Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Too many marijuana candies and handgun make for suicidal mix in sad Colorado case

After three years of legalization and 15 months of recreational sales, there is now another sad case in which a premature death apparently can be closely connected to the consumption of edible marijuana.   This local story, headlined "Keystone visitor commits suicide after eating marijuana candies," provides these details:

A Tulsa, Oklahoma man visiting Keystone committed suicide after consuming a large amount of edible marijuana candies, according to a Summit County Coroner’s report. Summit County Coroner Regan Wood said the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. Luke Gregory Goodman, 22, was staying in Keystone with his cousin at the time of the incident, and was taken to Summit Medical Center Saturday night. Later, he was flown to St. Anthony’s Lakewood Hospital, where he was kept on life support for two days until he died Tuesday morning.

Wood said that Goodman’s cousin reported he and Goodman had consumed edibles earlier Saturday. A CBS4 report says Goodman bought $78 of edible marijuana with his cousin, Caleb Fowler, in Silverthorne. Goodman consumed five peach tart candies in total, each containing 10 mg of the active ingredient in marijuana, the recommended dose for an adult. The back of the package said the candies were supposed to take 1-2 hours take effect.

According to CBS4, Fowler said that several hours later, Goodman became “jittery” then incoherent and talking nonsensically. “He would make eye contact with us but didn’t see us, didn’t recognize our presence almost. He had never got close to this point, I had never seen him like this,” Fowler said.

Later, when his family left the condo, Goodman refused to join them. According to the report, Goodman may have used a handgun he normally carried for protection. Taneil Ilano, a Public Information Officer with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, said a witness reported that Goodman consumed about four marijuana edibles that day, described as gummy bears. She added that police were dispatched around 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Luke Goodman’s mother, Kim Goodman, told CBS4 that her son had no signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, and believed the large amounts of edibles triggered his death. “It was 100 percent the drugs,” she said. “It was completely because of the drugs — he had consumed so much of it.”

The toxicology results are pending and will take about three weeks to be finalized.

As noted in this prior post from nearly a year ago, in the first part of 2014 two deaths in Denver were linked to marijuana intoxication .  I have been pleasantly surprised that there have not been more of these kinds of tragic cases resulting from misuse of the drug, but my heart now  goes out to everyone connected to this latest tragic incident.

Prior related post:

March 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comparing successful state recreational marijuana initiatives and Ohio proposals

In addition to having a notable guest speaking in my marijuana law school seminar this week (basics here), and having one student do a presentation on drugged driving (basics here), another student this week is giving a presentation on textual and substantive similarities between the adult-use recreational marijuana initiatives/regimes that have been enacted in four states to date (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington)  and Ohio's three recreational marijuana proposals.  Links to basic legal information about the four legalization states can be found via this NORML webpage, and the basic text or a summary of the Ohio proposals are here:

 
 
 
 
 
 

March 26, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Basic readings concerning drugged driving realities and laws

In addition to having a notable guest speaking in my marijuana law school seminar this week (basics here), we are starting a series of weeks in which students are to present to the class some readings and engage in discussion concerning the research topic that they are working up. This week, one of the topics to be covered is drugged driving, and here are links to the student-assembled reading:

Drug Impaired Driving: Understanding the Problem and Ways to Reduce It

Drug Per Se Laws: A Review of Their Use in States

(My students only need to read the Ohio section in the "Drug Per Se Laws" comparative article, though they (and other readers) might want to review the whole document for a national perspective.)

March 24, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

If enough signatures now get collected, Ohioans will vote on marijuana legalization in 2015

As reported in this local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio's marijuana-legalization effort clears next hurdle toward Ohio ballot," it now seems even more likely Ohio voters will get to weigh in on marijuana legalization later this year.  Here are the details:

A decision by the Ohio Ballot Board on Friday cleared the way for ResponsibleOhio to start gathering signatures needed to put its marijuana legalization ballot issue before Ohio voters this fall.  The amendment to the state constitution would establish a legal marijuana industry in which Ohioans could purchase weed for recreational and medical uses from retail outlets licensed by the state....

The Ballot Board, chaired by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, agreed Friday that ResponsibleOhio's proposal amounts to one constitutional amendment.  Had the board decided the language contained more than one issue, it could have voted to split them into separate ballot questions.  That would have forced ResponsibleOhio to start the review process all over again.

The next step toward the ballot requires petitioners to collect 305,591 signatures of registered voters.  The total is equal to 10 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial contest. Those signatures must be gathered from at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties, and in each of 44 counties, the total gathered must amount to 5 percent of the 2014 gubernatorial vote locally.  Signatures must be submitted by July.

Campaign spokeswoman Lydia Bolander said Friday that the circulating of petitions will provide ResponsibleOhio with a chance to talk to voters about why it is seeking to change Ohio's laws....  "As we collect signatures, we have to collect in a majority of counties. We'd like to be in every county," Bolander said.  And other events, such as town hall meetings, could be organized down the road.

ResponsibleOhio's amendment would allow 10 growing sites promised to campaign investors.  Entrepreneurs would be able to apply for licenses to manufacture marijuana products and sell weed at retail stores and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent at the wholesale and manufacturing levels and 5 percent at retail locations. Most tax revenue would go to local governments to pay for roads, police and other public services while 15 percent would go toward marijuana research, addiction services and enforcement. Adults over age 21 could also possess up to four flowering marijuana plants and 8 ounces of dried marijuana for personal use -- provided they obtain a license from the state.

The proposed amendment cleared its first hurdle to the ballot a week ago when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified that a summary of the petition language met the proper legal form. DeWine had rejected the group's first submitted amendment, finding at least two places where the summary did not match the proposed amendment.

DeWine has said he personally opposes the idea of marijuana legalization. But he acknowledged that on the second try, ResponsibleOhio's language was proper. "Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred. ... I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law," DeWine said in a letter to the petitioners.

March 20, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Effective review of (likely ineffective) lawsuits challenging Colorado marijuana reforms

The Washington Post's Wonkblog has this lengthy new piece detailed the array of distinct lawsuits brought recently by opponents of Colorado's marijuana reforms.  The article, headlined "After losing at the ballot box, marijuana opponents make a hail mary pass to the courts," is worthy a full read, and here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece:

After losing at the ballot box and in the court of public opinion, marijuana opponents are turning to the federal judiciary in an attempt to halt the momentum of marijuana legalization efforts happening at the state level. But legal experts say that plaintiffs in a series of lawsuits brought against the state of Colorado for its marijuana regulation regime face slim chances of succeeding -- if the courts agree to hear them at all....

Most of the cases above are being financed by hardline anti-drug organizations that in recent years have found themselves well outside of the mainstream criminal justice debate.

The sheriffs' lawsuit, for instance, is bankrolled by the Drug Free America Foundation. Among other things, this group advocates for broadening mandatory drug tests for public school students. The Foundation arose from the ashes of "Straight, Incorporated," a coercive "drug rehabilitation" program for teens that faced numerous allegations of abuse and settled out of court to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars before closing its doors in 1993.

And the RICO cases are funded by the Safe Streets Alliance, a tough-on-crime organization that aims to increase prison sentences in an era of deep skepticism over the merits of lengthy prison terms. "This is the last hurrah for a lot of individuals in the anti-marijuana community," according to the Brookings Institution's John Hudak. "It's pretty clear that they’ve lost the battle for public opinion."

March 12, 2015 in Court Rulings, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Notable new talk of recreational marijuana reform in Florida

For various reasons, the huge swing southern state Florida is among the most interesting place to watch as a marker for the future of marijuana reform nationwide.  A number of prominent national political figures have links to Florida, and the distinctive economics and voting groups in the state add to the political equation.  As the same time, the state is among the hardest for the enactment of initiative reforms because of its requirement that initiatives garner 60% of the vote for passage.   Thus, I found this lengthy new Sunshine State  article, headlined "Recreational cannabis initiative?," especially interesting. Here are excerpts:

The Florida Cannabis Action Network is now developing a 2016 voter initiative to legalize marijuana, based on the likelihood that the Florida Legislature will be unwilling to create a comprehensive medical-only program in coming weeks. That could mean that there is both a medical marijuana amendment and an adult-use amendment on the Florida ballot during the presidential election-year ballot.

Unlike two recently filed but restrictive medical marijuana legislative bills and unlike the revised medical marijuana amendment possibly headed for the November 2016 ballot, the proposed Florida-Can amendment would open use of the plant. “Just like aloe in your backyard, why shouldn’t you be able to have cannabis in your back yard, and if you want some, use it,” said Parrish resident Cathy Jordan, an ALS patient and longtime president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network....

While the group does not have the deep pockets that Orlando attorney John Morgan’s medical marijuana advocacy group United for Care showed last year, James says raising $10 million from those interested in creating a new multibillion-dollar marijuana industry in the third-most populated state would not be insurmountable. “Florida is a wealthy state, with a lot of people who have an interest in this issue,” James said....

Opponents of legalization were quick to criticize the plan proposed by Florida Cannabis Action Network. The Drug Free America Foundation, through its Drug Free Florida political action committee, was a key 2014 opponent to medical marijuana Amendment 2, taking in major donations and creating the “Vote No. on 2” ad blitz that helped defeat the amendment. Referring to James, Drug Free America chief Calvina Fay said: “For her to make that kind of threat to the Legislature is just disingenuous. I don’t think members of the Legislature are going to be so easily influenced by such a silly threat.”

A $10 million campaign to legalize marijuana in Florida “is feasible,” said Michael Mayes, CEO of Quantum 9 Inc., a Chicago-based consulting firm that works with both recreational and medicinal marijuana business clients on a national basis. Revenues from a wide-open marijuana program in Florida could easily be in the billions of dollars per year, Mayes said, “just because there is such a high likelihood that individuals in Florida could benefit from the use of marijuana, whether it is called adult-use or medical.”

An adult-use law could vault Florida into the U.S. leader in marijuana sales, because all the other states where adult use of marijuana is legal have significantly smaller populations: Colorado, Washington State, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Even without any sales, medical or recreational, in Florida, marijuana already is the fastest-growing industry in the United States. The U.S. market for legal cannabis products grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013, according to ArcView Market Research....

In Florida, it is frustration that is driving the activists toward a recreational approach. “Lawmakers promised that they would do something,” James said. “It is frustrating for us that law enforcement is the voice of opposition up here.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association declined to comment on the Florida-Can proposal. But in late February, in response to a comprehensive medical marijuana bill submitted by St. Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes, the sheriffs made their position very clear. They would not support a medical marijuana bill that allows for smoking of the plant’s buds, or that gives a physician leeway to recommend its use for any medical condition that causes severe and persistent pain, nausea or muscle spasms. The organization said it could support a medical marijuana bill that calls for marijuana infused edibles, and one that limits use only to specific medical conditions.

March 10, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spotlighting some collateral economic impact of marijuana legalization

Download (1)This notable new CNN money article, headlined "Pot startups cash in on wave of legalization," highlights some of the economic stories emerging in the modern decline of pot prohibition. Here is an excerpt:

The wave of pot legalization hasn't just been a boon for growers. A slew of other businesses are jumping on the bandwagon as well.

"A guy calls me a few weeks ago about a domain name he owns, nugs.com [a reference to marijuana nuggets, or the bud of the plant]," said Jared Mirsky, founder of Online Marijuana Design. "It's a great four-letter domain name, which itself is rare and valuable." Mirsky's Seattle branding firm, which exclusively works with the cannabis industry, is helping him capitalize on it....

Other firms, like Sussex, Wisc.-based Vaportek, have pivoted to work with the marijuana industry. Originally, the company created a machine to control odors in hospitals. The business grew to target fire and flood restoration, crime scenes and, most recently, the marijuana industry. "As soon as it became legal, we knew our products would be a great fit for the industry. And it's a new area to increase our sales," said spokeswoman Sunny Schneider-Christensen.

Vaportek created smaller home vaporizers for individual use as well as larger machines for larger growing facilities. "We're targeting bedroom smokers to big industry growers," she said.

The U.S. market for legal marijuana soared 74% to $2.7 billion between 2013 and 2014, making it the fastest growing industry in the country, according to a report from the ArcView Group, a cannabis-focused investment and research firm. It's expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2015....

"Under full legalization, this could be a $36 billion industry," said ArcView Group's CEO Troy Dayton. "Most people who are getting in won't be marijuana growers or processors. That requires a very specific skillset," he said. "It's like with the Gold Rush. It's a great time to be selling picks and shovels, instead."

WaterPulse, in Longmont, Colo., helps marijuana growers reduce water usage by as much as 70%. Its automatic watering mats, placed underneath cannabis plants, let growers set timers, said Mike Croy, the firm's VP of sales and marketing. "This helps prevents water wastage and allows plants to grow uniformly," he said, adding that marijuana's legalization has generated a lot of interest. "It's become the fastest-growing part of our overall business," he said.

Brother-sister team Kevin and Kathleen Sullivan launched Forever Green Indoors in 2013. The Kirkland, Wash.-based firm sells lighting panels for indoor marijuana farms. Kathleen had run a small business that sold energy-efficient lighting options for businesses. "We recognized an opportunity for our products in the marijuana business," said Kevin. LED lighting is much more effective for growing cannabis indoors -- and considerably cheaper, he said.

"The market demand for LED lighting panels has really picked up in the last six months," he said. Forever Green Indoors has installed about 500 LED panels (each costing $1,400) since the firm launched. "We're not profitable yet, but our pre-orders are growing fast," said Kevin.

Mirsky, who used to design websites for dispensaries, is overwhelmed by the rush of new clients. He started the branding agency five years ago and has already worked with hundreds of clients. Last year he hit $500,000 in sales and is on track to hire eight new employees this year. "Five years feels like 20 years already," he said. "That's how fast everything is moving in this industry."

March 9, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"What, Ohio a trendy pot state?"

Download (6)The title of this post is the headline of this notable new USA Today column which highlights why the discussion of marijuana reform in the Buckeye State may be such a big deal in the coming month.  Here are excerpts:

Is Ohio, long considered the nation's leading political bellwether state, going to pot? If some big-money investors, former sports stars and grassroots activists get their way, voters in November could make Ohio the first state to go directly from a total ban on marijuana to one allowing production and consumption of both medical and recreational marijuana.

And what happens here could reverberate across the country next year when as many as two dozen other states are expected to vote to decriminalize marijuana or to permit its legal production and consumption. It should also put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to resolve the obvious conflict between the growing number of state and local laws legalizing pot and federal law that still classifies marijuana as an illegal and dangerous drug.

The Ohio marijuana juggernaut is notable because, unlike Colorado, Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon, which have legalized weed, Ohio is Rust Belt dull, not known for an edgy living style or as a hotbed of libertarianism.

What's more, polls by Gallup show that support for legal marijuana in the Midwest is a paltry 45%, lower even than the 47% support found in the South. Both the East Coast and West Coast states support legalization by a majority of 57%. (Two countrywide polls in the past 18 months have shown slim-to-solid majority support for national legalization.)...

It could become the hottest cultural issue since the push for gay marriage began, and is likely to generate a range of debates: Will legalization reduce prison populations, and at what cost? Will taxes on marijuana leave state coffers flush or prove to be as oversold as recent projections on gambling revenues? Doesn't it just make sense, really, to control and profit from transactions that will otherwise be engaged in illegally by those who have a yearning for pot?

All legitimate questions, but none that addresses the elephant in the room: How can state and local jurisdictions continue to make something legal that is patently illegal under federal law? Here's how crazy things have become: In cities from Portland, Maine, to Detroit and Flint, Mich., voters have approved possession of small amounts of marijuana. In some cases, local police say they will still enforce state laws prohibiting possession, in others police say they will look the other way.

In December, Congress approved and President Obama signed a spending bill that defunds federal prosecution of medical marijuana sales, yet a U.S. attorney in Oakland continues a campaign to shut down California's largest medical marijuana dispensary.

Obama has not only instructed the Justice Department to not interfere with state laws legalizing marijuana, he also has even encouraged more states to "experiment" with such laws. So what happens if a Republican is elected president in 2016 and he or she orders a new attorney general to stamp out marijuana wherever it is found?...

That's the big picture. Back here in Ohio, if the ballot measure passes, I see a problem for the horticulturally challenged: How can we expect to raise our own marijuana if we can't even get marigolds to grow?

Some prior related posts on Ohio reform discussions:

March 8, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Another round of state reform news from coast to coast

Marijuana reform discussions at the state level, regarding both medical and recreational reforms, continue to generate lots of stories and headlines each week. Here is an abridged run-down of (and links to) some recent news stories reviewing recent state-level marijuana reform developments that caught my eye:

Alaska: "Alaska lawmakers hold marijuana show and tell"

California: "GOP's risk-reward calculus on legalizing pot"

Nebraska: "Medical marijuana debated in Nebraska's Capitol"

New Hampshire: "Committee approves bill to decriminalize marijuana"

Oregon: "Oregon Liquor Control Commission Releases Marijuana Policy Recommendations"

Rhode Island: "Rhode Island again takes up bills to legalize marijuana"

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sherriffs now suing in an effort to shut down Colorado's recreational marijuana regime

This USA Today report, headlined "Sheriffs sue Colorado over legal marijuana," highlights that yet more notable folks continue to press in court lawsuits seeking to end state experimentation with marijuana reforms. Here are the details:

Sheriffs from Colorado and neighboring states Kansas and Nebraska say in a lawsuit to be filed Thursday that Colorado's marijuana law creates a "crisis of conscience" by pitting the state law against the Constitution and puts an economic burden on other states.

The lawsuit asks a federal court in Denver to strike down Colorado's Amendment 64 that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana and to close the state's more than 330 licensed marijuana stores.

Lead plaintiff, Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Justin Smith, calls the case a "constitutional showdown." Each day, he says, he must decide whether to violate the Colorado Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales Jan. 1, 2014, but marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Colorado is "asking every peace officer to violate their oath," Smith said. "What we're being forced to do ... makes me ineligible for office. Which constitution are we supposed to uphold?"

The out-of-state sheriffs say the flow of Colorado's legal marijuana across the border has increased drug arrests, overburdened police and courts and cost them money in overtime. Felony drug arrests in the town of Chappell in Deuel County, Neb., 7 miles north of the Colorado border, jumped 400% over three years, a USA TODAY report tracking the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska found. Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward is one of the plaintiffs.

Police officers monitoring the flow of marijuana outside Colorado say volumes have risen annually. The Colorado-based Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force is still compiling 2014 numbers but expects to see the trend continue, director Tom Gorman said. He said non-residents often strike backdoor deals with legal growers to buy more than they are allowed, then illegally drive, fly or mail the marijuana across state lines. The lawsuit invokes the federal government's right to regulate drugs and interstate commerce and argues that Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana hurt communities on the other side of the state lines. Attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a similar lawsuit late last year....

Supporters of legalization criticize such lawsuits as last-ditch attempts by conservative politicians to derail states' movement toward marijuana legalization. Speaking about the Nebraska-Oklahoma lawsuit in December, Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said police should focus their attention on serious crimes and leave alone people who choose to use marijuana. "These guys are on the wrong side of history," Tvert said.

I fully understand why various law enforcement officials, who seemingly enjoy and benefit from waging a drug war without many limitations or uncertainties, are struggling to deal with the new legal regimes in place in Colorado and other marijuana reform jurisdictions. Indeed, I am especially sympathetic to those sheriffs in non-reform jurisdictions which border reform regions because they have to deal with unique spill-over challenges. But this is a problem that has been long endured by localities with lots of other potential dangerous but legal products like alcohol and guns, and I find a bit troublesome that in this context law enforcement officials are so quick to turn to make novel claims in courts to vent their frustrations with what is really just a small pull-back in the modern drug war.

March 5, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Learning so much already even in first few hours of first Tribal Marijuana Conference

ImagesI feel extraordinarily fortunate to have been invited to participate the nation’s first ever Tribal Marijuana Conference taking place as I write this post from a huge ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino, just North of Seattle.   This post from Canna Law Blog discusses the basics, and this agenda highlights all the informed speakers in the mix who are already making this an amazing event in which I am learning so much.  

For example, right now on the podium now are Thomas Carr, the Boulder City Attorney, and Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, are providing an extraordinary set of insights about local enforcement of local laws in the first two recreational marijuana states. Carr also reported that, because Dunkin' Donuts does not have a store in Boulder, it is easier to get marijuana (and munchies) in Boulder than Dunkin' Donuts (and Munchkins) in some parts of Colorado. Of course, that should not worry public health advocates too much, given that there is good reason to believe Munchkins are perhaps much more addictive and harmful than marijuana.

1403002903506This local article, headlined "Indian tribes looks to marijuana as new moneymaker," highlights some reasons why there are hundreds of persons at this event:

After making hundreds of billions of dollars running casinos, American Indian tribes are getting a good whiff of another potential moneymaker: marijuana.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference is set for Friday on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state as Indian Country gets ready to capitalize on the nation’s expanding pot industry. Organizers said representatives from more than 50 tribes in at least 20 states have registered, with total attendance expected to surpass 300....

Robert Odawi Porter, one of the conference organizers and the former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, said tribes have “a tremendous economic diversification opportunity to consider” with marijuana commerce. He said the event would bring together “trailblazers” in the industry who will help tribal leaders understand the complex issues involved.

While it’s unknown how many tribes ultimately will seek to take advantage of the change, one analyst warned that any tribe expecting to hit the jackpot might be in for a surprise, particularly as the supply of legal pot in the U.S. increases. “People keep forgetting it’s a competitive market,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. “And it’s cheap to grow.”

In Washington state, where retail pot stores opened in July, Kleiman said pot growers who sold their product for $21 a gram only a few months ago are now getting $4 a gram. “The price of marijuana is the price of illegality,” he said.

But the issue is generating plenty of buzz among tribal leaders. On Monday, tribal officials at the National Congress of American Indians winter meeting in Washington, D.C., attended a closed breakout session with two U.S. attorneys to discuss the implications of legalized marijuana....

Even though the talks are in the early stages, many tribal officials are pleased that the Obama administration is giving them the power to proceed. “The position of the administration is a strong indication of their commitment and acknowledgment of tribes’ sovereignty, jurisdiction and governmental authority,” said W. Ron Allen, chairman and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.

Marijuana is a divisive issue among tribes, with many tribal officials worried about high rates of drug addiction among American Indians. Last year, the Yakama Nation decided to ban marijuana from its reservation in south central Washington state. The Tulalip Tribe, located just north of Seattle, voted to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Justice to try to legalize medical marijuana.

Legalization opponents fear that more tribes will want to begin selling marijuana without understanding the risks. “I worry about this being a big expansion and I worry that the potential consequences – health, safety and legal – have not been properly communicated to them,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group.

Regardless of what tribes decide to do, he warned that the situation could change with the election of a new president in 2016. “I don’t see this ending well for anyone, especially if a new administration decides to enforce federal law,” Sabet said. “The thing people should remember is that marijuana is still illegal – on tribal lands and otherwise – even if the law isn’t being equally enforced.”

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, another of the planned speakers at Friday’s conference, said allowing tribes to legalize marijuana will move pot sales “into the light of day.” And he predicted there would be little change in the amount of pot sold on reservations. “Here’s the worst-case scenario: that a tribe just decides they want to be the epicenter of marijuana production, they want to undercut the state system, they want to be a mecca, if you will,” Holmes said. “I’ve heard no tribe say that. . . . We seem to be able to co-exist quite nicely.”

Kleiman said the tax issue would be one of the toughest to sort out as tribes ponder whether to join the industry. “It’s a big deal for people who are trying to make sense of marijuana policy, because if the tribes are exempt from state law, then the states can’t actually tax and regulate,” Kleiman said. “That would be catastrophic. It’s not a big deal for the tribes because there’s no money in it.”

February 27, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fascinating (federal? federalism?) fracas unfolding over DC marijuana reform inside the Beltway

Images (4)As reported in this local article, headlined "Washington DC Law Legalizing Marijuana Goes Into Effect," an interesting fight is developing among politicians over marijuana reform law and practices in the District of Columbia.  Here are the basics:

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser defied congressional Republicans and implemented D.C.’s new local law allowing its residents to smoke marijuana. In implementing the new pot laws Thursday, Bowser has rebuffed two influential House Republicans who’d warned her that she’d be breaking federal law — and risking retribution.

“We would encourage the Congress to not be so concerned with overturning what 7-in-10 voters said should be the law in the District of Columbia,” Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Bowser and Washington police implemented a measure approved by D.C. voters in November allowing Washington residents to possess up to two ounces of pot. The allowance applies only to those over 21. In addition, D.C. residents can grow up to six pot plants in their own yards. Buying and selling pot are still illegal, as is smoking in public places. But people can transfer up to one ounce to another person — just not for money.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said in a letter Tuesday that the city would be violating a spate of federal laws if it went forward with Bowser’s plan to implement the new pro-pot measure.

“We strongly suggest you reconsider your position,” the two wrote to Bowser — while, in a thinly veiled suggestion that there would be consequences for ignoring them, pointing to House rules that give Chaffetz’s panel broad investigative authority.

Bowser, though, brushed Chaffetz and Meadows back on Wednesday, saying they should worry about bigger problems — like funding the Department of Homeland Security, which is set to shut down at week’s end if Congress doesn’t act.

And she took a shot at Republicans who have suggested she could wind up in jail for breaking federal law — even though Congress has no powers to prosecute her. “A lot of reasonable people have a different view of this issue,” she said. “I have a lot of things to do here in the District of Columbia, and me being in jail wouldn’t be a good thing.”

It’s the latest example of the strain between a heavily Democratic city that is ultimately controlled by a Republican-dominated Congress — which couldn’t stop similar marijuana legalization pushes in Colorado and Washington state, but is trying to use its power of the purse to do so this time.

Chaffetz and Meadows pointed to a provision included in a massive spending bill approved by Congress in December that prohibited Washington from legalizing marijuana, or cutting any drug possession penalties.

Bowser has insisted that the district’s measure was enacted before that December vote. But the two Republicans noted that any bill in Washington can’t become local law until it’s been through a 30-day layover period before Congress. Until that happens, they said, the measure can’t be considered enacted — which in this case means it “was not enacted prior to the language in the continuing resolution preventing it from moving forward.”

“If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” Chaffetz and Meadows wrote.

February 26, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Newest (and most interesting?) laboratory experiment with marijuana reform officially underway in Alaska

DownloadAs detailed in this lengthy AP piece, headlined "No street parties, no citations: Alaska quietly ushers in legalized marijuana," the state nicknamed The Last Frontier is now an important and especially interesting new frontier in the state-level laboratories of democracy experimenting with recreational marijuana reforms. Here are the basics:

Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana. But the historic day passed with little public acknowledgement in a state with a savvy marijuana culture that has seen varying degrees of legal acceptance of the drug for 40 years.

Supporters said the day was a milestone, comparing it to the end of Prohibition. But unlike in Colorado and Washington state, there were no street parties and public smoking displays in Alaska's biggest cities.

Dolly Fleck-Phelps, a Kenai resident with an ancillary marijuana business, said she thought people would look back on the day as a turning point for Alaska. "Absolutely this is history in the making," Fleck-Phelps said. "This is the opening of the door. Now it's time for the real work to begin."

Legalization marked the end of a 43-year political battle for Bill Parker, 70. The Anchorage man, who was listed as a sponsor of the initiative, first banded together with a group of young Democrats elected to the state House of Representatives to introduce a legalization bill in 1972. "Gee, there weren't enough votes to worry about," the retired deputy commissioner of corrections said.

Parker's hopes for legal weed dwindled as he saw Alaska become more Republican and more conservative over the years. He said perhaps the marijuana vote marks the end of that pendulum swing. Now that pot is legal, Parker is ready to take a pause to enjoy the moment, but he said he won't stop fighting. "Well, it makes me feel good. It's not over, of course. The initiative passed by between 5 and 6 percent, so 40 some percent of the people voted against it. Not all of them are ready to lay down and go along," Parker said....

Alaska has had a complicated history with marijuana over the years. The Alaska Supreme Court in 1975 said personal marijuana possession was protected under the state constitution's right-to-privacy clause. In 1998, voters legalized medicinal marijuana. But over the years, state lawmakers twice criminalized any possession, creating an odd legal limbo, and never created rules for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate.

Placing Alaska in the same category as Washington state and Colorado with legal marijuana was the goal of the pro-pot coalition that included libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the Alaska state constitution....

As of Tuesday, adult Alaskans can not only keep and use pot, they can transport, grow it and give it away. A second phase, creating a regulated and taxed marijuana market, won't start until 2016 at the earliest. That's about the same timeline for Oregon, where voters approved legalizing marijuana the same day as Alaska did. But the law there doesn't go into effect until July 1.

Police throughout Alaska were prepared to hand out $100 citations for anyone caught smoking pot in public, but departments stretching more than 1,100 miles from Nome on the state's western coast to Juneau in the southeast panhandle hadn't issued a ticket during the day. "We haven't even received a call or complaint about anybody doing it," said Steve Goetz, deputy chief for the University of Alaska Fairbanks police department....

Others remained concerned on Tuesday about the details not yet worked out regarding legalization. When the public voted last November to legalize marijuana use by adults in private places, voters left many of the details to lawmakers and regulators to sort out. Elisabeth Schafer, a Sitka resident visiting Juneau for work, said she was worried about the state developing a workable system of regulations. "I just wish we had waited longer as a state," Schafer said. "I don't want to blaze the way for other states."

Among the questions remaining on Tuesday were what public places consumption was prohibited in, and how the regulations for a new commercial industry would look. The initiative bans smoking in public, but it doesn't define what that means, and lawmakers left the question to the alcohol regulatory board. There were missteps even as the board decided pot can't be smoked in places generally accessible to the public, like parks, schools or on the street in Alaska.

Board members met via a teleconference Tuesday, but it started late because organizers gave out the wrong telephone number. The call originated from the board's Anchorage office. However, a locked gate blocked access to the meeting site.

I think Alsaka is an especially interesting state to watch closely in the months and years ahead because it is such a unique state in so many ways: its size, small population, history of libertarian/conservative values and its relative isolation from the rest of the US. Also, Alaska as part of the second set of jurisdictions legalization recreational marijuana, can and should be able to draw some regulatory lessons from Colorado and Washington as it creates a new regulatory structure for a commercial marijuana industry. And, especially as debate over federal marijuana reform begins to heat up in Congress in the months and years ahead, Alaska's two GOP senators might provide to be especially important national players within the establishment of the political party that has been recently most resistant to reform of federal criminal drug laws.

February 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Poll shows, after a few years of experience, Colorado citizens still strongly support legalization

As reported in this Politico piece, headlined "Poll: Colorado residents still back legal marijuana," a new poll suggests significant experience with a marijuana legalization regime has strengthened in-state support for this major marijuana reforms. Here are the details:

More than two years after Coloradans voted to allow recreational marijuana use, the state’s residents continue to stand firmly behind keeping the drug legal, a new poll found.  The survey, commissioned by Quinnipiac University, found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while only 38 percent are against it.

The result featured significant gender and age disparities.  Voters ages 18 to 34 favored it overwhelmingly, 82-16 percent, while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older were against it, with only 46 percent in support.  Likewise, men supported the measure by a margin of 63-33, while women only favored it 53-44....

Thus far, the Obama administration has decided not to intervene in states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, despite federal regulations outlawing the drug. Colorado’s marijuana legalization is currently being challenged in federal court by neighboring states that claim a legal pot industry next door has rendered them unable to enforce their drug laws at home.

The Quinnipiac survey was taken between Feb. 5-15 among 1,049 Colorado voters. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

February 25, 2015 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Near Irvine, CA? Stop by the Critical Perspectives on the Drug War symposium at UCI tomorrow

If you're in southern California and looking for a way to kill some time on Saturday (and earn CLE), consider dropping by the Critical Perspectives on the Drug War symposium at University of California Irvine School of Law.  

The event goes from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and features panels on a range of issues, including alternatives to incarceration and, of course, marijuana.  I'll be moderating a 2:00 pm panel on marijuana legalization efforts that will feature speakers talking about the latest news in Colorado, Oregon, and California.  The full conference schedule is here

February 20, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Remarkable Ohio developments as four groups compete to get reform proposals to the ballot

Serious talk about full marijuana legalization in two Northeastern states

Today's news about marijuana reform includes these two stories about serious efforts to bring major marijuana reform to two states in the Northeast:

From New Jersey, "Prosecutors, ACLU and NAACP join to legalize marijuana":

Representatives of diverse organizations on Wednesday plan to launch a consortium aimed at legalizing marijuana in New Jersey....

A news conference is planned in Newark to announce the consortium. Among the groups to be represented at the news conference are the New Jersey Municipal Prosecutor's Association, which last year came out in favor of legalizing marijuana, and the New Jersey chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A media advisory said the various groups are joining forces "in a broad-based campaign to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, ending thousands of arrests per year in New Jersey."

From Vermont, "Marijuana Legalization Bills to Be Introduced in Vt. Legislature":

A pair of bills expected to be introduced this week in the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier would legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana, and pave the way for authorized stores and lounges to sell pot.

The Senate bill, to be introduced by Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden County, would permit Vermont residents 21-years-old and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants, seven immature plants, and marijuana produced by those plants in a secure, indoor facility. An essentially identical bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington....

Key players at the Statehouse expect to take their time. Zuckerman acknowledged there are no plans to hold hearings this legislative session on legalizing marijuana. He said he wants to submit the bill this week so that the pieces can be put in place to really make serious progress on the issue starting in January of 2016.

February 17, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Uneasy Case for Marijuana as Chemical Impairment

 Under a Science-Based Jurisprudence of Dangerousness "[rest of title] 

The relationship between new medical and recreational marijuana laws and "drugged driving" is a hot and vexing one. Doug has previously posted an article discussing this topic;  this article by Andrea L. Roth available via SSRN   examines  and rejects the analogy between drunk driving and drugged driving by looking at the history of drunk driving laws specifically their scientific underpinning. .

Here's the abstract:

   As the marijuana legalization movement lurches forward, states face a jurisprudential dilemma in addressing the burgeoning public health issue of “drugged driving.” Zero-tolerance laws targeting driving with any illegal drug in one’s system, justified under a “jurisprudence of prohibition” based on the blameworthiness of the drug itself, are no longer a good fit. Instead, states have attempted to treat marijuana like alcohol, and have imported drunk driving’s “jurisprudence of dangerousness,” by enacting “per se” driving-under-the-influence-of (DUI)marijuana laws redefining DUI as driving with a certain amount of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive compound, in one’s blood. These laws are legitimate, we are told, because they are analogous to “per se” .08% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) impairment laws. What lawmakers have forgotten, and what legal scholars have largely neglected, is the buried and colorful history of drunk driving’s jurisprudence of dangerousness, and the scientific framework established by the country’s first “traffic czar,” William Haddon Jr., for proving the link between specific BACs and crash risk. Under this framework – which focuses first and foremost on fatal single-car crashes and case-control studies with a randomly selected control group – the illegitimacy of the new wave of DUI marijuana laws is painfully obvious. In fact, the few single-car crash and case-control studies that have been conducted have found no relationship between THC blood levels and increased relative risk of crash. Properly understood, the history of drunk driving offers what is still the only valid scientific framework for using the criminal law as an instrument of public safety.

February 17, 2015 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does sensible marijuana legalization require allowing on-site consumption?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new commentary by Professor David Ball appearing in USA Today.  Here are excerpts:

In Colorado and Alaska, when the states legalized recreational marijuana use, voters were sold on the idea that we weren't simply legalizing the drug; we were regulating it like alcohol. That selling point is likely to be part of 2016 campaigns to do the same in states from California to Maine.

But there is one way in which marijuana regulations have, so far, not modeled themselves on alcohol regulations. They do not allow on-premises consumption in commercial establishments such as bars and restaurants. This is a mistake. The best way to limit diversion from the legal market to teens would be to shift all marijuana use, or at least as much as possible, to on-premises consumption.

Consider the alcohol market: We know that underage drinkers primarily get alcohol three ways, stealing from parents, at parties, and from asking older people to buy for them. Kids get alcohol from someone who bought it "to go" from a store. We could slash youth drinking by eliminating off-site consumption. If there were no liquor stores, no beer and wine in supermarkets, there would be a lot less diversion to teens. Only those with a license to serve alcohol could sell it, and consumption would take place in those establishments. Bars and restaurants risk losing liquor licenses and face criminal and civil penalties when they sell illegally.

Of course, it would be hard to ban to-go sales of alcohol now that millions of Americans are used to it. But marijuana is different. We are just now creating the pattern for legal marijuana use.

The most powerful objection to regulated recreational marijuana is the danger of teenagers getting access. This is of paramount importance — and not just because I'm a father of two. The prohibition we have now has proved to be a lousy way to keep marijuana out of anyone's hands.

In a regulated market where all marijuana is purchased to go, we'll have the same problems that we have with alcohol. But what if you could buy marijuana only for immediate consumption? Businesses that sold it would check ID and only the buyer could use it, just as bars avoid serving underage patrons today....

There are technical issues to be worked out. It is unclear whether states would need to change smoking laws or whether states would allow only vaporizers, drinks or edibles. Regardless, as states seek to regulate marijuana like alcohol, they need to learn the lessons of alcohol as well. Allowing off-site consumption of marijuana, as is the rule today, maximizes the potential for diversion to unauthorized users. It's the one alcohol regulation we shouldn't be copying.

David has some additional points to make on this topic in this post at his Drug Law & Policy blog.

February 12, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Notable Colorado figures for marijuana tax revenues for 2014

This new AP article, headlined "Colorado collected about $76 million in recreational and marijuana pot revenue in 2014," reports on the latest official reporting of tax revenues collected on legal marijuana sales in Colorado for last year. Here are some of the details and some context for what they mean:

Marijuana makes money. But legalizing it doesn't eliminate the black market or solve a state's budget problems. Those are the lessons from Colorado's first full year of tax collections on recreational pot. The year-end report, released Tuesday, tallied about $44 million in new sales taxes and excise taxes from recreational pot.

Add fees and pre-existing taxes from medical pot, which has been legal since 2000, and Colorado's total 2014 pot haul was about $76 million....

Colorado started selling recreational weed on Jan. 1, 2014. But its first month of sales resulted in only $1.6 million for the state. By December, that figure was $5.4 million. The reason for the increase? Regulatory delays. Red tape meant stores opened slowly, with many municipalities waiting months before allowing pot shops to open....

But legal weed isn't an overnight flood of tax money. "Everyone who thinks Colorado's rollin' in the dough because of marijuana? That's not true," said state Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat and one of the Legislature's main budget-writers....

Colorado's pot regulators have struggled to establish a wholesale pot price to collect excise taxes. "Taxing a percentage of price may simply not work," said Pat Oglesby, a former congressional tax staffer who now studies marijuana's tax potential at the Chapel Hill, N.C., Center for New Revenue. He pointed out that the two latest legal weed states -- Alaska and Oregon, both still working on retail regulations -- will tax marijuana by weight, similar to how tobacco is taxed.

Every state in the union, liberal to conservative, has a market for marijuana. And making pot legal doesn't guarantee those consumers will leave the black market and happily sign up to start paying taxes. In Washington state, medical marijuana isn't taxed. It is in Colorado, but all adults are allowed to grow up to six plants on their own. That means the states' new marijuana markets had legal competition from Day One. And that doesn't account for the black market, which of course is completely free of taxes and regulations.

Lawmakers in both Colorado and Washington are looking for ways to drive pot smokers out of the lower-taxed medical pot market and into the recreational one. But obstacles are stiff. "If there is untaxed medical pot, the taxes are voluntary. When you make it voluntary, people won't necessarily pay," Oglesby said.

The marijuana market is far from settled. Colorado benefited from first-in-the-nation curiosity and marijuana tourism. As more states legalize, Colorado and Washington will face competition. "Colorado is probably kind of a best-case scenario" for pot tax collections, said Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist who studies the drug market. "If a number of other states legalize -- and two of them already have -- then bit by bit, Colorado revenue is likely to decline."

There's an even bigger uncertainty looming for states considering legal weed -- a new president in 2016. "The huge unknown is still federal policy," Miron said. "A new president can radically change state policies toward legalization."

I believe that Colorado's official year-end accounting can be found in this link/document, and I notice that there appears to be no column for state (or federal) income taxes paid by persons now working legally in the state-legalized marijuana market. Though certainly direct taxes on marijuana manufacturing and sales is the most tangible and measurable consequences of marijuana reform, I tend to think the biggest long-term economic impact for a state comes from creating a (huge?) industry with collateral businesses all of which will provide lots of jobs for individuals who will pay (lots of?) income tax on what they make in this new industry.

February 11, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (2)