in a "scary, gray area" of state law.
"Today's decision means that until someone in the House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world's most powerful MMJ laws will have to choose between using MMJ and work," Evans said in a statement....
Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, said the justices' decision comes as no surprise. "It's easy to make too much of this decision," he said. "It really comes down to interpreting this one word in this one statute." As a matter of statutory interpretation, the court got it right, he said.
But for Coats and medical marijuana advocates, this is a blow, Kamin said. Coats was a "dream plaintiff" in that marijuana served as medicine, he said. Coats was rendered a quadriplegic by a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms.
The cause likely would land in the hands of the state legislature, Kamin said. "I think (Coats') case is very sympathetic, and I think his case would be quite compelling before the legislature," Kamin said.
The full ruling in this notable state Supreme Court can be accessed at this link, and the only thing I find surprising is why it took the Colorado justices a full nine months to resolve this matter.
In addition, though I fully understand the disappointment felt by Coats and his lawyer, I share Sam Kamin's view that this ruling is not that big a deal. This ruling does not mean state employers must dismiss marijuana users, only that they are not required by statute to keep such users who comply with state law employed. Ultimately, this case only would have been a very big deal if it had come out the other way. And, especially as more and more state legalize medical marijuana, I suspect more and more employers will become more eager to make accomodations for medical marijuana patients.
June 15, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)
This new USA Today article, headlined "Patchwork of pot rules hampers marijuana business expansion," highlights why the succeeding in the marijuana industry is not quite as easy as it migth seem. Here is how the article gets started:
Marijuana entrepreneurs rushing into the booming market are running headlong into a patchwork of state-by-state regulations that make it hard to transfer their expertise, brands and staff— and even their profits.
Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana have developed widely divergent rules governing their semi-legal marketplaces.
In Colorado, for instance, retailers until recently had been required to grow the majority of the marijuana they sell to customers. But Washington state bans retailers from growing their own cannabis, forcing them to buy from state-licensed farms.
New York and Minnesota ban the sale of smokeable medical marijuana but their systems will permit very sick people to consume cannabis oil and other extracts, while the District of Columbia allows residents to possess up to two ounces of smoking marijuana for recreational use.
Some states require marijuana growers and sellers to be legal residents of the state they're operating in, which means companies seeking to franchise their brands can't just send in managers from existing operations elsewhere.
Colorado requires a clean criminal record to get a marijuana-growing or retail license, while in Washington a conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify them.
"If you're trying to open a bagel shop in New York and a bagel shop in St. Louis, they're going to end up basically the same," said Kris Krane, the co-founder and managing partner of marijuana consulting firm 4Front Ventures. "The only difference is that the bagels might taste better in New York. (With marijuana), every state we go into we have to tailor the operating model. It's a real challenge."
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Even since California legalized medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago, and especially since Arizona, Oregon and Washington moved forward with various significant marijuana reforms, the far west has been the US region to watch most closely for those interested in both the legal and practical dynamics of marijuana reform. And now, as this Las Vegas Sun article highlights, Nevada seems finally poised to join its western neighbors as a state to watch closely in this dynamic arena. The article is headlined "New rules aim to stimulate Nevada’s nascent medical marijuana market," and here are excerpts:
It's been two years since the Legislature approved a new law establishing a system of dispensaries and growing facilities to make medical marijuana more accessible to patients, but so far not a single bud has been sold.
That could change in the coming weeks with the planned opening of the Euphoria Wellness dispensary in Las Vegas, but there's no denying there have been growing pains as the industry struggles to launch.
Many of the issues stem from unintended consequences arising from the way the 2013 law was written, and Sen. Tick Segerblom, a leading marijuana advocate, made it a priority during the recently ended legislative session to fix as many problems as possible. "When you grow (an industry) from scratch, there's all kinds of issues you never thought about," Segerblom said. "Basically all these things we're dealing with are things we've learned over the last two years."...
Senate Bill 276 is intended to give medical marijuana entrepreneurs more flexibility with their businesses, allowing investors to sell or transfer their interest in a dispensary, lab, production or growing facility to another party, something that wasn't allowed under the previous law. The change will allow medical marijuana businesses to bring on new investors to raise capital or to cash out shareholders who no longer wish to be in the medical marijuana business. The law also allows marijuana establishments to change locations, so long as they stay in the same jurisdiction for which they're licensed and receive local government approval.
A different bill, Senate Bill 447, made various tweaks to criminal statutes surrounding marijuana and medical marijuana that deal with things like counterfeit patient registration cards and the production of cannabis concentrates. The bill also deals with noncriminal matters, most importantly allowing the use of certain pesticides in cannabis growing operations, something that's common in states like Colorado and California but wasn't allowed in Nevada.
Assembly Bill 70 also started out with a narrow focus — this time dealing with taxes on medical marijuana — but was expanded to help out businesses by allowing third party vendors to be used in operations. Previously, any nonpatient stepping foot into a dispensary or growing facility had to be an employee or volunteer of the establishment and register with the state. The new law will allow third party contractors to be hired by multiple businesses at a time, so long as the contractor is registered with the state....
The goal, Segerblom said, is to get the businesses up and running in advance of the 2016 election, when Nevada voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. "We want the voters to see what it's like," he said, "so we need to get these things out there so folks can see these are not bad operations."
With states like Colorado and Washington already bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars through their recently launched recreational marijuana markets, Segerblom said expanding access in Nevada would be a major revenue generator for the state. "We are perfectly situated to take advantage of this for all kinds of reasons. For us not to have marijuana tourism when Colorado and Washington have it just makes no sense," he said. "The reality is they're already (smoking) it, we're just not getting any tax revenue."
June 11, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this notable International Business Times article, which gets started this way:
Marijuana might be legal in the country’s capital, but not for employees of the U.S. government. The sobering reminder came in the form of a new guidance issued Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management. It stated that federal workers, even those living in states where marijuana is legal, are subject to federal, not local, law – and all the penalties that come with it.
“Heads of agencies are expected to advise their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter federal law, existing suitability criteria or Executive Branch policies regarding marijuana,” Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a statement posted on the agency’s website. The guidance doesn’t change existing laws barring federal employees from participating in activities the government considers illegal. It simply underscores a point that may have gotten lost in the shuffle, or that some government employees might rather forget.Twenty-three states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. Three states – Colorado, Oregon and Washington – along with D.C. allow pot to be consumed for medical and recreational purposes. The drug remains illegal at the federal level, despite the Department of Justice having promised not to challenge states that decide to legalize it.
The U.S. government employs roughly 4.1 million Americans. About half a million of them live in the District of Columbia, which legalized recreational pot in February.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting local article noting that Oregon already had a robust marijuana production market before it legalized the product via voter initiative last year. Here is how it gets started:
More than any state that has legalized marijuana, Oregon is a champion when it comes to producing the drug. Seth Crawford, a marijuana policy researcher at Oregon State University, estimates the state grows three to five times the 150,000 pounds or so consumed by Oregon pot users -- a crop potentially worth more than any other single agricultural commodity in the state.
A report from a Seattle venture capital firm specializing in pot says the state's legally allowed producers – those who grow for medical marijuana patients – harvest enough to meet the needs not only of patients in Oregon but in Washington, Colorado and Arizona as well.
"We've got plenty of supply," says Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and a member of the committee overseeing implementation of the pot legalization initiative. He wholeheartedly endorsed the common quip that Oregon is the "Saudi Arabia of marijuana."
As a result, the legislative debate over how to implement the November initiative that legalized recreational marijuana has revolved around how to turn this thriving – if often illegal -- industry into an economic and societal success story. The abundance of the state's marijuana crop is driving some of the biggest decisions that legislators face, from how strictly to regulate medical marijuana growers to whether to put a sales tax on pot despite the state's historic hostility to such taxes.
A growing number of legislators on the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 say they want to start retail sales as early as possible to entice growers into the legal market. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which Measure 91 charged with regulating the recreational marijuana market, says it probably won't be ready to allow retail outlets to open until fall of 2016.
But key lawmakers on the marijuana committee say they are seriously looking at allowing the sale of at least smokable pot starting Oct. 1 at existing medical marijuana dispensaries. "There are already well-established black-market channels," says Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland and the co-chair of the Measure 91 committee, "and we need to make this (legal) market as appealing to people as possible."
Burdick has been a particularly strong champion of legislation putting stricter limits on the size of medical marijuana growing operations, saying she wants to channel larger and more commercially minded producers into the recreational market.
Oregon has nearly 35,000 registered grow sites, according to the latest Oregon Health Authority records, but three-quarters serve just one or two patients, each of whom can have up to six plants grown for them. Nearly 400 sites grow for at least 10 patients and account for much of Oregon's marijuana crop.
The heart of the industry is in southern Oregon, where growers have plenty of sun and rural isolation. "You can't compete with the quantity and quality produced in southern Oregon," says Crawford, the OSU expert who has extensively researched the area's marijuana culture. He says many growers have been producing pot for decades, perfecting their strains and earning a supplemental income for their family.
May 24, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, May 21, 2015
As reported in this new Huffington Post piece, headlined "Pioneer Pot States Did The Right Thing, Polls Show," recent polling in the two states to lead the modern marijuana legalization movement indicates that three years of experience with legalization has not diminished support for these reforms. Here are the basic details:
Support for legalized marijuana seems to be growing in Colorado and Washington state, which became the first U.S. states to regulate the weed for recreational use two years ago.
A survey released Wednesday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling shows that 56 percent of voters in Washington state approve of their state's recreational marijuana laws, while 37 percent are opposed. The opposition is lower than that in the 2012 vote to approve legalization, in which 56 percent supported the measure, and 44 percent disapproved. Moreover, a majority of Washington voters -- 77 percent -- say the marijuana laws have either had a positive effect or no effect on their lives, according to the poll.
A Qunnipiac poll last month tells a similar story in Colorado. Sixty-two percent of Colorado voters support reformed marijuana laws, the poll shows. That's an increase of 7 percentage points over the margin of support when voters approved Colorado's legalization in 2012....
Colorado became the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, quickly followed by Washington. The first retail shops opened in 2014. By the end of last year, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved recreational marijuana legalization measures. By 2016, as many as 10 additional states are likely to consider reforming marijuana laws.
May 21, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this fascinating recent Washington Post article. Here are excerpts:
Not long ago, a man who had covertly dealt pot in the nation’s capital for three decades approached a young political operative at a birthday party in a downtown Washington steakhouse. He was about to test a fresh marketing strategy to take advantage of the District’s peculiar new marijuana law, which allows people to possess and privately consume the drug but provides them no way to legally buy it for recreational use. Those contradictions have created a surge in demand and new opportunities for illicit pot purveyors.
“Do you like cannabis?” asked the dealer. “Yes,” answered the man, who had recently left his job as a Republican Senate staffer.
So, the dealer recalled, he handed his new acquaintance a tiny plastic bag that contained half a gram of “Blue Dream,” a sweet and fruity strain of marijuana. With the bag he also presented a business card and an offer: If you like what you try, call me. Within days, the man — now a lobbyist — picked up the phone.
The dealer — who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because what they do remains illegal — said he has used that same in-plain-sight sales pitch at similarly upscale D.C. settings, collecting three new buyers and a pair of new suppliers. The new business is all thanks to the quirks of the District’s legalization, which has boosted the appetite for marijuana as more people become comfortable acquiring it through the black market. “It’s the dealer-protection act of 2015,” he said. “This was a license for me to print money.”
Who is responsible for this unintended consequence depends on whom you ask. In November, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that made it legal to possess and grow marijuana, but the following month, Congress enacted a spending prohibition that barred the city from creating a system through which pot could be lawfully bought, sold and taxed.
That means there are only three ways for people in the District to legally obtain marijuana. Someone can give it to them, though the donors, of course, must find their own original source. Residents can each grow as many as three plants to maturity at one time, though that process is complicated, expensive and time-consuming. And with a doctor’s approval, people can get medical-marijuana cards, though supply remains dismal.
“The black market is the obvious choice,” said a 24-year-old government contractor who deals part time. “It’s awesome.”
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who has led Congress’s charge to thwart the legalization, blamed city leaders, insisting that they should have forbidden possession when he and other lawmakers prevented Washington from creating a controlled marketplace. “There’s no question that demand will go up, and there’s no legal source of supply,” he said. “Clearly, this was not thought out rationally by the city government, which chose to go forward with legalization without regulation.”
John Falcicchio, chief of staff for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), sharply countered that assertion. “In D.C., it shouldn’t be called the black market. It should be called the Harris market,” he said. “If there’s any uptick in the black market, it’s thanks to Harris.”...
That boost in demand, supporters of legalization say, helps explain why lawful use in the District must be paired with lawful sales. “If you’re going to legalize marijuana, you also have to legalize the supply because you want to get rid of the black market or at least limit the black market,” said Keith Stroup, founder of NORML. “Right now, they’ve done the exact opposite.”
Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, said a regulated market would have “pulled the teeth out of the illegal drug trade” and eventually wiped out the violence associated with it.
Jeffrey Miron, an economics teacher at Harvard University, compared marijuana’s potential evolution to that of alcohol after prohibition ended in 1933. “People seem to prefer going to a legal supplier rather than making beer in their basement,” said Miron, director of economic studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, which supports the legalization of all drugs.
He and others who have studied the topic don’t suggest that illicit sales would disappear overnight, but after several years — even a decade — they argue that the black market could not compete with a controlled market.
Rep. Andy Harris rejected those arguments. “I think there’s value in keeping the supply chain illegal at this point,” he said, maintaining that it provides “a check on the system.”
The longtime District dealer who now markets his product at chic D.C. gatherings has already considered what he would do if the city regulated pot sales. He and his friends, he said, would open their own dispensary. They’d go legit.
May 19, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, May 17, 2015
In this post from a few weeks ago, I was promped by an article about the Tesla battery and marijuana cultivation to ask this question is a post title: "Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?". Continuing with the theme of innovations for ganja growing is this fascinating new article via the International Business Times headlined "Legal Marijuana Cultivation Is Driving A Technology 'Revolution' In Industrial Agriculture." Here are excerpts:
[A] growing number of companies in North America [are] designing new products and systems specifically for the cultivation of cannabis, a finicky crop that needs a precise balance of light, moisture and water to thrive. Although these cannabis ventures aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel -- greenhouse technologies have existed for decades -- they are injecting the kinds of capital and brainpower into the field of industrial agriculture that simply wasn’t there a decade ago.
They’re also adding a new level of urgency. As more countries and U.S. states soften their policies on both medical and recreational marijuana, companies are racing to become the industry leaders in data-mining software, ultraefficient lamps and water-sipping irrigation systems. These tools will benefit more than marijuana growers alone: Industrial food producers and tree growers could adapt the same technologies to cut energy costs and boost their crops. Operators of large buildings could use the systems to lower their electricity use.
“Cannabis is spurring on an ag-tech revolution,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Group, a cannabis-industry research firm in Oakland, California. “This is a boom born entirely out of ending repressive laws. The market is already there, it’s just moving from the shadows into the light. That’s why you’re seeing this incredible growth and why so many people see it as a once-in-a-lifetime [business] opportunity.”
That market is rapidly expanding in the U.S., where 23 states have already legalized medical marijuana, and three states -- Alaska, Colorado and Washington -- allow recreational-marijuana sales. Voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure last fall that allows for personal pot use and limited cultivation. The policy takes effect July 1. In Texas, Ohio, Nebraska and a number of other states, voters and policymakers are considering similar initiatives. (In Canada, medical-marijuana use was legalized in 2001, and recent policy changes are enabling a rise in industrial growing operations.)....
Companies such as Heliostat are moving into the cannabis space for three key reasons -- first and foremost, cash. Unlike tomato and pepper producers, cannabis growers boast wide profit margins, giving them a bigger budget for top-of-the-line technologies and a greater appetite for research and experimentation....
Second, young technology whizzes and expert plant biologists are both bringing their skills to the burgeoning sector. “For the newer generation that’s just getting out of college or new to the workplace, cannabis is a more interesting project than say a real-estate project, or a lettuce project,” said Michael Mayes, CEO of Quantum 9 Inc., a Chicago consulting firm for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. “The cool factor can drive innovation.”
Third, there is plenty of demand among growers. As they build new greenhouses and indoor facilities, they’re interested in shaving off as much electricity and water consumption as possible to reduce operating expenses and protect profit margins as more players enter the market.
Dayton of ArcView Group said the cannabis industry is still in the earliest stages of its technology “renaissance,” and that the only thing holding it back are prohibitive marijuana policies in certain states.
Even so, the gradual easing of cannabis laws is already drawing interest from mainstream businesses, including a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. The company’s Hawthorne Gardening Co. in April purchased General Hydroponics Inc. and Bio-Organic Solutions Inc., which make liquid nutrients for indoor marijuana cultivation. Terms were not disclosed, but the acquisition should make Scotts, with its $2.97 billion in annual revenue, a formidable player in the marijuana market.
Prior related post:
Friday, May 15, 2015
One of many reasons I am a huge fan of ballot initiatives proposing marijuana reform (and really of all direct democracy movements) is because these kind of single-issue initiatives enable and often require political figures to take a concrete stand on specific issues that matter to voters. That reality is on full display this morning in my own Columbus Dispatch, which has two notable new articles about marijuana reform reporting notable new comments and efforts by notable Ohio political figures:
Sittenfeld [a 30-year-old Cincinnati City Council member in the race for US Senator] made ... news by announcing his support for the ResponsibleOhio’s for-profit plan to legalize marijuana and amend Ohio’s constitution to allow 10 investor-owned marijuana-growing sites across the state. The group is well on its way to gathering enough petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
Sittenfeld said he has long advocated “getting rid of old and broken laws” that allow billions of dollars to flow to “brutal drug dealers and cartels” when it could be used for building roads and bridges. He favors “decriminalization, legalization and tight regulation” of marijuana.
His stance places him at odds with both Strickland — the former governor who backs legalizing only medicinal marijuana — and Portman, who opposes full legalization.
“What I support is a whole different approach with regard to drug use, and that is spending less money on the prosecution and incarceration side and more money on prevention and education, which I know works,” Portman said on Thursday on his weekly media call.
As state officials realize that marijuana legalization is likely to appear on the fall ballot, state Auditor Dave Yost is urging lawmakers to make it harder for “special interest” issues to make it into the Ohio Constitution. Yost unveiled his idea Thursday at a meeting of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.
May 15, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, May 8, 2015
This new local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization issue wouldn't trump employers' drug policies, legal analysis finds," reports on an interesting legal memo commissioned by the well-financed group seeking to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye state via voter initiative in 2015. Here are the basics:
An analysis of the marijuana legalization issue that ResponsibleOhio hopes to have on the November ballot found that if approved, it would have little to no impact on an employer's ability to control employee use of marijuana.
The analysis, commissioned by ResponsibleOhio, found that language in the issue itself retains significant control for the employer. Beyond that, federal case law also provides further protections, the analysis said.
ResponsibleOhio is trying to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize sale, possession and personal use of marijuana in the state for people at least 21 years old. The group's proposed amendment to the state constitution would establish a legal marijuana industry in which Ohioans could purchase marijuana and marijuana products from licensed retail outlets for recreational and medical uses. They also would be able to grow marijuana in their homes.
But as the group has collected signatures needed to reach the ballot and sought to raise awareness around the state, it also heard questions from employers who wondered how the amendment would affect their businesses. Would they have to change their companies' internal drug policies? Would they still be able to bar their employees from using the drug?
Greater Cleveland Partnership has heard some of those same questions, said Marty McGann, senior vice president for government advocacy. GCP, with more than 10,000 members, is one of the largest metropolitan chambers of commerce in the country. "At this point, I think it's curiosity (from the businesses)," McGann said. "I haven't heard forceful positions on this. I think it's more realization that this likely to be on the ballot."
GCP is preparing an in-house forum with people from all sides of the issue for its members. The organization hasn't taken a position on the constitutional amendment yet. "We've been known to take positions on different issues," McGann said. "It's not even on the ballot yet. We're just sort of beginning the discussions to understand it."
The questions prompted Responsible Ohio to request an analysis from Dickinson Wright, a Detroit-based firm that specializes in business and financial law that has offices in Columbus. "We wanted to be sure we were being consistent with reality when we said we would not force employers to change their policies," said Lydia Bolander, a spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio.
The research looked at the language within the amendment as well as existing case law, said Jonathan Secrest, the lawyer who conducted the analysis. "It is our opinion that the legal precedent is on the side of the employer," Secrest said in an email. "ResponsibleOhio's proposal will not compel an employer to loosen their standards on drug testing or consumption in the workplace."
Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law. That has led multiple courts to dismiss employee claims of discrimination and wrongful termination, the analysis found....
Beyond the case law, the analysis found that the amendment itself offers employers some built-in protection. It specifically says "nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display or transportation of medical marijuana, marijuana, homegrown marijuana, marijuana-infused products or marijuana accessories in the workplace or to affect employers' ability to restrict the use of such products by employees."
The amendment language provides that employers have no duty to accommodate use of marijuana in the workplace, the analysis said, and treats medical marijuana like any other prescription drug. For that reason, employers likely will want to review their policies to evaluate how they treat employee use of prescription drugs, the analysis said.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
The title of this post adds to the headline of this notable Mashable piece discussing notable marketplace developments in one of the first two states that legalized recreational marijuana via initiative votes in 2012. Here are excerpts:
For the past 10 months, three marijuana markets have been operating simultaneously in Washington state: the street market, the medical market and the recreational market. In the future, however, there will only be two. And contrary to some people’s expectations about legal recreational pot making drug dealers obsolete, it’s the medical dispensaries that will disappear first.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill in April that will overhaul medical marijuana and reconcile the two legal markets into one. Medical marijuana dispensaries as they exist now will either close or seek licenses in the regulated industry. In the future, medical customers will have to look to “medically endorsed” recreational marijuana stores for their supply.
Washington's medical marijuana market has always been "looser than anywhere in the country,” says Rick Garza, head of the state Liquor Control Board, the agency that oversees the marijuana industry.
"With I-502 (the recreational market), you have a tightly regulated business that has to make a big investment and pay taxes and fees," says Garza. And while medical marijuana is legal, it has become somewhat of a "gray area" because the "vast majority" of users served by the dispensaries are truly recreational users anyway, says Garza. "You have this unregulated and untaxed [medical] dispensary that's competing directly with the regulated market." "You have this unregulated and untaxed [medical] dispensary that's competing directly with the regulated market."
It's hard to measure the size of each of these markets, but to get a general idea I talked to a budtender and an illegal street dealer to get their perspectives on the state of Washington pot. Regardless where the lines of legality are drawn (and redrawn), there's a lot of pot floating around the Evergreen state. A study by the RAND Corporation found that marijuana consumption in Washington during 2013 was between 135 and 225 metric tons (that’s 297,624 to 464,040 pounds).
Garza guesses the recreational stores have so far only captured 3-5% of the total marketplace. And seeing as how the recreational market has generated $168 million in sales in the 10 months it has been operational in Washington, that gives you an idea of the size and potential of the industry as a whole.
A male pot dealer in his early twenties, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has been selling weed in the state for the past couple of years while finishing a degree. He sells primarily to college kids, so he didn’t expect business to change, but says he doesn’t see a drop in sales for dealers who sell to older demographics either. “People don't realize just how big the street market is,” he says....
The Liquor Control Board guesses the medical industry has captured 40-50% of the market, but it’s impossible to say how big the medical marijuana population is because Washington has never required a patient registry or ID cards like other states with medical systems do.
Since the state’s first recreational stores opened in July 2014, about 134 retail locations have opened alongside some 1,100 medical dispensaries in the state. However, the Liquor Control Board calls the estimated number of dispensaries “conservative.”
Pricing at medical dispensaries has remained cheaper than that of recreational stores because they aren't subject to the same high taxes. A gram of weed at a dispensary generally costs around $10-12 versus $12-16 on average at recreational stores. Weed on the street, however, remains at a pretty steady $8-10.
"The street can always offer prices that are below that of the stores," says the dealer I spoke with. And while street products may lack the variety of brick and mortar stores, they have added convenience because dealers can move around. "The street can more effectively distribute, because people don't have to come to you."
For some people illegal pot sales are more simple (and familiar). Text your dealer, meet up, trade cash for whatever weed they have and part ways. At recreational stores, customers have to be 21, visit at set hours and locations, and sort through a dizzying array of products. Some people find it more complex to buy legal marijuana.
May 7, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this intriguing new St. Louis Dispatch article headlined "Does Missouri's 'right to farm' amendment mean you can grow marijuana in the basement?". Here are the details of an interested new state constitutional provision and argument in litigation over marijuana prohibition:
A Missouri woman believes her constitutional right to farm shields her against being prosecuted for allegedly growing a small crop of marijuana in her basement.
Lisa Loesch, 52, of Jefferson City, was charged in 2013 with a felony count of manufacturing and/or distributing a controlled substance. Investigators with the Jefferson City Police Department and a regional drug task force said they found nine healthy, potted marijuana plants under grow lights in her basement in October 2012. “The room was set up with grow lights, a CO2 generator, and pots with potting soil,” police said in court records. “The plants were approximately 1 and ½ to 2 feet in height.”
Loesch’s lawyer, a public defender named Justin Carver, filed a motion April 28 asking for her case’s dismissal. Carver argued that growing marijuana is protected by Missouri’s new farming rights amendment, which voters narrowly passed in an August referendum. Of nearly 1 million votes cast, the amendment passed by a margin of 2,376 votes.
The amendment enshrined the right to farm in the state constitution, saying the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices “shall not be infringed.” It was prompted by rural legislators who said farm culture needed protection from environmentalists and animal-rights activists. Missouri was the second state behind North Dakota to place farming rights in its constitution. “The amendment prohibits the Legislature from declaring what can and cannot be grown in Missouri,” Carver wrote in his motion for dismissal.
Loesch’s lawyer wrote that state laws that prohibit the cultivation of marijuana violate the state and U.S. constitutions and are “vague in that a reasonable person cannot tell and is not given clear notice as to what is prohibited and what is permitted” by law.
The amendment was passed after Loesch was charged. But her attorney says the language of the amendment makes it clear it is not establishing a new right but clarifying an existing right, so it should apply retroactively to Loesch. Loesch pleaded not guilty to the drug charge in February 2013.
This Ballotpedia entry provides background on the "right to farm" provision now in the Missouri constitution, and it reports that the provision reads as follows:
Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri's economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri's economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.
I suspect that defendant Lisa Loesch will have a hard time establishing in this case that she qualifies as a farmer exercising her "right ... to engage in farming and ranching practices" through growing a small crop of marijuana in her basement. That said, I could readily imagine a true family farmer starting to grow a small crop of marijuana plants on his family farm and thereafter asserting in the face of a state prosecution that he was just engaged in a form of Mizzou agriculture designed to provide "food, energy, health benefits and security" for his fellow state citizens.
Monday, May 4, 2015
SCOTUS asks for views from US Solicitor General on original lawsuit between states over marijuana reform
Via this order list, the US Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General in the original case of Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado. That is the case, as readers may recall from posts here and here back in December, in which two states filed suit directly in the Supreme Court seeking "a declaratory judgment stating that Sections 16(4) and (5) of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution [legalizing and regulating marijuana sales] are preempted by federal law, and therefore unconstitutional and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution."
I am not sure what the usual timelines tend to be for submission of CVSG briefs during this time of year, but I would think this request from the Justices will just now further slow the resolution of a suit that was filled five months ago and will remain in limbo now until the Solicitor General weighs in.
Prior related posts:
- Nebraska and Oklahoma sue Colorado in US Supreme Court over marijuana legalization
- Could (and should) Colorado (or others) respond to attack on marijuana legalization by counter-attacking federal prohibition?
May 4, 2015 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)