Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Election May Be a Turning Point for Legal Marijuana"

While The New York Times's editorial board maintains its current silence on marijuana policy reform, its reporters continue give its readers necessary information and perspectives on the marijuana reform movement from across the country. In today's Times, Thomas Fuller reports on the legalization debate in California. The article begins:

To the red-and-blue map of American politics, it may be time to add green. The movement to legalize marijuana, the country’s most popular illicit drug, will take a giant leap on Election Day if California and four other states vote to allow recreational cannabis, as polls suggest they may.


The map of where pot is legal could include the entire West Coast of the United States and a string of states reaching from the Pacific Ocean to Colorado, raising a stronger challenge to the federal government’s ban on the drug.


In addition to California, Massachusetts and Maine both have legalization initiatives on the ballot next month that seem likely to pass. Arizona and Nevada are also voting on recreational marijuana, with polls showing Nevada voters evenly split.


The passage of recreational marijuana laws in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington over the last four years partly unlocked the door toward eventual federal legalization. But a yes vote in California, which has an economy the size of a large industrial country’s, could blow the door open, experts say.


“If we’re successful, it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana,” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and a former mayor of San Francisco. “If California moves, it will put more pressure on Mexico and Latin America writ large to reignite a debate on legalization there.”


The market for both recreational and medicinal marijuana is projected to grow to $22 billion in four years from $7 billion this year if California says yes, according to projections by the Arcview Group, a company that links investors with cannabis companies.


“This is the vote heard round the world,” said Arcview’s chief executive, Troy Dayton. “What we’ve seen before has been tiny compared to what we are going to see in California.”


And yet scholars who have studied these legalization measures say that to a large extent they are very much a shot in the dark, a vast public health experiment that could involve states that hold 23 percent of the United States population — and generate a quarter of the country’s economic output — carried out with relatively little scientific research on the risks. In addition, there are 25 states that already permit medical marijuana.

October 24, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 21, 2016

New poll finds majority of Arizonans support state's marijuana legalization initiative

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Arizonans are poised to approve the state's ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use for anyone 21 years old or older. According to the most recent poll by The Arizona Republic et al., 50 percent of registered voters continue to support the legalization measure. The Republic reports:

Despite a barrage of TV ads warning Arizona voters of the potential consequences of legalizing marijuana, about half of those surveyed in a new poll support creation of a system to tax and regulate sales of the drug.


The Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll found 50 percent of the registered voters surveyed favor Proposition 205, which would legalize the drug for adults. Nearly 42 percent oppose it. And another 8 percent were undecided. The statewide telephone poll surveyed 779 registered voters between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.


With early voting underway, public attitudes about the measure remain largely unchanged since the organizations' August poll. This despite millions of dollars in spending by both sides. The August survey found 50 percent of registered voters favored legalization, 40 percent opposed it, and 10 percent were undecided...


Public opinion pollster Mike O'Neil, who reviewed the poll, said the survey offers "substantial evidence" Prop 205 will pass.


"It seems that they've dug in on this one," O'Neil said of voters. "People have had time to think about it, they've had time to digest it, they've gotten the (campaign) messages they're going to get and the campaigns have made their best shots with advertising messages.


"This suggests to me a strong probability that people have tended to make up their minds on this," he added. "For the 8 percent who say they don’t know — a lot of those won’t vote and a lot of them that do may pass on this question."

October 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal weed coming soon to the Garden State?

The question in the title of this post comes from this local article reporting that state lawmakers in New Jersey plan to push to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2018. Current Gov. Chris Chris Christie has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, but term limits prevent him from retaining the office. Preparing for a more marijuana-friendly environment in Trenton after Christie's gone, several state lawmakers to a trip to Colorado to see how legalization has been working out; and, according to the article, they were impressed: 

ImagesLegalized marijuana could be "a game-changer" for New Jersey's economy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday, declaring his intent to help change the law as soon as the next governor takes office in 2018.


Fresh off their trip to Colorado to see how the legal marijuana industry works, Sweeney and a group of state lawmakers told reporters Thursday they were impressed with how regulated, safe and profitable this new cash crop has been for the Rocky Mountain state.


The law won't change while Gov. Chris Christie remains in office. The Republican governor has vowed to veto a legalization bill, and has said he suspects that medical marijuana, legal since the day before he took office in 2010, is a back-door path to recreational pot. Christie's term expires in January 2018.


Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who led the delegation to Denver and Boulder from Saturday to Wednesday, said recreational marijuana has created nearly 29,000 jobs, revitalized the economy of some struggling blue-collar towns and reduced the number of drug possession arrests by about 80 percent. 


Colorado state officials have reported that $135 million in tax revenue was generated by the medical and recreational marijuana programs combined in 2015...


"And, the sky hasn't fallen," added Scutari, the sponsor of a bill legalizing cannabis sales and possession. "These are neighborhoods you would be proud to say you represented or lived in."


Sweeney, (D-Gloucester) may have been even more enthused about the trip, which included meetings with public health officials and lawmakers business owners, and visits to dispensaries and manufacturers.


"I was on board before we went, but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It's safe, it's well managed. Colorado has done an amazing job," Sweeney said.


"This is a game changer for the state," he continued. "I'm committed to it. We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it."


Phil Murphy, the only Democrat who has announced he is running for governor next year, has publicly said he support marijuana legalization.


Scutari said when he introduces the marijuana legalization bill, he will look to merge the regulation of the recreation and existing medicinal program, which serves about 9,500 people, according to the state Health Department.


He would eliminate the sales tax on medicinal sales, noting that no other medicine is taxed. Scutari predicted once recreational marijuana is available, the exorbitant cost of an ounce of cannabis – about $500 – would drop. An ounce in Denver cost about $250, the lawmakers said.

Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada have legalization initiatives on the ballot this November, and polls show each of those initiatives is likely to pass. If that happens, more than a quarter of the country will live where it is legal to use marijuana recreationally, which experts expect will increase the pressure on the federal government to end marijuana prohibition. Still, after California, New Jersey would be the second most populous state to legalize recreational marijuana use, which would be a nice feather in the cap for legalization advocates at a time when interest in marijuana policy and politics is peaking nationally.

October 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Why marijuana opposition is so effective in liberal Mass."

On November 8, five states will consider legalizing recreational marijuana use--Arizona, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. While polls show majorities favor legalization in each state, the opposition has perhaps had the most success in a surprising place--Massachusetts. Joel Warner examines the battle over legalization there in this lengthy piece in The Boston Globe, writing in part: 

DownloadMassachusetts may have seemed like a legalization shoo-in, but that’s not how things have been working out. After several early 2016 polls showed the pro side with a considerable lead, polls in May and July suggested a majority of voters opposed legalization and, until recently, online betting markets gave Question 4 less chance of winning than nearly all marijuana measures being tracked nationwide. While surveys over the past two months have given Question 4 a better shot at victory, don’t count out the opposition just yet. Massachusetts-born casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunch marijuana opponent, recently donated $1 million to fight passage of Question 4...


Around the United States, dozens of efforts to pass pro-marijuana initiatives have faced opposition from elected officials. But only in Massachusetts has a group of a state’s top brass joined together, across party lines, to formally oppose a legalization campaign.


The broadside began in March, when Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey co-authored a joint Boston Globe op-ed opposing legalization. A month later, Baker and Walsh launched their anti-Question 4 Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Eventually, Healey and more than 120 elected officials and 15 statewide organizations joined with the group.


The legalization campaign, which had until then enjoyed a year of favorable polling, took a big hit almost immediately. In April, one poll had voters supporting legalization by a 57 to 35 percent margin. But a month later, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll reported respondents opposing it 46 to 43 percent. Two months later, the opposition’s lead grew even wider: 51 to 41 percent.


Question 4’s sizable and unprecedented opposition could be in part happenstance, says Kris Krane, president of the Boston cannabis consulting and operations firm 4Front Ventures. “You have a governor who has very strong ties to the treatment community from his ties to health care,” he says. “And you have the mayor of Boston who is a recovering alcoholic and very anti-drug.” (4Front Ventures donates office space to the Yes on 4 campaign and has given it more than $35,000.)


Then there’s the state’s opioid crisis, which claimed more than 1,500 lives in 2015. Baker pledged to make combating addiction a top priority, working closely with Walsh and Healey last year to craft an opioid-control law — with a coalition in place to stop one kind of drug, the three then also opposed the legalization of another. “As we are addressing the opiate crisis, now is not the time to introduce an entirely new drug market,” says Corey Welford, spokesman for the campaign...


The Yes on 4 campaign argues that marijuana reform could actually help address the opioid epidemic. They point to studies that suggest that physicians prescribe fewer pain pills in states with legalized medical marijuana and that opioid overdose deaths are 25 percent lower in those locales. But when the state’s top officials and health experts link marijuana and opiate deaths, folks are bound to listen.


The legalization movement’s first response to its formidable opposition didn’t help. In Colorado, marijuana advocates made hay from the fact that Governor John Hickenlooper had once cofounded a brewery. The day after Walsh and Baker launched their campaign, the MPP-backed Yes on 4 team tried a similar approach, unveiling a sign depicting the two officials — who had supported additional Boston liquor licenses and longer bar operating hours — saying, “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!” In the face of widespread criticism, particularly in light of  Walsh’s status as a recovering alcoholic, Luzier and Borghesani quickly apologized and scrapped the sign.


It was a hint that the MPP’s top-down approach to legalization campaigns might not work amid the deeply personal politics of Massachusetts...


Along the way, Massachusetts legalizers might have lost their ability to fully leverage one of their big arguments: that cannabis should be treated like booze. Originally, their initiative was titled the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, as similar MPP-backed efforts are called in Maine, Nevada, and Arizona. But by August, the Massachusetts campaign was known simply as Yes on 4.


Daunting adversaries aren’t the legalization campaign’s only problem. There’s also the lack of unified support from those who are supposedly on its side...


Even medical-marijuana advocates are struggling with Question 4. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which supports the 36,000-plus medical-marijuana patients statewide, is remaining neutral. That’s partly because the organization doesn’t want to jeopardize its relationships with public health officials, says the Alliance’s executive director Nichole Snow. But it’s also because in other states recreational marijuana has had a way of eclipsing patient needs. “The marijuana industry has great potential for crowding out advocacy groups,” Snow says. “Business interests are going to outnumber the patients. I have already seen it happen.”


Earlier this year, Washington state shut down nearly all its roughly 1,500 medical dispensaries, forcing most medical marijuana patients to buy their cannabis, at a slightly discounted price, from recreational shops. Even if Massachusetts didn’t go the same route after legalization, market forces could have the same effect. Legalization “slows the growth of medical markets,” a recent analysis by a cannabis investor network concluded. But though that’s bad for medical marijuana investors, it can be good for consumers, who benefit from falling prices and broader selection amid the competition.

Despite these obstacles to legalization, the likelihood that Bay Staters will be free to legally light up in the near future is good. Recent polls show a majority of likely voters support legalization in the state; according to one poll, support for legalization has grown from 50 percent in September to 55 percent this month, increasing the polling advantage for the question's supporters from 5 to 15 percent.  

October 21, 2016 in Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Latest polling in Massachusetts shows notable uptick in support for full marijuana legalization ballot initiative

Ballot-question-shift-1000x579In part because all prominent political leaders throughout Massachusetts, both Democrats and Republicans, have come out strongly opposed to the state's marijuana reform initiative, I had come to expect that the state's ballot initiative would end up going down to defeat this fall.  But this new article, headlined "WBUR Poll: Support Increases For Legalizing Marijuana In Mass," suggests that politicians opposition to the initiative might be driving the public to support it more. Here are the details (with links from the original):

A new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) finds support for the legalization of marijuana is up among likely Massachusetts voters.  Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, which is the subject of Question 4 on the November ballot.

When WBUR last polled on legalizing marijuana, last month, the gap was narrower, with 50 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. That 5-point gap has now grown to 15 points, with 55 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.  "This one follows a long string of polls which shows the marijuana question with the 'yes' side leading by somewhere between the mid-single digits and the mid-double digits," said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

James Carroll, of Hopkinton, is among those who favor legalizing marijuana.  "People should have a choice in what they do and don't do," he said. "Liquor's legal. It didn't use to be legal."

Koczela says there's particularly broad support for letting people use marijuana at home.  "We found that almost everybody would be OK with the idea of people using marijuana in their homes — 84 percent said no, that that would not bother them," Koczela said. "When you ask, though, about using marijuana in public, only a third said that that would be OK with them."  And 64 percent say it would bother them.

"I do have a concern about people taking it and then driving," said Carol Yankauskas, of Falmouth.

Most oppose advertising for marijuana in their community. Fifty-one percent of likely voters say it would bother them if marijuana businesses advertised in public places in their community.  Susan Brownstein, of Westhampton, on the other hand, said it's fine.  "We advertise alcohol," she pointed out. "We don't want our children to drink. We advertise Cialis, for goodness's sake, during prime-time, when little kids are watching television. This is way more benign."

There is, however, support for stores selling marijuana.  Fifty-nine percent of respondents say it would not bother them if a store selling recreational marijuana opened in their community.

Nearly half the respondents (49 percent) say they have tried marijuana.  Of those who have tried it, an overwhelming majority, 72 percent, support legalization.

October 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Exploring that as goes Massachusetts so goes New England on marijuana reform

NewEnglandThis Hartford Courant article, headlined "Massachusetts Marijuana Vote Could Mean Legalization Across New England," highlights reasons why I expect the recreational marijuana legalization initiative vote in the Bay State to have important ripple effects well beyond the state's borders. Here are excerpts from the piece:

As a multimillion dollar fight over recreational marijuana in Massachusetts races toward the finish line, both sides of the debate in Connecticut are keeping a close eye on a vote that could open the door to legalization across New England.

Massachusetts is one of five states where measures to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will also vote on the issue. An affirmative vote in Maine or Massachusetts would bring legal recreational marijuana to the region for the first time, putting new pressure on those in the state that oppose expanded marijuana use.

Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor's Prevention Partnership, said her group wasn't yet willing to shift the dialogue from opposing recreational marijuana use to figuring out the best way to regulate it. At the same time she acknowledged how legal cannabis across the border would complicate that fight. "We're staying focused on opposition," Spineti said. "But I do believe that if Massachusetts approves it, it will be much harder to oppose it here."

There's also the question of people crossing the border to buy marijuana. Something Spineti said some Connecticut employers have raised concerns about.

It's been almost two years since a public opinion poll asked Connecticut voters about marijuana legalization. In that March 2015 Quinnipiac Poll, 63 percent of voters said they supported allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.... A legalization and taxation bill was introduced last year [in Connecticut] and had about a dozen Democratic co-sponsors. An informal informational hearing was held with experts on both sides offering testimony before interested legislators.

Proponents of the bill said Connecticut would be losing out on valuable tax dollars if it wasn't the first state in New England to move forward with recreational marijuana legalization. State Rep. Vin Candelora, a Republican from North Branford who opposed the bill, said lawmakers shouldn't see tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana as a solution to the state's budget problems. He called it "blood money."...

Rep. Edwin Vargas, a Hartford Democrat who supported the marijuana legalization bill, said money that is funding criminal enterprises would instead be directed toward state government. Drug dealers would see their business undercut, he said, and fewer youths would be arrested for dealing.

"I knew all along this was going to sweep the states after the success in Colorado," Vargas said. Colorado, the first state to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use, brought in $130 million in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. "The only thing I feel bad about is we could have been first in the area and established the industry here. The one that establishes the industry first has a huge advantage."

At the University of Massachusetts last week, Rick Steves, an author and travel host who helped with the marijuana legalization effort in his home state of Washington, talked about the tax benefit. But he also made a civil liberties and criminal justice argument. "I'm a hardworking, kid-raising, church-going, taxpaying American citizen," he told the crowd of about 100 students and residents. "If I work hard all day long, want to go home, smoke a joint and just stare at the fireplace for three hours, that's my civil liberty."

Steves said marijuana could be regulated like alcohol. He didn't buy arguments by opponents who say it's a gateway drug, or that legalizing marijuana will lead to increased use by youths. "The opponents of these initiatives and moves to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, they cherry-pick their problems and they don't recognize that the major problem is with us right now — its called the status quo. We're arresting hundreds of thousands of people every year for nonviolent marijuana crimes. They're not rich white people, they're poor people and people of color. That's a real problem."

Steves acknowledged the difficulty getting marijuana legalized through a legislative effort rather than by ballot. Lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island had bills that progressed further than Connecticut's but neither were adopted. But public opinion is shifting. A national Pew poll released last week showed 57 percent of adults were in favor of legalizing marijuana use, up from 32 percent 10 years ago. "Politicians are realizing that the days when somebody could condemn you as being soft on drugs are slipping away," Steves said. "I don't think the issue is are you soft on drugs or are you hard on drugs. Now the issue is are you smart about drug policy reform?"

But even in Massachusetts most of the political establishment has shied away from supporting the ballot initiative. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healy and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both Democrats, are against it. As is U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy. The "yes" campaign has fought back with television advertising and a substantial campaign war chest, including more than $3 million in contributions from a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis reform advocacy group.

October 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Drug Policy Alliance reports on "what we know" about marijuana legalization "so far"

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance have released this notable new report titled "So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C." The website provides this summary of the short report's contents:

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.

  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.

  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

October 14, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Recreational Cannabis Reduces Rapes and Thefts: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment"

The title of this post is the title of this fascinating new study available via SSRN from a group of economists.  Here is the abstract:

An argument against the legalization of the cannabis market is that such a policy would increase crime.  Exploiting the recent staggered legalization enacted by the states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014) we show, combining difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, that recreational cannabis caused a significant reduction of rapes and thefts on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012.

October 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Best Marijuana Taxes Yet: California's Proposition 64"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new and timely essay by Pat Oglesby now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Two devastating traps threaten taxes on newly legalized marijuana. One is the quicksand of inflexibility, leading to impotence during a whirlwind of market change. Static laws and price-based taxes lead into that trap.

The trap other is playing favorites by favoring medical users, opening an abyss of tax evasion by recreational users pretending to be sick.

California’s Proposition 64, on the ballot in November, avoids those traps better than the marijuana initiatives in Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada.

It takes lessons from failed initiatives in California, Ohio, and Oregon, and laws on the books in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

October 9, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A month out from the election, recreational marijuana reform ballot initiatives are ahead in the polls in all five states

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b7c888d83f970bFor a variety of reasons, I have been thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass.   However, this Washington Post article has a headline suggesting my forecast for recreational marijuana reform efforts might be unduly pessimistic: "Marijuana legalization is leading in every state where it’s on the ballot this November." Here are the interesting details:

Marijuana advocates are heading into the final weeks of the 2016 campaign with the wind at their backs as the latest polling shows legalization measures currently favored by voters in all five states where they're on the ballot. This is something of a reversal from just a month ago, when the most recent polling had shown voters wary of legalization measures in Massachusetts and Arizona. But the margins of support aren't huge in any state, meaning that the contests could still swing either way.

Polling ballot issues is a tricky business, all the more so with marijuana-related issues, where responses can be heavily influenced by particular question wording. So in the same state, different polls with different question wording can yield radically different results even if fielded at similar times. Those caveats aside, here's what the latest numbers show.

In Arizona, a late-August Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll of 784 registered voters found that 50 percent supported marijuana legalization, 40 percent opposed it, and 10 percent remain undecided. That result is sharply at odds with a July poll of likely voters showing that only 39 percent said they favored the measure.

In California, a post-debate SurveyUSA poll of 751 likely voters found that Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, is supported by 52 percent of the electorate and opposed by 41 percent, with 6 percent undecided. This is a lower margin than some other recent polls there, which have pegged support at 60 percent or more.

Across the country in Massachusetts, the marijuana legalization measure there enjoys 53 percent support among likely voters, according to a recent WBZ-UMASS Amherst poll of 700 likely voters. Forty percent oppose it, while another 7 percent are unsure. That's also a turnaround from an earlier poll of 900 registered voters, which found only 41 percent supported the measure.

Up the coast in Maine, a late September poll of 505 likely voters found 53 percent support for the legalization measure, 38 percent opposed to it and 10 percent undecided. This number has been fairly stable since the spring.

A poll fielded last week of 500 likely voters in Nevada found the legalization measure there leading with 57 percent support, compared to 33 percent opposing it. That number is sharply at odds with a Review-Journal survey of 800 likely voters, fielded at the exact same time, which found the legalization measure leading by just 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error....

Marijuana opponents, for their part, are optimistic about their chances. "If anything, the polls should give the opposition some comfort," said Kevin Sabet of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "If you are not at 60 percent at this stage in the game, it usually spells trouble for ballot initiatives." Sabet says his group is planning for a busy final month of the campaign season: "We plan to do much more in the next 30 days."

For a variety of reasons, I am disinclined to alter my thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass. (For those who want specifics, I am expecting California, Maine and Nevada voters to approve recreational, while I am expecting the Arizona and Massachusetts initiatives to not quite make it to 50%.) And especially because I expect to votes to be reasonable close on these issues in every state, the only thing I will predict with certainty is that I will be up into the wee hours of Election Night awaiting returns from all these states.

October 6, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Is recreational marijuana reform initiative likely to fail (badly) in Arizona?

AZThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new local article headlined "Foes of legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona have cash edge." Here are excerpts from the article: 

Foes of legalized recreational marijuana are building up a war chest in a bid to kill Proposition 205, apparently with a last-minute barrage of media. New reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office show that the anti-205 Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy has so far collected slightly more than $2 million.

That still leaves the group short of the nearly $3.2 million reported by the pro-205 Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. But the pro-205 forces already have burned through more than $3 million of that, much of it to get the measure on the ballot in the first place. The latest report shows that organization has less than $170,000 on hand.

By contrast, the campaign to kill the measure reported it has close to $1.4 million in the bank. That cash differential could prove crucial.

Various polls have come up with conflicting results. One from July had the measure failing with 52 percent of those questioned opposed. Another one released last month suggested the initiative had 50 percent support.

But the tide could be on the side of initiative foes, and not just because of the financial edge. Pollster Earl de Berge said that, generally speaking, when people are undecided or confused, they tend to vote “no” on ballot measures. And pollster Michael O’Neil, who did not conduct either survey, said that even if proponents really do have a 10-point lead, that’s not good news at this point in the election cycle. He said that’s probably a high point and it’s unlikely that number will improve between now and the election.

“I disagree with that,” responded Barrett Marson, spokesman for the legalization campaign. He said proponents are conducting a “vigorous” campaign and continuing to raise money. He conceded the anti-205 campaign has more cash on hand. But he said much of that is due to a $500,000 donation from Chandler-based Insys Corp., “a company that wants to sell synthetic marijuana and opposes legalization for business reasons.”...

The 2010 ballot measure that squeaked by allows individuals with certain medical conditions, a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2½ ounces every two weeks from a state-licensed dispensary. Proposition 205 would allow any adult to have up to an ounce at a time, purchased through an expanded retail dispensary system but with a 15 percent tax added on. The measure also would spell out certain rights of marijuana users as to employment and child-custody cases.

Driving while impaired on marijuana would remain illegal. But unlike alcohol, where a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 is presumption of impairment, there is no such standard in Proposition 205. That would require prosecutors to prove in each case that the motorist was impaired.

Proponents have spent much of their resources to date on their claims that revenues from the tax would benefit education. Foes counter that similar promises were made to Colorado voters before they legalized recreational marijuana, but the funds have not materialized. But the prime message of the anti-205 forces has been that making marijuana more available to adults will lead to greater accessibility and use by minors. They also point out that the Arizona law specifically allows the sale of marijuana-laced candy bars, lollipops and other edibles that might be attractive to children.

Especially given that a medical marijuana initiative barely passed in Arizona in 2010, I have long assumed that the recreational reform initiative would be facing an uphill climb in the Grand Canyon state.  But, given the typical pattern of marijuana reform supporters having a (much) larger campaign war chest than opponents, I thought maybe folks in Arizona could move the election needle by extensively showcasing to undecided voters some of the positive consequences of full legalization in other states.  Yet this article suggests that the opponents of reform are going to have a lot more resources to tell voters about what they perceive to be the negative consequences of full legalization in other states. 

October 3, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Noting the good being done with huge tax revenues from marijuana reform in Colorado

This new Huffington Post article, headlined "Colorado To Use Pot Tax To Fund Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools," reports on state tax developments that I strongly believe marijuana reform advocates ought to be highlighting and promoting a lot more. Here are excerpts:

Colorado is trying to weed out the bullies from its schools. The Colorado Department of Education is using surplus marijuana tax revenue to create anti-bullying programs in the state’s schools.

The CDE will award 50 schools grants of up to $40,000 per school each year to administer these programs, ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reports.  The programs implemented will employ evidence-based anti-bullying practices and will also teach families and communities strategies to deal with bullying, the grant’s description says....

In November, Colorado voters chose to have the state keep the money made from marijuana sales taxes. The amount totaled $66 million, according to CNN Money.  The state is using the cash to support schools, law enforcement, drug education and other programs, reported USA Today.

Aurora, Colorado, for instance, used the $1.5 million it generated to help its homeless population.

September 30, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2016

New poll suggests Pine Tree state voters are likely to legalize recreation marijuana this November

Regulate-maine-logoThis new local article, headlined "Most Mainers favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, poll finds," suggests that marijuana reformers are poised to add Maine to the list of states that have approved recreational marijuana by initiative. Here are the basic details:

A majority of Maine voters favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new Portland Press Herald poll showing a groundswell of support among residents under age 50 and among those living in southern or coastal areas. Roughly 53 percent of respondents in the newspaper’s statewide survey indicated they support a November ballot question that would add Maine to the growing list of states where marijuana is legal for adults. By comparison, 38 percent of participants opposed marijuana legalization – Question 1 on the November ballot – and 10 percent were undecided. More than 60 percent of poll participants reported having tried marijuana at some point in their lives....

Maine is one of five states – along with Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and California – that will vote on marijuana legalization in November, making 2016 a pivotal year in the long-running policy debate over pot. Experts say the outcomes of those ballot initiatives – particularly California’s – could change the national trajectory of the legalization push. “It is a very big year,” said Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law. He noted that four other states will vote on medical marijuana ballot measures....

The legalization push in Maine is being led by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which succeeded in gathering more than the 61,123 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The referendum proposes allowing adults age 21 and older to use, possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and sets up a licensing system for retail marijuana establishments.

Like roughly 20 states nationwide, Maine has already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana to make it a misdemeanor crime. Maine voters legalized use of medical marijuana in 1999 and have significantly expanded the program since, most recently by creating a regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries and caregivers permitted to grow pot for clients.

The Press Herald poll shows that although the majority of respondents statewide support legalization, that support is by no means uniform throughout the large, rural state. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats supported legalization, along with 56 percent of independent voters. Republicans, meanwhile, opposed legalization by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

Mainers also were divided geographically. Legalization drew support from 59 percent of the poll participants in Maine’s more southerly and politically liberal 1st Congressional District, yet only 46 percent of respondents in the more rural and conservative 2nd District were in favor of Question 1. Support was strongest in southern and coastal/Down East Maine – at 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively – but fell to 49 percent in central Maine and just 45 percent in the northern part of the state.

The largest divergences over pot come with age, however. Not surprisingly, legalization was most popular among voters in the 18- to 34-year-old group, 69 percent of whom said they supported allowing recreational use of the drug. A majority of those age 35 to 64 also supported legalization, but just 35 percent of respondents over age 65 were in favor of Question 1....

The Press Herald survey underscored that marijuana is widely used, however. Roughly 62 percent of respondents acknowledged at least “trying” marijuana at some point in their lives, with men more likely than women to have dabbled with pot. Nearly three-quarters of voters age 34 and under reported having tried marijuana. That percentage drops to 64 percent among voters aged 35 to 49 but jumps back up to 72 percent for those between the ages of 59 and 64 – potentially a reflection of the drug’s popularity during the late 1960s and the 1970s.

There have been relatively few publicly released polls on marijuana legalization in Maine. The 53 percent support in the Press Herald poll is similar to the 55 percent support identified in a March poll of statewide voters by Critical Insights in Portland. Yet support for legalization was at 65 percent in a spring 2015 poll conducted by Critical Insights, raising the prospect that some voters are taking a closer look at the issue now that the campaign is in full gear.

September 26, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Effective review of the nine state with marijuana initiatives going to voters this November

International Business Times has this up-to-date article, headlined "Marijuana Legalization 2016 Ballot: Which States Are Voting On Cannabis Laws On Election Day?," providing an effective review of where and what voters will be considering as to marijuana reform in numerous states. Here are the basics:

More than 82 million U.S. residents will have the chance to cast ballots on marijuana measures when they go to vote for president come Election Day in November. Marijuana laws – whether it be to legalize or decriminalize – have been added to the ballot in nine states. Here's everything you need to know about the marijuana proposals voters will decide on come Nov. 8.

Arizona – Under the guidelines of Proposition 205, or Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative, adults 21 and up would be allowed to possess and recreationally use one ounce or less of marijuana....

Arkansas – The Natural State is set to vote on two marijuana measures: Arkansas Issue 7 Medical Cannabis Statute and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Issue 6. If the majority of residents vote “yes” for Issue 6, then medical marijuana will be legal and a dispensary and cultivation license fees will receive a cap....

California – Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize recreational weed and hemp for people 21 and older....

Florida – Amendment 2 legalizes medical marijuana for patients suffering from specific debilitating diseases including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis....

Maine – Question 1 (2016) would legalize recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, which has allowed legal medical marijuana since 1999.

Massachusetts – Question 4 would fully legalize marijuana with regulations similar to the state’s approach to alcoholic beverages....

Montana – Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative I-182 is an amendment to the already-passed Montana Medical Marijuana Act. Should the new measure pass, the current medical marijuana laws will be adjusted to allow more patients access to medical marijuana....

Nevada – People 21 and older would be able to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes under Nevada’s Question 2.

North Dakota – Initiated Statutory Measure 5 gives patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, and glaucoma and epilepsy access to medical marijuana with a specific identification card.

September 24, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

California's largest newspapers split on state's recreational marijuana use initiative

Last week, several of California’s largest newspapers weighed in on Proposition 64, the state’s November ballot initiative—also known as the Adult Use Imagesof Marijuana Act—that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle announced support for it. The Times offered the more comprehensive endorsement of the two, writing in part:

In November, Californians will again consider whether to legalize pot, this time with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law? 


On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences...


The Times urges a “yes” vote. 

The Times and The Chronicle agreed on most of the major points. Marijuana prohibition has burdened more than it has benefited society. Marijuana is already abundantly available in California; cities and municipalities can restrict and even ban marijuana businesses; and, the legislature retains the authority to amend the law. The 2010 legalization initiative was silly, but Proposition 64 fixes most of the previous attempt's shortcomings.

Conversely, The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee (both owned by The McClatchy Group) came out against Proposition 64. The two editorials are strikingly similar—at times they are indeed identical. They claim the aim of legalization advocates is not social justice reform or public health, but big business. Both lament that there is no currently accepted device available to law enforcement to help them detect drivers impaired by marijuana use (although two devices are currently being field-tested). Both worry recreational use will lead to greater exposure of youths to the drug. Both are cynical about the motives of Proposition 64’s advocates, and both conclude with this warning:

[O]nce approved, laws adopted by initiative are all but impossible to roll back without going back to the electorate. For all the spin by backers about how carefully they wrote Proposition 64, the initiative is not fully baked. Or maybe it’s cooked just right for the entrepreneurs promoting it.*

While it's unclear whether old media sources actually retain enough gravitas to persuade readers, the Bees better hope they do because opposition efforts appear to have been futile thus far. Polls continue to show Californians heavily favor legalizing recreational marijuana use. Last week, the USC Dornsife/LATimes poll showed 58 percent of California voters back Proposition 64. Notably, public opposition to legalization actually appears to have declined slightly. In May, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 40 percent of Californians opposed the measure. The most recent numbers show only 34 percent of Californians currently expect to vote against it; and, a California Counts poll released earlier this month found just 26 percent of respondents felt that way.

Regardless of the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers, it’s clear that legalization opponents have failed to gain much traction with Californians. Perhaps the problem stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge the current reality—that, in terms of access to marijuana, the drug is already de facto legal in California. As The Times acknowledges:

The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail. 


Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition.

And The Chronicle:

Any serious discussion of marijuana legalization must begin with the acknowledgment of reality: Prohibition is not working. The drug is popular and readily available for recreational use, either through medical marijuana dispensaries, where 18-year-olds can purchase cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, often after a nudge-and-a-wink; or a black market that continues to thrive.

The preceding statements certainly comport with my understanding of the current condition of the marijuana market in California.

Earlier this year, I met a doctor friend for dinner who regularly moonlights for a company that connects potential medical marijuana patients with prescribers. I asked her if she had ever rejected someone seeking a medical marijuana use license. “Of course!” she laughed. But, still chuckling, she added that its exceedingly rare and only happens when patients do not understand what constitutes a qualifying condition under California’s lax medical marijuana statute. When I asked her for an example, she recounted a recent high school graduate who had sought a medical marijuana license for the ankle he had twisted at a recent pick-up soccer match. Tellingly, however, she was not upset that he had tried to get a card. Rather, she was miffed mostly because the young man had not taken the time to “consult the internet” before making the appointment. If he had, she added facetiously, he would have realized that he suffers from recurring migraines. 

Put simply, if they hope to move the needle in their direction, marijuana legalization opponents must not only persuade voters that marijuana legalization will result in future societal harm; but also they must convince the millions of California voters living in marijuana-friendly municipalities that their communities are already suffering from it. With a dearth of data to support that view, convincing voters to change their minds could be a tall order. 

The San Diego Union Tribune has yet to take a position on Proposition 64, and The Orange County Register so far has declined to either support or oppose it. Earlier this year, both The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times came out in support of the measure.

Here are several recent related posts on marijuana policy reform in California:

* In the last sentence The Fresno Bee describes the backers of Proposition 64 as “guys and gals” rather than “entrepreneurs.” 

September 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

If money really can "buy" elections, marijuana legalization in California should pass with nearly 98% of the vote

One of many reasons I find the politics of marijuana reform so interesting is because it can often provide interesting and telling (and often unexpected) lessons that can and should inform what we know and what we think we know about modern politics.   One theme in modern politics and criticisms thereof concerns the role of money in elections and the notion that an issue or candidate that raises enough money will be sure to prevail in an election no matter what the voters really think of the substantive merits of that issue or candidate.   Based on this recent reporting about some recent funding numbers surrounding the California marijuana legalization initiative, if this is true we should expect the pro-reform vote to win by a record-setting landslide:

California law enforcement organizations are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight efforts to repeal the death penalty and legalize marijuana, according to a MapLight analysis.  While five of the 17 measures on the state’s November ballot concern crime and punishment, contributions from police groups are focused on three initiative battles [two on capital punishment and one on marijuana reform], the analysis found....

Police groups have contributed about 45 percent of the funding -- or $114,450 -- to the campaign against Proposition 64, a measure to legalize marijuana. The “no” campaign has raised a little more than $254,000, while supporters of the initiative have contributed about $11.5 million. Under state law, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable by a fine.

I have emphasized the line reporting that supporters of the marijuana reform initiative have in hand roughly 50 times more campaign resources to make their case to the voters. I do not find these campaign resource numbers at all surprising, but I also will not be surprised if it does not come anywhere close to translating into a landslide. (And if you want a firm prediction from me, as of this writing I am thinking that the marijuana reform initiative in California will pass by roughly a 55/45 margin.)

September 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Does marijuana legalization at least partially account for the remarkable recent popularity of Colorado Law?

Colorado_law_logoThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable Colorado University news item headlined "Colorado Law receives record number of applications." Here are the details leading to my marijuana-inflused speculation, with my added emphasis throughout the piece:

Applications to the University of Colorado Law School are up 38 percent, setting a record for the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle and the highest median GPA of an incoming class.   With 170 individuals, the University of Colorado Law School’s incoming class of 2019 is the most selective and academically competitive in the school’s history.   The 2016-17 admissions cycle set the school’s record for number of applications and highest median GPA of an incoming class.

This year, Colorado Law received 3,299 applications for the class of 2019 — a 38 percent increase from last year and the most applications ever received in an admissions cycle.  The larger applicant pool allowed for more selectivity, which boosted the median GPA to the highest in the school’s history (3.69). The median LSAT score (162) for the class of 2019 is also higher than that of previous classes.  “I am thrilled that more people have discovered that the experience at Colorado Law is very special,” said S. James Anaya, dean of the law school.  “Our supportive community, dedicated faculty, cutting-edge scholarship, and innovative programs — not to mention our success on the employment front — all make Colorado Law a terrific place to be.”

This year marks the continuation of an upward trend in Colorado Law’s admissions numbers.  In 2015-16, Colorado Law welcomed its largest class ever, at 205 individuals — a 22 percent increase from the previous year.  Applications to Colorado Law increased 10 percent that year, at the same time that law school applications nationwide were down for the fifth year in a row

I am disinclined to assert that hundreds (and perhaps even thousands) of prospective law students are now applying to the University of Colorado Law School just so they can legally relax with cannabis as well as with Coors after a tough week of classes.  But  marijuana reform has surely contributed to the recent success of the Colorado economy and this success surely produces unique benefits and opportunities for law students and junior lawyers.  Especially at a time when prospective law students are focused on employment prospects during and soon after law school, I think it fair to suggest marijuana legalization at least partially accounts for why Colorado Law is  so uniquely attractive to law school applicants during an era when most law school continue to struggle with a significant decline in applications.

(I must note for the record that I had the honor and pleasure to teach a special one-week course on Marijuana Law & Policy as a visiting professor at University of Colorado Law School in January 2016.  For that reason (and especially because of the terrific students I meet at Colorado Law), I certainly have a fond spot in my heart for this institution.  But if I really wanted to make this post entirely marijuana-focused and self serving, I would be inclined to add (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) that there is notable connection in 2016 between extra teaching of marijuana law at Colorado Law and a huge increase in applications there.)

UPDATE: I now realize I need to give credit to Paul Caron for first breaking this story with detailed data in this post yesterday under the (punny?) headline "Colorado Law School Enjoys All-Time High"

August 28, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise? (A Draft)"

The title of this post is the title of this timely paper authored by Michael Vitiello and now available via SSRN.  Here is tha abstract:

California appears to be on the fast track towards legalizing personal use of marijuana.  Proponents of legalization argue that legalization will abate the considerable environmental harm caused by illegal marijuana production.  The article takes a close look at that claim and presents arguments why that claim may be overblown. 

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oregon reports collecting over $25 million in marijuana taxes in first half of 2016

As reported in this local article, "Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries have sold an estimated $102 million in recreational cannabis since January, when the state imposed a 25 percent sales tax on pot" which means it "has collected about $25.5 million in marijuana taxes in the first six months of the year and is on track to meet state economists' projections." Here is more about marijuana tax realities in the Beaver State:

The latest tax figures, released Monday by the Oregon Department of Revenue, include the start of marijuana-infused edibles sales.  The products include a wide variety of snacks, sweets and drinks and were available to anyone 21 and older starting in June....

State economists estimate that the state will collect about $44.4 million in marijuana taxes in 2016, the first year of the tax.

The state expects it will cost $28.7 million to regulate marijuana; of that, taxes will cover $12 million with the rest covered by fees and licensing of marijuana businesses.

What's left will be distributed according to a formula spelled out by law: 40 percent to the state's Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, 15 percent to Oregon State Police, 10 percent for city law enforcement, 10 percent for county law enforcement and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.

Oregon's medical marijuana stores have been allowed to sell a limited amount of cannabis flowers, as well as starter marijuana plants and seeds, to anyone 21 and older since last October. The state's temporary 25 percent tax kicked in on Jan. 1.

That tax eventually will be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over regulation of recreational marijuana sales later this year. The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent, but cities and counties can adopt ordinances that add up to 3 percent more.

August 22, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Highlighting why some (many?) of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016 are not certain to pass

Election-2016-Legalization-MeasuresThis new Vice article, headlined "Why Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Could Fail in 2016," reinforces my sense that the results of all the marijuana reform ballot initiatives on so many states this election cycle remain quite uncertain. Here are excerpts:

This was supposed to be the year of Pot-Palooza, when five states are set to hold ballot initiatives that would make marijuana legal for recreational users.  If all passed, it would bring the number of states offering pot for sale to nine, following similar measures that passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014.

Legalization advocates saw it as another potential leap in their march to slow the decades-long war on drugs: The rest of the country would see that the nine legalized states were awash in tax revenues, and that fears of stoned drivers flooding the roads in search of late-night Mallomars had been overblown.  Other states, they imagined, would quickly follow suit, bringing the country ever-closer to its marijuana tipping point, when the federal government would finally be forced to step in and end pot prohibition once and for all.

But as the legalization movement heads into the 2016 election, with the marijuana issue on the ballot in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — the fantasy of a New Green Rush is coming up against unexpected resistance, its momentum slowed by a lack of funding that advocates were not prepared for.   Advocates with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group helping to spearhead the ballot initiatives, say that fundraising is down 25 percent from what they need to compete on Election Day.  "We are polling well in all of the states we are working in,"said Rob Kampia, the group's executive director. "But we know that without advertising on our side, the level of support is going to drop between now and Election Day. The money reminds people why they support this in the first place."

Kampia cited a bill to pass medical marijuana in Arizona in 2010, which had support from nearly two-thirds of voters in early polls.  Without funding or an active campaign to support the measure, though, the initiative ended up passing with just a hair over 50 percent of the vote, and only after write-in and provisional ballots were counted in the days after the election.

Past legalization campaigns — including the statewide ballot initiatives that passed in 2012 and 2014 — were funded in large part by a handful of wealthy philanthropists,including George Soros, Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, Men's Wearhouse magnate George Zimmer, and John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix.

In recent years, though, both Lewis and Sperling have passed away, Soros has pulled back on his pot-based philanthropy, and Zimmer finds himself with a diminished fortune after being fired from the company he founded in 2013.  And so advocates, who expect campaigns for the five legalization initiatives and four other medical marijuana ballot measures to cost in the $40-50 million range, are counting on the $7 billion legal marijuana industry to fill the fundraising void. But so far, the industry has mostly taken a pass. "There has been a bit of a free rider problem with this thing,"said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which still receives funding from Soros and other wealthy donors.

"People are making a shitload of money on this stuff without them spending any more to get where we are,"Nadelmann told an audience at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, a bi-annual trade association event, this May.  "They are using the opportunity of legalization to make a fortune without doing anything to create that opportunity. The marijuana reform movement is spread incredibly thin right now.  And the question for 2016 is whether the industry will be there or not."

And so far, they haven't been. At a recent cannabis industry investor summit sponsored by the ArcView Group, which connects investors with entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry, executives boasted that they had helped raise $70 million for marijuana-related start-ups; but the same slide showed that the investor network had contributed less than $1 million for legalization efforts — a discrepancy that activists in the room were quick to point out. "That is 1.4 percent,"Ben Pollara, a Florida political operative, told the assembled investors. "That is just pathetic."

[A]dvocates and political operatives seethe that the businesses and individuals who have directly benefited from their efforts are not contributing to the cause. And in interviews with a dozen marijuana industry leaders about the 2016 legalization campaigns, nearly all of them told VICE that they supported the measures, but had not yet given money to any of the state ballot campaigns. "I support all of these measures morally and emotionally," said Randy Shipley, the CEO of "But most of the people that are doing these campaigns, I am not sure that the money is being spent in the right way. I would like to see more transparency."

Industry leaders gave a variety of other reasons for not donating to legalization efforts: they hadn't budgeted for political spending; that state regulations for legal pot businesses were proving more financially burdensome than expected; they believed the measures were going to pass anyway. Some said that they just didn't want to get involved in politics....

Some industry players seem to prefer the status quo: More states coming on line means more business entering the market; and while most of these are currently smaller startups, large corporations are sure to follow, swallowing those who have been operating in their niche of the market. "People are concerned about what legalization is going to look like for them,"said Michael Bronstein, a consultant for the American Trade Association for Cannabis. "You would think they would say, 'let's get this federal prohibition out of the way.'But they want stability. So many of them have dealt with instability for so long."

Tensions between the burgeoning cannabis industry and legalization advocates are not new. In 2015, for example, an industry-backed legalization measure in Ohio was defeated, after many political activists backed away from supporting it, arguing that the measure unfairly favored a few connected players at the expense of consumers. "I love psychoanalyzing the marijuana industry,"said Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project.  "In one bucket you have people who say they are too poor to donate. In another bucket you have people who just hope someone is going to save them from themselves.  But any business that budgets zero dollars for political change is being silly because marijuana is actually illegal."...

If a handful of measures go down to defeat this November, it could also embolden the federal government to end its hands-off approach to marijuana businesses in the four states that have legalized the drug. Since federal law trumps state law, any president at any time could shut down the farms, dispensaries and thousands of businesses that have cropped up in the wake of legalization. "Think about what would happen if Oregon and Alaska went down in 2014 because there wasn't enough money in these campaigns,"Nadelmann of DPA, told the conference and cannabis entrepreneurs. "All of the momentum, all of the ways in which people are thinking legalization is inevitable and the way of the future, imagine what would have happened if we had lost. Colorado and Washington would be seen as flukes. The net value of this industry would be fifty percent of what it is today." "And if California, goes down,"he added. "It sets us back a decade. I don't want to say you are fucked, but..."

August 19, 2016 in 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)