Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, December 8, 2017

Are there 1.9 millions or 2.35 million or some other big number of medical marijuana patients?

The question in the title of this post was prompted by this new article reporting that New Frontier Data has determined that, in the medical marijuana arena, the "total U.S. patient population (not including CBD states) is 1,914,767."  This accounting led me to check out the latest patient head-count at Marijuana Policy Project, and this MPP page reports an estimate of "all state-legal patients" to be 2,354,403.   Hmmm.

December 8, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Did Ohio hire a drug felon to score medical marijuana applications?"

The title of this post is the somewhat amusing headline of this somewhat amusing article in the Columbus Dispatch.  Here are excerpts:

A company that failed to win a state license to cultivate medical marijuana is criticizing the state for apparently hiring a man with a felony drug conviction to score the applications.  “The state of Ohio has a lot of explaining to do ... they hired a convicted drug dealer for $150,000 to score applications for the Ohio medical marijuana industry,” said Jimmy Gould, chairman of CannAscend Ohio, the rejected would-be cultivator.

Applicants to grow medical marijuana were required to undergo criminal background checks, Gould noted.  “Did the Department of Commerce not think it important to check and report the fact that at least one of the scorers of the medical marijuana control program had a criminal record for dealing drugs ... did they require a background check to get a license, but not to give a license?”  Gould asked in a statement.

Court records verified by The Dispatch show a Trevor C. Bozeman was convicted of manufacturing, delivering and possessing drugs, with intent to manufacture or deliver, in Middleburg, Pennsylvania, in 2005.   The records do not provide details of the offense.  They also show misdemeanor charges of use and possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use, that were dismissed.

Bozeman, now age 33, of Brunswick, Maine, paid $2,131 in fines and costs and was placed on probation for three years, which court records show he successfully completed.  Ohio incorporation papers show a Trevor Bozeman formed ICANN Consulting, with a Dublin address, in late 2016, The Dispatch confirmed....  The company was one of three to receive a $150,000 state contract in June to score applications submitted by those seeking licenses to grow medical marijuana. Messages seeking comment from Bozeman were left Tuesday morning at two telephone numbers listed in his name.

Stephanie Gostomski, a spokeswoman for the Department of Commerce, said the agency is checking the allegation made by CannAscend. ICANN Consulting appeared to meet all the requirements to receive the state contract and its scoring appeared to be done professionally, she said.

CannAscend’s bid to win a medical marijuana cultivation contract was rejected after it scored poorly in evaluations and failed to meet requirements, Gostomski said. Gould said the situation reflected “significant irregularities” that should be investigated.  “This is the start of a billion dollar industry and the fact that the start is marred by arbitrary and capricious irregularities is troubling and deserves a thorough and deep review,” he said.

December 5, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Lawyers walk fine line to navigate state, federal pot laws"

As regular readers know, my status as both a lawyer and as a law professor training lawyer, I am always distinctly interesting in stories about the intersection of marijuana reforms and the legal profession.  Thus, unsurprisingly, I was intrigued this morning by this lengthy new AP article with the headline that serves as the title of this post.  Here are snippets:

Lawyers specializing in the business see themselves at the frontier. That leaves a fascinating opportunity to shape laws and regulations and the daunting prospect of the unknown. “Lawyers like things to be settled,” Davis said. “It’s hard to get a lawyer to give you a yes or no answer. In the cannabis industry, there really is no yes or no answer.”

Just as entrepreneurs getting into the retail pot industry need a good lawyer, some of those lawyers might be wise to consult an attorney of their own. Lawyers in the burgeoning business are entering a legal gray zone where the drug is permitted for some purpose in most states but illegal under federal law — in the same controlled substances category as heroin. Missteps could lead to prosecution for conspiracy, money laundering or aiding and abetting drug dealers.

“Any lawyer that goes into this should be aware that a literal reading of federal law permits such a prosecution,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver marijuana policy law professor, whose research five years ago found lawyers more susceptible to being disbarred than criminally charged for cannabis-related work. “It probably makes sense for a lawyer to at least talk to a legal ethicist or get an opinion from a legal ethicist.”...

Despite a few instances of lawyers being prosecuted in federal and state court — including a pending San Diego County case — more attorneys are jumping into cannabis law. Legal needs range from financing to permits, real estate, water law, intellectual property, contracts and banking....

There has been a tipping point for many lawyers setting up boutique pot law firms and jumping from old-school law firms as demand for their services trumps fear of legal repercussions and the stoner stigma fades as more states legalize marijuana use. Attorney Chris Davis, who grew up in Berkeley around friends and family who use the drug, found people operating in the shadows who wanted to go legit when he returned to California from New York two years ago. “So many people were asking how to go legal and how to worry less,” said Davis, executive director of the National Cannabis Bar Association, which has about 300 members in the U.S. and Canada and is growing rapidly. “It became impossible to turn people away.”

December 4, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Looking into challenges facing communities of color in the marijuana industry

The final student presentation this year in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is looking at how communities of color are participating in the marijuana industry. Specifically, as the student has put it, the topic involves "an exploration of the hurdles communities of colors face when trying to break into the marijuana industry, and a discussion of the policy considerations we ought to engage when developing a framework for this new and emerging industry." Here are links for background reading on this topic:

Drug Policy Alliance, "Race and the Drug War"

"Rigged game: inequality on the rise in legal pot industry; How people of color are blocked from Washington’s legal pot marketplace"

"Minorities, punished most by war on drugs, underrepresented in legal pot"

"Pioneering women in cannabis industry losing ground, author says"

"Battling the racial roadblocks to joining the legalized marijuana trade"

"In politically charged D.C., cannabis is a cottage industry"

December 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AG Sessions suggests that Justice Department may soon refocus its federal criminal marijuana enforcement efforts

During a press conference discussing new Justice Department  opioid initiatives (noted here), Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to federal marijuana laws and policies in a manner that suggests a change may be afoot.  This US News and World Report piece, headlined "Sessions Hints at Shift in Federal Marijuana Enforcement," reports on these details:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday gave his strongest signal yet that the Justice Department's more hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement may soon be changing. Sessions said that the department is looking "very hard right now" at a directive carried over from the Obama administration that effectively encourages federal prosecutors to generally defer to state laws that legalize marijuana use.

"We had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length," the attorney general said, speaking at a press conference on new measures to combat opioid abuse. "It's my view that the use of marijuana is detrimental, and we should not give encouragement in any way to it, and it represents a federal violation, which is in the law and it's subject to being enforced, and our priorities will have to be focused on all the things and challenges we face."

He added: "We'll be working our way through to a rational policy. But I don't want to suggest in any way that this department believes that marijuana is harmless and people should not avoid it."...

He has been critical of the so-called "Cole memo" from 2013, authored by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, which told Justice Department attorneys that marijuana use in "jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form … is less likely to threaten federal priorities."  As attorney general, he has roundly dismissed research that has linked the use of medical marijuana to reductions in opioid-related deaths.  In May, he explicitly asked Congress in a letter to undo a 2014 amendment that has protected medical marijuana providers. "I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that's only slightly less awful," Sessions said in March during a speech in Richmond, Virginia.

Since April, a task force at the Justice Department has been reviewing the Cole memo and the department's approach to marijuana enforcement. Documents obtained by the Associated Press this summer indicated that the task force recommended largely keeping the Cole memo in place.  Nevertheless, Sessions' remarks on Wednesday – reinforced by his continued opposition to a more lenient approach to marijuana enforcement since becoming attorney general, even as the task force was providing him periodic updates on its findings – suggest he may take a different approach.

I have been surprised that the Cole Memorandum on federal marijuana enforcement remains in place a full 10 months since Sessions became Attorney General. There are not many Obama-era policies that remain in place within the Sessions' Justice Department, and I did not expect marijuana policies to be among the last to be formally changed. So news that change is afoot is not a big shock.

The big question, of course, is what might be issued by Attorney General Sessions to replace the Cole Memo that constitutes "a rational policy," and how practically the AG would like to try to "be focused on all the things and challenges we face." Whatever one's view on marijuana law and policy, it is not easy to engineer a rational policy when federal law embraces blanket criminal prohibition while the states have developed a wild array of forms of marijuana regulation and legalization.

November 29, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Taking a close look at "Big Pharma's Anti-Marijuana Campaign"

As mentioned in a prior post, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is hitting its homestretch and the last group of students are delivering presentations on a marijuana-related topic of their choosing. One student for the next class will be looking at what she is calling "Big Pharma's Anti-Marijuana Campaign."  Here is how she has explained her plans, following by links to background information regarding the topic:

My presentation will reveal how Big Pharma contributes to the Opioid Epidemic, how marijuana can be used as a substitute for opioids, how the legalization of medical marijuana threatens the bottom lines of pharmaceutical giants, and how these corporations have subsequently opposed pro-pot legislation.

NIH data on "Overdose Death Rates"

"Can Medical Marijuana Help End the Opioid Epidemic?"

"Patients Are Ditching Opioid Pills for Weed: Can marijuana help solve the opioid epidemic?"

"Is Big Pharma Out to Stop — Or Take Over — Marijuana Legalization?"

"The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal: Opponents of marijuana-law reform insist that legalization is dangerous — but the biggest threat is to their own bottom line."

November 26, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Examining some recent notable marijuana caselaw concerning use rights and restrictions

After the long weekend, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar turns to its homestretch and the last group of students are delivering presentations on a marijuana-related topic of their choosing. One student for the next class will be looking at three recently decided cases involving marijuana law. As he has explained, he plans to "present the facts and procedural history regarding the case, and an analysis of how the deciding courts ultimately made their decisions." Here are the case citations, with links to articles discussing the decision and other background information:

Arizona v. Maestas, 394 P.3d 21 (Ariz. App. 1st Div. 2017).

People ex rel. Feuer v. Nestdrop, LLC, 245 Cal. App. 4th 664 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2016).

State ex rel. Polk v. Hancock, 347 P.3d 142 (Ariz. 2015).

November 24, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thankful for all the marijuana news via Marijuana Moment

In this post last month, I noted that Tom Angell, who had been providing a great marijuana newsletter titled Marijuana Moment since the start of this year, transformed his work from a daily e-mail into a "full-scale cannabis news portal."  That news portal, called Marijuana Moment and available here, is what I have decided to be thankful for in this space during this holiday season for giving thanks.   As is his norm, Tom has been also doing some great original reporting lately at the Moment, and these particular recent postings struck me as especially worth highlighting:

November 24, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AG Sessions indicates that Obama-era federal marijuana policies remain in effect

Just a short five years ago it would have been unusual for a member of Congress to ask the US Attorney General about federal marijuana policies.  But circa 2017 it now seems near impossible to have a congressional hearing involving the AG in which marijuana policy is not raised.  But, as detailed in this new Forbes piece by Tom Angell headlined "Sessions: Obama Marijuana Policy Remains In Effect," AG Sessions did not really have much new to say on this front during a hearing on Capitol Hill today:

Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday during a congressional hearing. He also conceded that cannabis is not as dangerous as heroin and that a current budget rider prevents the Department of Justice from prosecuting people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

"Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes," Sessions said, referring to his predecessors as attorney general during the Obama administration.

Sessions made the comments in response to a question from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.   Later, Sessions said, "I think that's correct," when Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) argued that cannabis isn't as dangerous as heroin.  Under current federal law, both are classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category that's supposed to be reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value....

Also during Cohen's line of questioning, the attorney general said, "I believe we are bound by" a federal budget rider that bars the federal government from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.  A federal court ruled last year, over Justice Department objections, that the rider specifically bars prosecution of patients and providers who are acting in accordance with those laws.  Earlier this year, Sessions, sent a letter to congressional leadership asking that they not continue the annual rider into the next fiscal year.

Sessions, a longtime vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, has previously said that the separate Obama policy on state marijuana laws remains in effect while the Department of Justice reviews potential changes, but has not before so clearly tied the Trump administration approach to that of his predecessors....

[I]n April, Sessions directed a Justice Department task force to review the Obama administration memo and make recommendations for possible changes. However, that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force’s report to the attorney general. Sessions did not refer to any ongoing consideration of enforcement policy changes during the House hearing.

During a Senate hearing last month, the attorney general said that allowing more researchers to legally grow more marijuana for scientific studies would be "healthy."  He has yet to respond to pending written questions stemming from that hearing about a federal budget rider that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.

November 14, 2017 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)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Constitutional Clause Aggregation and the Marijuana Crimes"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Scott Howe now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

An important question for our time concerns whether the Constitution could establish a right to engage in certain marijuana-related activities.  Several states have now legalized cannabis, within strict limits, for recreational purposes, and that number will grow.   Yet, some states will not promptly legalize but, instead, continue to criminalize, or only “decriminalize” in minor ways, and the federal criminalization statutes also will likely survive for a time.   There currently is no recognized right under the Constitution to possess, use, cultivate or distribute cannabis for recreational purposes, even in small amounts, and traditional, single-clause arguments for such a right are weak.   Neither the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the Fourth Amendment, the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause can justify such a protection, and that would remain true even when most states have legalized.  But, could another theory justify this constitutional right?

A second important and topical legal question concerns when two or more rights-based clauses in the Constitution can combine to invalidate government action that none of the clauses could disallow on their own.  The Supreme Court generally has declined to recognize multiple-clause rights.  But, in the past, it occasionally seemed to endorse the approach. And, recently, in Obergefell v Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015), it gave new impetus to the idea by declaring the existence of a “synergy” between the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses that it asserted had helped explain its acknowledgment of certain rights previously and that purportedly helped lead, in the case at hand, to its acknowledgment of a right to same-sex marriage.  In consequence, enthusiasm has again intensified over the notion that rights-based clause aggregation can expand constitutional protections.  But, is clause aggregation only rhetoric offered to justify something the Court would have done anyway under a single clause or can it sometimes really matter?   And, if so, when?

This Article puts both problems in play by asking this question: After a super-majority of states legalize, could multiple clauses together reveal a constitutional right to engage in certain recreational, marijuana activities?  The Article answers with cautious affirmance: Clause aggregation could help justify such a constitutional right, in tightly limited circumstances.  But, the Article also notes that many of the contours remain undeveloped in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on rights-based clause aggregation, complicating any effort to predict whether and how the Justices would apply it in the future to recreational marijuana.

November 12, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lots of headlines (and prior posts) about veterans having access to medical marijuana ... but work remains in Trump era

Veterans-day-thank-you-quotesRegular readers know I have, since starting this blog more than four years ago, regularly blogged about a range of issues relating to veterans and their access to marijuana (a dozen of my more recent posts on this topic are linked below).  I feel a genuine and deep debt to anyone and everyone who serves this nation through the armed forces, and I feel  strongly that veterans should be able to have safe and legal access to any and every form of medicine that they and their doctors reasonably believe could help them with any ailments or conditions.

Notably, this White House release from a few days ago touts "President Donald J. Trump is Putting Our Veterans First," and it quotes Prez Trump sating that "we will not rest until all of America’s great veterans can receive the care they so richly deserve."  But current federal law essentially puts veterans last, not first, when it comes to access to medical marijuana because doctors with the Veterans Administration are legally barred from providing the recommendations that patients needs to obtain medical marijuana under state laws.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, on this Veterans Day 2017, issues relating to veterans and their access to marijuana are getting ever more attention.  Here are a few recent press pieces that caught my eye on this topic, followed by a lot of prior posts:

Some recent prior related posts:

November 11, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Colorado girl suing U.S. attorney general to legalize medical marijuana nationwide"

Marijuana-alexis-bortellThe title of this post is the headline of this local report on a notable new lawsuit seeking to ensure legal access to medical marijuana. (This lawsuit, filed in federal district court in New York, was first discussed in this post in July 2017.) Here are excerpts from the press piece:

Alexis Bortell is hardly the first child whose family moved to Colorado for access to medical marijuana. But the 12-year-old is the first Colorado kid to sue U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions over the nation's official marijuana policy.

"As the seizures got worse, we had to move to Colorado to get cannabis because it's illegal in Texas," said Bortell, who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a young child.

The sixth-grader said traditional medicine wasn't helping her seizures and doctors in her home state were recommending invasive brain surgery. But a pediatrician did mention an out-of-state option: Medical marijuana.

Shortly after moving to Larkspur, Bortell's family began using a strain of cannabis oil called Haleigh's Hope. A drop of liquid THC in the morning and at night has kept her seizure-free for 2 1/2 years. "I'd say it`s a lot better than brain surgery," Bortell said.

But Bortell said the federal prohibition on marijuana prevents her from returning to Texas. "I would like to be able to visit my grandparents without risking being taken to a foster home," Bortell said on why she's joined a lawsuit that seeks to legalize medical marijuana on the federal level....

Alexis' dad Dean Bortell ... showed his backyard fields, where he grows five acres of marijuana plants used to derive the medicine that helps his daughter and patients he's never met. "When you look at it from a distance and you see it saving their lives, me as a father and an American, I go, what are we doing? How could you possibly look at someone who`s benefiting from this as a medicine and threaten to take it away?" Bortell said....

Alexis' New York attorney Michael Hiller argues it should be legal nationwide. "As it pertains to cannabis, the (Controlled Substances Act) is irrational and thus unconstitutional," said Heller, who added the U.S. government "made a representation that cannabis has medical application for the treatments of Parkinson`s Disease, HIV-induced dementia and Alzheimer's disease and yet at the same time the United States government maintains that there is absolutely no medical benefit for the use of cannabis. That is of course absurd."

Denver attorney Adam Foster represents marijuana businesses. He said he thought the lawsuit was clever but admitted its success might be a long shot. "Whenever you sue the government, the deck is really stacked against you," Foster said.

But he added the federal government might have a hard time arguing medical marijuana has no known medical benefits. "We now live in an era where 62 percent of Americans live in a state where the medical use of cannabis is legal at the state level," he said.

Alexis Bortell said she hopes her lawsuit will normalize medical marijuana but also legalize it. "We'll be able to be treated like what you call 'normal' families," she said.

Bortell is joined in the lawsuit by another child, a military veteran, a marijuana advocacy group and former Broncos player Marvin Washington, who played on the 1998 Super Bowl-winning team. The federal government has already lost its first motion to have the case dismissed.

Prior related post:

November 11, 2017 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

With election of new Gov, might New Jersey legalize marijuana by May Day 2018?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this  local article headlined "With Phil Murphy's win, it's 'full steam ahead' for legal marijuana." Here is how it gets started:

Democrat Phil Murphy's victory in the governor's race Tuesday night drives New Jersey "full-steam ahead" toward legalizing marijuana and cultivating an estimated $1.3 billion industry, the sponsor of the legislation said.

Throughout the campaign, Murphy has embraced the idea of making marijuana available for recreational use for people 21 and older. Early on, he made his support well-known that he would sign a legalization bill when it arrived on his desk.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who controls which bills the 40-member Senate debate and vote on, said his goal was to get the measure passed within 100 days of the Murphy administration.

Murphy has said he is also counting on the sales tax from legal cannabis -- an estimated $300 million -- as a key revenue source to help fund education programs and the public worker pensions.

November 8, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 6, 2017

SAM promotes new campaigns and efforts to push back on marijuana reform movements

Download (9)Today via email I receive three alerts from SAM Action, the political action off-shoot of the leading advocacy group opposing marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).  Each email announces a notable new campaign or effort concerning marijuana policy, and here are the headlines and essentials as described in each announcement (I would link to a press release, but I cannot find one on-line):

1.  "Dallas-Area Families and Leading National Marijuana Policy Group Team Up to Support Congressman Pete Sessions' Stance Against Predatory Marijuana Industry"

A coalition of Texas families and doctors, alongside leading national marijuana policy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action), came out in support of Congressman Pete Sessions' stance against drug legalization. SAM Action is the 501(c)(4) sister organization of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, policy advisor to three U.S. administrations.

The campaign features a digital billboard that supports Congressman Sessions' fight to protect his constituents against the predatory tactics of the marijuana industry. The sign, located near his district office on U.S. Highway 75 and paid for by SAM Action, features a local Dallas-area mother expressing her thanks for Sessions' standing up to the marijuana industry.

2.  "New Group Formed, Marijuana Accountability Coalition, To Push Back on Recreational Marijuana Industry"

A new group, the Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), formed today to push back against the marijuana industry in Colorado. MAC, which will be based in Denver but have satellites across the state, came together from discussions of recovery advocates, parents, doctors, and other concerned citizens who do not think Colorado is better off after five years of legalization, despite industry claims.

"While the marijuana moguls are celebrating their financial success at the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel, we're here standing with our friends and neighbors who have been hurt, whose families have been hurt by commercialized, legal pot," said Justin Luke Riley, MAC's founder. "Colorado continues the pay the price for marijuana's rapid spread into our communities, our schools and our families."

"For too long, pot lobbyists in Colorado have gotten away with too much," said Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor and President of SAM Action. "We applaud the Marijuana Accountability Coalition for dedicating themselves to keeping the industry on their toes."

3. "Public safety advocates urge drugged driving protections as marijuana is permitted in states as drugged driving crashes spike"

With the recent legalization of marijuana, its impact on driving under the influence of marijuana and driving safety is a major concern of public health and safety advocates. Current laws governing driving under the influence of marijuana are either not based on science, absent altogether, or too difficult to enforce. Public safety advocates call for laws to keep us safer on our roads and bring marijuana drugged driving laws in line with alcohol driving laws.

Parents and loved ones who have lost family and friends to drivers impaired by marijuana (e.g. THC), public safety advocates, and other concerned citizens. SAM will be there to launch a national campaign: HIGH means DUI. The campaign's goals are to raise awareness about drugged driving and dangers of driving under the influence of THC and to advocate for sensible marijuana driving laws that promote road safety.

November 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

An extraordinary accounting of Ohio's recent marijuana reform history

I have said to my students at various times that a book or two or three or four could and should be written about the history of marijuana reform in the great state of Ohio.  This weekend I discovered that Angela Bacca, a freelance journalist, has provided nearly book-length treatment of some of the recent political stories of reform in the state via a four-part series of Huffington Post article.

The subtitle of each part of the series is "Inside Ohio’s Corrupt Medical Marijuana Rollout," and this reporting of recent Ohio history seems especially eager to play up the theme of greed.  But that reporting choice might well be justified, and the tales told in these articles involve more intricate and comprehensive reporting than I have seen anywhere else:

November 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maine Gov vetoes bill designed to establish structure for voter-approved recreational marijuana industry

Images (2)As reported in this NBC News piece, "Maine Gov. Paul Lepage’s decision to veto a bill on Friday that would have built a recreational marijuana retail market is a major buzzkill for those in the state who voted to legalize the drug last year." Here is more on the decision and its impact:

In his veto letter, LePage urged the Maine legislature to “sustain this veto” because he did not believe that the bill was satisfactory.  The bill passed with enough votes to overturn a veto in the state Senate, but not the statehouse.

LePage said his greatest grievance is that he did not know how the Trump administration intended to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalized recreational marijuana.  “If we are adopting a law that will legalize and establish a new industry and impose a new regulatory infrastructure that requires significant private and public investment, we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments,” LePage wrote....

In his letter, LePage also expanded on his grievance that the bill conflicted with Maine’s existing medical marijuana laws, which he claims are being exploited by his constituents, and created “unrealistic deadlines” to craft regulation at the executive level....

In the letter, LePage said that he “sought guidance” from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has had to oversee his state’s recreational marijuana market since Colorado legalized the drug in 2012.  LePage said that Hickenlooper “urged” him to “not rush just to get something in place” and connected Colorado’s crime rates and traffic deaths to recreational marijuana use.

The full statement by Gov LePage is available at this link, and here are its concluding paragraphs:

When I sought guidance from my counterpart in Colorado, he was adamant that Maine should learn from the mistakes made by his state and others that have pursued legalization efforts.  He urged that we take the time necessary to get our law right from the start and not rush just to get something in place.  There have been serious negative effects of legalization in other states — effects that should not be repeated in Maine.  In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized.  The Institute for Highway Safety reached similar findings, noting that automobile collisions increased by three percent in states that have legalized marijuana.  Alarmingly, the violent crime rate in Colorado increased nearly 19 percent since legalization, more than double the national rate.  If Maine is going to legalize and regulate marijuana, it is imperative that we do it right.

Outside specific concerns about this bill, I continue to be concerned about expanded legalization of marijuana in Maine.  The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated.  Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates.  Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.

For these reasons, I return LD 1650 unsigned and vetoed. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it and continue to work to get this important law right.

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

New American Legion survey documents strong support among veteran households for medical marijuana

ThThis new posting from The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, reports on a notable new survey showing notable support for marijuana reform from a notable population.  The posting is headed "Survey shows veteran households support research of medical cannabis," and here is how is starts (with links from the original):

An independent public opinion research company conducted a nationwide survey about the opinions of veterans, their family members and caregivers on the issue of medical cannabis. See the survey results here.Learn more about The American Legion's push for research into medical cannabis here.

The results are significant and reinforce The American Legion’s continued efforts, under Resolution 11, to urge Congress to amend legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it, at a minimum, as a drug with potential medical value.

According to the survey – which included more than 1,300 respondents and achieved a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level – 92 percent of veteran households support research into the efficacy of medical cannabis for mental and physical conditions.

Eighty-three percent of veteran households surveyed indicated that they believe the federal government should legalize medical cannabis nationwide, and 82 percent indicated that they would want to have medical cannabis as a federally-legal treatment option, the survey says.

In January 2017, the National Academy of medicine released a review of more than 10,000 scientific abstracts and found substantial evidence to support the idea that cannabis was effective in treating chronic pain, reducing spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients, and reducing symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nausea. The American Legion calls on the federal government to confirm or deny the validity of these studies.

In August during the Legion’s national convention in Reno, Nev., Resolution 28 was passed, which calls on the federal government to allow medical providers within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option in states where medical marijuana is legal.

VA officials report that about 60 percent of veterans returning from combat deployments and 50 percent of older veterans suffer from chronic pain compared to 30 percent of Americans nationwide.

Many veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain – especially those of the Iraq and Afghanistan generation – have told The American Legion that they have achieved improved health care outcomes by foregoing VA-prescribed opioids in favor of medical cannabis. While the stories of these wartime veterans are compelling, more research must be done in order to enable lawmakers to have a fact-based debate on future drug policy.

The survey also showed that 22 percent of veterans are currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition.

The opioid crisis in America is having a disproportionate impact on our veterans, according to a 2011 study of the VA system, as they contend with the facts that poorly-treated chronic pain increases suicide risk, and veterans are twice as likely to succumb to accidental opioid overdoses. Traumatic brain injury and PTSD remain leading causes of death and disability within the veteran community, according to Lou Celli, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • 92 percent of all veterans support research into medical cannabis.

  • 83 percent of all veteran households support legalizing medical cannabis.

  • Support for medical cannabis research is consistent nationwide, across ages, gender, political affiliation and geography.

  • 60 percent of respondents do not live in states where medical cannabis is currently legal.

  • 79 percent of respondents aged 60+ supported federally legalized medical cannabis.

  • 22 percent of veterans stated they are currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition.

  • 40 percent of caregivers stated they know a veteran who is using medical cannabis to alleviate a medical condition.

November 2, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"FDA warns companies marketing unproven products, derived from marijuana, that claim to treat or cure cancer"

ThThe title of this post is the heading of this press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Here is how the release begins:

As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from health fraud, the agency today issued warning letters to four companies illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes.  Selling these unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but also can put patients at risk as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective. The deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.

The FDA has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like cancer. In this case, the illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication.  CBD is marketed in a variety of product types, such as oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, and topical lotions and creams. The companies receiving warning letters distributed the products with unsubstantiated claims regarding preventing, reversing or curing cancer; killing/inhibiting cancer cells or tumors; or other similar anti-cancer claims. Some of the products were also marketed as an alternative or additional treatment for Alzheimer’s and other serious diseases.

“Substances that contain components of marijuana will be treated like any other products that make unproven claims to shrink cancer tumors. We don’t let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we’re not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “There are a growing number of effective therapies for many cancers. When people are allowed to illegally market agents that deliver no established benefit they may steer patients away from products that have proven, anti-tumor effects that could extend lives.”

The FDA issued warning letters to four companies – Greenroads Health, Natural Alchemist, That’s Natural! Marketing and Consulting, and Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC – citing unsubstantiated claims related to more than 25 different products spanning multiple product webpages, online stores and social media websites. The companies used these online platforms to make unfounded claims about their products' ability to limit, treat or cure cancer and other serious diseases.

November 1, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

In letter to Prez Trump, Gov Christie throws cold water on idea of marijuana as part of solution to opioid crisis

Prez Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued this big final report today, and marijuana only gets some minor mentions throughout the document.  The heart of the report's themes and recommendations are usefully summarized in this extended letter to Prez Trump penned by Commission Chair Chris Christie, and that letter include this notable final substantive  paragraph speaking directly to the notion that marijuana reform should be part of the response to the opioid crisis: 

The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. Recent research out of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use led to a 2½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser. The Commission found this very disturbing. There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.

For the record, I agree with the notion that we do not want to make mistakes in marijuana law and policy as a result of an "uninformed rush" to do anything. But marijuana's continued status as a Schedule 1 drug play a huge role in keeping us "uninformed" about so many aspects of the drug's potential benefits and harms, and only by moving marijuana off that Schedule do we really have any real chance in the coming years to start to get more of the needed "sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana."

November 1, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"New developments in cannabis regulation"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction authored by authored by Beau Kilmer. Here is the paper's introduction:

For decades, those seeking insights into alternatives to prohibiting cannabis supply have turned to Europe.  For nearly 40 years, the Netherlands has tolerated small retail sales, and in February 2017 the Dutch Parliament narrowly passed a bill to regulate the supply of cannabis to coffee shops.  Spain’s cannabis social clubs (CSCs), which are supposed to produce cannabis for non-profit distribution to club members, have proliferated throughout the country despite some of them being forced to shut down.  Similar CSCs are now appearing in other parts of Europe (Decorte, 2015; Belackova et al., 2016; EMCDDA, 2016).

For the past five years, however, many of those searching for new developments in cannabis regulation have turned their attention to the Western Hemisphere.  In 2012, voters in the US states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives to remove the prohibition on cannabis and to license profit-maximising firms to produce and sell it.  In late 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis, although its approach is much more restrictive than that being adopted in the United States.  Since 2016, four more US states have approved commercial models for cannabis — including California, the world’s sixth largest economy — and a bill to allow for-profit companies to produce cannabis for non-medical purposes has been introduced in Canada.

Recently, politicians in at least six European countries (in addition to the Netherlands) have introduced legislation to reform cannabis supply laws, with many proposing sales through licensed outlets (Hughes et al., 2017).  While most of these proposals have already been rejected (Hughes et al. 2017), conversations about cannabis regulation are expected to become more frequent and more detailed in Europe.  With this in mind, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has requested a brief report to address the following three questions:

• What new models of cannabis regulation are emerging worldwide and in Europe?

• What is the evidence about the impact of these reforms?

• What are the implications for drug policy and practice in Europe?

November 1, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)