Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Thursday, November 1, 2018

OPINION: Marijuana Legalization Could Curb Opioid Abuse

AaaSince 2000, over 500,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses--equating to more American lives lost from this epidemic than World War II.

According to the CDC, opioids are currently the most common cause of accidental death in the United States. With this drug taking so many American lives every day, measures need to be taken to lessen opioid use. Experts have proposed that medical marijuana may be a solution to help Americans struggling with opioid addiction.

In a recent student conducted by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that states with legalized medical marijuana (MMJ) report 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year under Medicare Part D, compared with those states without MMJ. Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies.

David Bradford, professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia and a lead author of the JAMA study, notes the study's significant findings.

"We found that there was about a 14.5% reduction in any opiate use when dispensaries were turned on -- and that was statistically significant -- and about a 7% reduction in any opiate use when home cultivation only was turned on," Bradford said. "So dispensaries are much more powerful in terms of shifting people away from the use of opiates.

Further, the recent JAMA study is not the first set of research indicating a link between marijuana legalization and decreased opioid use. Another JAMA conducted study from 2014 revealed that states with MMJ had 24.8% fewer opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010. And perhaps even more convincing evidence was set forth in a 2017 study published by the American Public Health Association, which found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 reversed the state's upward trend in opioid-related deaths.

Even with the evidence provide by numerous studies and epidemiologic research, medical marijuana still has its skeptics, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recently commented, "we think a lot of this [opioid use] is starting with marijuana and other drugs." 

If marijuana were actually a dangerous gateway drug, as Sessions suggested, it would be at least somewhat evident across the data gathered. We would find that states with MMJ laws have an increase of opiate drug use and overdose deaths, when in fact just the opposite has been evidenced. 

Despite the relatively minimal side-effects associated with marijuana use, such as cognitive impairment, these risks are nearly obsolete when compared to the often-deadly impact resulting from opioid abuse.

Again according to Bradford, unlike opioids, marijuana has little addiction potential.

"No one has ever died of cannabis, so it has many safety advantages over opiates," Bradford said. "And to the extent that we're trying to manage the opiate crisis, cannabis is a potential tool."
If we as a nation want to successfully remedy the current opioid crisis, this type of comparative research needs to continue--and federal regulations needs to adapt accordingly. Senselessly ignoring medical marijuana as an alternative pain treatment to opioids will continue to be a detriment to the public health and welfare of America's citizens. 
 
--Gabrielle Rennie

November 1, 2018 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Q&A: Officer Jane Doe on Handling of Marijuana Possession

AaaI recently interviewed police officer Jane Doe to get her take on how her police department and the greater Dallas County area handles illegal marijuana usage.  Officer Doe thought it would be easier to be candid if should could speak without attribution.

Whether there are policies in place at the local level, whether there are “unwritten rules” on how to handle marijuana, if she has seen changes on how marijuana usage is handled throughout the years, her opinion on allocating police resources towards illegal marijuana usage, and her thoughts on the future of marijuana in the criminal sphere.  

Jane Doe has been working for the department for several years. She started off as an emergency dispatcher and transitioned into becoming a police officer. Due to her roles in the police department, she had the opportunity to see how other police officers handled marijuana related cases, see any changes made on a wide-spread level, and has practiced those regulations as an officer herself.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your background and what got you interested in becoming a police officer?

A: I have always wanted to be a police officer. I grew up in Pleasant Grove [a neighborhood in Dallas, Texas; an area with one of the highest crime rates in the country and full of drug dealers]. I saw how often people would slip through the cracks or just were not given a fair chance as well as bad people who wanted to cause harm so I wanted to do something on a local level to help. Becoming a police officer was a method to help keep the streets safe from actual bad people but also help those that just made a mistake and need a kick in the right direction. Too often the police officers working in high crime rate areas do not understand the issues people face and have difficulty building a relationship with the community.

Q: During your training to become a police officer was there any focus on dealing with marijuana users?

A: Minimal, the training focused on the difference of driving under influence and driving while intoxicated. Substances would be more subjective tests – eyes, smell, speak, stuff like that. When dealing with marijuana, the officer has more discretion on whether fines, arrests, or sobriety tests are performed. Dallas County has more lenient rules for marijuana.

Q: Was there anything different about your marijuana training compared to other crimes?

A: Not really; we mostly follow the same procedures for all possibilities. There are some different levels of caution, calling-in, discretion, and other procedures but there was not anything that stuck out about dealing with possible marijuana possession.

Q: Once on the job, did you find any differences in dealing with marijuana users compared to that in your training?

A: Not really, no. Of course with experience and field work all things change for the better but the training was definitely a good and accurate starting point on how to handle such calls. However, I did come in contact with a lot more marijuana possession instances than I thought I would. It is definitely not segregated to a certain class or type people as a lot of sources might make it seem. The interactions are daily; about two out of every five traffic stops, I can smell or tell that the person or someone in the car has been using marijuana or has it on them. On highway stops, it increases to about 90% of them are marijuana users; again ranged in all type of people.

Q: Do people caught with marijuana say anything or how do they address it?

A: Scared and worried; ignorance of the legal process – they do not know that just because it looks like they have been smoking weed, it still needs to be proven. Their response really has a lot to do with how officers deal with the person.

Q: How would you describe your interactions?

A: More of a personal interaction – like a friend. They react a lot more relaxed and straight forward.

Q: Any large differences on how other cops act with them, compared to yourself?

A: New officers, less experienced officers, or those sheltered growing up are awkward about their role and often it does not go as smoothly. Also seen other officers who are great in interacting with people and communicating with general public – makes the people feel comfortable.

Q: What happens when they admit to having MJ?

A: If it is a usable amount then it is an arrest but I explain to people what is going to happen (class B misdemeanor). I try to be very helpful as far as let them call their moms or spouses, whatever they need to alert someone of what is about to happen.

Q: From your experience on the job and from what you hear from other officers has the amount of marijuana users changed in the past few years?

A: People are a lot more comfortable smoking out in public or in their cars or everywhere whereas before they were trying to hide. Depends a lot on the officer – a lot of officer discretion. I always find myself asking why I should arrest someone over such a small amount when I could be arresting someone on meth or committing a violent crime.

Q: Has legalization of adult use of marijuana in other states had any impact in Texas?

A: Feel like Texas is doing its own thing regardless of other states; don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Q: Has legalization of adult use of marijuana in other states impacted how people defend their marijuana use?

A: Absolutely, for people, a lot of people do not know the laws so for example people order stuff online and don’t know it is a felony. Higher charge than a bag of weed. THC pens and gummies and all sorts of things. The FedEx security unit calls the cops if they see anything or smell anything regarding marijuana usage. We do not arrest the buyer or seller, the item is just put under a “found property report” and then people call in, mad that their item never arrived. We only arrest if the item is found on the person.

Q: Have there been any changes in orders from the chief of police on how to deal with marijuana users?

A: No, there has been no comment on it from chief of police. Our department is a lot smaller however so maybe the chief for Dallas has said something about it.

Q: Compared to other drug related offenses, how prevalent is marijuana?

A: Marijuana comes across a lot more often but partly because of smell but it is just as much of an issue as other substances. People under the influence of marijuana are a lot more relaxed and chill, easier to explain, easier to deal with because of nature of substance. Cocaine, alcohol, and crack and other substances make them a lot harder to handle because of nature of the substance. There is also the chance that whatever they used might be mixed with something else.

Q: For other substances, is there also officer discretion?

A: Yes, different because it is a lot easier to test, bigger charge, marijuana alone is its own safety code under the Health and Safety Code - a definite arrest.

Q: Do you come across a large amount of dealers?

A: No, “big time” dealers just some dude with scales and wad of money. They vary from nerdy looking kid to guy who resisted and fought officers. It’s a never know.

Q: Do you see any changes coming to how your department or police departments in general handle marijuana related crimes in the next five to ten years?

A: Probably not; I think things stay about the same in Texas. No drastic changes coming anytime soon.

 --Fernando Lira Gomez

November 1, 2018 in Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Marijuana legalization likely to create market for low-THC products aimed at new users

20140508__MarijuanaBanking1Most people view marijuana legalization as a floodgates moment where long-time black-market marijuana users can finally go to the corner
store to buy ultra-potent strains of the drug in large quantities, and spend their free time testing the hypothesis that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana.

This may be true, but according to a recent report by Deloitte, widespread marijuana legalization may also create a large market of first-time users trying legal marijuana products out of curiosity. According to the report, these consumers are expected to seek out a less potent, more socially acceptable method of ingesting the substance. Forbes.com has the story:

It seems the American CBD craze has invaded Canada. Now, more of those customers, presumably the ones with less experience with hard-hitting pot like GG#4, or these things called dabs are requesting products heavy in the non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant. These people are the focus of the latest market report that suggests new, legal users (typically older folks) are more intrigued these days by the stress relieving powers of the plant than they are in getting wrecked.

 

"CBD is becoming kind of an 'it' word in cannabis. We see a real trend there," Andrew Pollock, vice-president of marketing for The Green Organic Dutchman, told CBC News.

 

Due to the forecasted demand for low-THC pot products, dispensaries may want to consider advising customers on the advantages of micro-dosing. Some are already making this part of the plan. After all, this low-key method for consuming cannabis, which is geared toward the person wanting to maintain a functional high without drooling all over themselves and dreaming of tacos all day, is already catching on in parts of the United States.

 

"(They say) two milligrams or three milligrams just has a mild relaxing effect and doesn't interfere with you going about your day," said Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics in Colorado.

 

It's not totally surprising that this new consumer segment seems to be emerging. After all, the purpose of legalization is to make marijuana safer through regulation, and more accessible to the public. The Deloitte report describes current black-market marijuana users as young "risk takers" indicating that their use of marijuana is driven by a desire to "live life to the fullest", and that its illegal status does not curb that desire–if anything it amplifies it.

However, the report goes on to project that the marijuana consumer of the future will be more interested in a less frequent, more relaxing or therapeutic marijuana experience. In other words, once the drug is legalized it will no longer be a ritualistic and taboo exercise in hedonism, but instead will become more akin to the occasional glass of wine or scotch. Further, the report projects that marijuana users in the future will be willing to pay a premium for their products, and will place a high value on knowledgeable staff and diverse product selection. These insights further the parallel between marijuana and alcohol, as recent years have seen a growing demand for high-quality craft beers and locally distilled liquors sold by knowledgeable bartenders and similar connoisseurs.

Government regulators are sure to be happy to hear this information, as there have historically been some concerns that marijuana legalization would result in increased habitual drug use, leading to a host of other societal problems. At least for now, it sounds like cannabis consumers of the future will approach the drug with caution and treat it as an occasional indulgence, rather than instantly succumbing to the "Reefer Madness" that many used to fear.

 –John Robinson

October 31, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Edibles, Federal Regulation, International Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

OPINION: State-legalized marijuana businesses probably need not fear federal prosecution, but that "probably" should be more clear

Legalpic

States with legal marijuana cannot have complete confidence in the legitimacy of their businesses because marijuana remains federally illegal. Cannabis in the U.S. is a Schedule 1 drug, which has a very specific meaning according to the DEA website

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote

Cannabis is explicitly illegal on the federal level to this day, despite state efforts to legalize marijuana locally. Adding further confusion to the mix, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not made it clear whether legal marijuana business owners will be prosecuted. 

Dispensaries can take small solace in the apparent lack of Congressional or presidential support for Sessions. In a Wall Street Journal article, authors Sadie Gurman and Natalie Andrews noted that Sessions did not seem to have the backing of the president or Congress behind his desires to crack down on states with legal marijuana: 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to use federal law to get tough on marijuana, announcing in January he was ending Obama-era protections for the nascent pot industry in states where it is legal. Six months into his mission, he is largely going it alone.

Mr. Sessions’ own prosecutors have yet to bring federal charges against pot businesses that are abiding by state law. And fellow Republicans in Congress, with support from President Donald Trump, are promoting several bills that would protect or even expand the legal pot trade.

The article went on to explain that Sessions told members of Congress that the Justice Department is now emphasizing the pursuit of more dangerous drugs.

And well they should -- by many measures, cannabis is a far less dangerous drug than even legal alternatives like alcohol and tobacco. Smoking tobacco has been linked to lung cancer, and drinking too much alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning and even death.

Yet it is functionally impossible to overdose on the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, and medicines with CBD oil have been successfully used to treat patients suffering from seizures. Perhaps due to the fact that alcohol and tobacco have been accepted and abundant for so long, they remain legal and well regulated, as opposed to cannabis. 

Although unlikely, at any point, federal agents could bring suit against a state's legal marijuana businesses and arrest the people running it. This should not be the case because it leaves marijuana businesses in an uncertain place. If federal agents are not going to enforce federal marijuana law, perhaps the law should at least be altered, or abolished. 

Keeping marijuana illegal does not benefit society overall. It results in unnecessary prison sentences for nonviolent offenders charged merely with small scale possession. It inhibits research into medical applications.

Some argue that legal marijuana might lead to lower productivity and differences in brain development for young children, but such detriments are far outweighed by other factors at play. Those factors include huge potential for tax revenue generation; potential medical treatments for nausea, loss of appetite, seizures, and pain medication; and focusing of resources toward other larger problems like the opioid epidemic.

Marijuana legalization is an incredibly complex process, in which countless factors are at play and there is no simple solution for everyone. Things would be much simpler, though, if the federal government stepped up in favor of legalization, whether for medical or recreational marijuana. Even if the government actually did start cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, that might be preferable to this Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every pot business owner, held up by just a single thread. 

 -- Alex Bennett

October 30, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Local Regulation, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

ANALYSIS: Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689, H.R. 4815)

AnalysisSpearheaded by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and California Rep. Barbara Lee, the Marijuana Justice Act is attempting to set the foundation, on a congressional level, for what equitable and progressive marijuana legalization should look like. 

The Senate Bill, S. 1689, was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on August 1, 2017, during the 1st Session of the 115th United States Congress. In January of this year, an identical bill was presented to the House of Representatives during the 2d Session, titled H.R. 4815, by California Representative Barbara Lee. Although the proposals have not yet garnered traction within Congress, the bills mark a progressive attitude towards legalization.

Senate Bill 1689 and House Bill 4815, both named the "Marijuana Justice Act", are a pair of identical Congressional bills that center marijuana legalization around criminal justice reform, accountability, and community reinvestment, and they represent the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Objectives

The Marijuana Justice Act, if enacted, would:

  • Remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis;
  • Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests by:
  1.  Cutting federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses and;
  2. Allowing entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses;
  • Provide a process for expungement of federal convictions specific to marijuana possession;
  • Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations the right to petition the court for resentencing;
  • Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

The Text

A Bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes.

The stated purpose of the Act is to de-schedule marijuana, apportion funds, and create a “Community Reinvestment Fund”.

Section 1. Short Title

Both bills began with their titles, with the Senate bill stating: This Act may be cited as the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. The House bill has identical language, with the only amendment being the change of the date from 2017 to 2018 when the House bill was introduced.  

Section 2. De-Scheduling Marihuana

This section serves as the cornerstone for the legalization aspect of the Act.

For context, the Controlled Substances Act is the federal drug policy that places all regulated substances into one of five schedules based on the potential for abuse, current accepted medical use, and degree of physical or psychological dependence resulting from abuse of the drug. 

As quoted in the CSA, the finding for Schedule I drugs include that:

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Section 2 (a) of the Marijuana Justice Act is titled "Marijuana Removed from Schedule of Controlled Substances." The purpose of this section is to de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by striking the terms "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols", and re-designating subparagraphs within §202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812). 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (10) and 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (17) force cannabis-related substances "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols," respectively, into schedule 1 regulated substances; therefore, by striking the terms as mentioned above, they would no longer be listed as schedule 1 substances under federal law.

Section 2 (b) of the Act, captioned “Removal of Prohibition on Import and Export”—§1010 (b) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C 960) strikes the language that penalizes:

Any person who -

  • (1) …  knowingly or intentionally imports or exports a controlled substance,
  • (2) …  knowingly or intentionally brings or possesses on board a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle a controlled substance, or
  • (3) …  manufactures, possesses with intent to distribute, or distributes … a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana. 

Additionally, the Act would conform the following amendments to the Controlled Substances Act by striking variations of the term "marihuana" and restructuring the designations of paragraphs and subparagraphs within:

21 U.S.C. 802 (44) – Definitions

21 U.S.C. 841 (b) – Prohibited Acts, penalties

21 U.S.C. 842 (c) (2) (B) – Prohibited Acts, penalties with prior convictions

21 U.S.C. 843 (d) (1) – Prohibited Acts, penalties and terms of imprisonment

21 U.S.C. 859 (a) – Distribution to persons under age twenty-one, first offense

21 U.S.C. 860 (a) – Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools and colleges, penalties

21 U.S.C. 863 (d) – “Drug Paraphernalia” defined

21 U.S.C. 886 (d) – Payments and advances, Drug Pollution Fund

The last measure of de-scheduling marijuana would amend the National Forest System Drug Control Act of 1986 by striking the terms "marijuana and other" and "marihuana" from the act.

Section 3. Ineligibility for Certain Funds

Although this section is titled, “Ineligibility for Certain Funds” the section also provides guidelines for expungement and sentencing review.

Section 3 (a) provides definitions for terms such as “covered state,” “disproportionate arrest rate,” “low-income individual,” and several other terms cited throughout the section.

Section 3 (b) details the considerations for distributing Federal funding to states. Under the Act, if a state is determined to have a disproportionate arrest or incarceration rate for marijuana offenses, they will be deemed ineligible to receive federal funds to staff or construct a prison or jail. However, covered states will not be subject to more than a 10% reduction of funds that would otherwise go to law enforcement assistance programs, block grants, and justice assistance grant programs. Additionally, any funds not awarded to covered states will be deposited into the Community Reinvestment Fund.

Section 3 (c) requires that each Federal court issue an expunction for marijuana use or possession offenses that resulted in a conviction. Subsection (d) provides for sentencing review and states that individuals who have been sentenced and imprisoned have the right to motion the court to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lastly, subsection (e) allows individuals who have been aggrieved by the disproportionate arrest or incarcerations rate the right to bring a civil action in appropriate district courts.

Section 4. Community Reinvestment Fund

The final section of the Marijuana Justice Act establishes a "Community Reinvestment Fund" within the United States Treasury. According to the bill, deposits to the Fund will consist of funds not awarded to covered states, states that have not enacted a statute legalizing marijuana, because they have disproportionate arrest and/or incarceration rates for marijuana offenses in addition to amounts otherwise appropriated to the Fund.

Section 4 (c) outlines the uses for the funds; making them available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs by funding job training, re-entry services, community centers, and other programs and opportunities. The Act concludes by authorizing $500,000,000 to be appropriated to the Fund for each fiscal year from 2018 – 2040.

Implications

The Marijuana Justice Act is rooted in social justice and community development. While the objectives of the Act are noble and progressive, perhaps the Act is attempting to tackle too many issues at once. There has been vocalized support for federal legalization, making Section 2 of the Act the most accessible.

Additionally, expunction efforts for marijuana-related crimes have been a topic of discussion on both the West and East coasts. However, there is a likelihood that courts will get overloaded by individuals who desire to bring civil suits. In regards to the Community Reinvestment Fund, the introduction of the fund would be groundbreaking; however, it is important to realistically consider the logistics and operations of the fund, as there would need to be continuous data-collections and attention to the appropriations on a federal level. If the Act were to be passed in its entirety, it would be a victory for communities impacted by the war on drugs and individuals who have been negatively affected by the implicitly discriminatory enforcement of current marijuana laws. 

--Gianna Redeemer

October 21, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

OPINION: Medical Benefits vs. Economic Gain for Legalizing Cannabis.

AaaThere are typically two camps that exist when people argue for legalization. You have those who would want to set up a store and begin selling cannabis like the cash crop that it is, and those who couldn't care less what the strain is called as long as it stops their seizures, anxiety, opioid addiction, or whatever illness they have that is being treated by medical marijuana.

Does it matter what camp you're in? Is one more persuasive than the other? Medical marijuana seems to be the stronger camp when it comes to the act of actual legislation and implementation. That doesn't mean legislators aren't thinking about the profits, but it is easier to argue economics once you have a template thanks to medical marijuana. 

Medical marijuana began its path to legalization in the 1990's when five states, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Maine put into place their own versions of laws that legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since then, medical marijuana has appeared to be the baby step before recreational legalization. It wasn't until 2012 that recreational marijuana became legal, and even then it was only Colorado and Washington. 

Now, in 2018, we have 9 states and the District of Columbia with fully legal recreational marijuana and we seem to be on the path of increasing that number, but how? 

One obvious argument for recreational legalization is the economic boom that comes with it. Colorado boasts a $506 million dollar profit from sales since recreational stores opened in 2014, according to CNN. In this current economic climate, that number should surely convince the public that marijuana is an incredibly profitable market and states should be running to legalize it. But why aren't they? 

Fear. Marijuana is still a drug and drugs can be scary. Drugs lead to addiction, addiction leads to a downward spiral, and nobody wants their family or friends to go down that path. This argument comes in the form of driving while high. a recent Gallup pole shows that about 47% of the participants believe that driving will be less safe if there is legal marijuana. There hasn't been a scientifically proven way to determine if the driver themselves is high. We can test if there is THC present in the body but how long has it been there, is it enough to intoxicate this specific driver, and many more questions come in to play when assessing impaired driving.

Law enforcement in states with legalization have been trying to find a system that works together to maintain safety without assuming guilt. Certain states, like Colorado have implemented a legal limit of THC allowed to be present in the driver's system. Their officers have received special training, according to the state's website, that allow them to detect if a person is impaired due to drug use. This limit applies to MMJ and recreational users. The Washington Post compared two studies on the increase of auto accidents in states with legalization. The first was by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the second by The American Journal of Public Health. The American Journal found no increase in fatal car crashed but the Highway Safety found a 3% increase in auto accidents. 

This is the part where people against legalization say that public safety and wellbeing is more important than money and the argument gets shut down. There is one thing that the states with recreational marijuana all have in common; they all had medical marijuana legalized before legalizing recreational use. This is how the state can test the waters for marijuana, the public reaction, the drawbacks, what the overhead costs really are, different methods that could be used in terms of patients picking up the marijuana. And when the fear of impaired driving comes out then advocates bring out a study done by the American Journal of Public Health that claimed there was a decrease in traffic fatality rates. 

Another issue that comes up when advocating to jump right into recreational use is defining the terms. Legislation is not easy to write or pass, it can be less difficult when the governing body can at least agree on definitions and terms of use, sale, and consumption. When advocates try to begin with recreational, the first issue will probably be, how can we keep this out of the hands of children. This is a very important issue, one that alcohol businesses are well aware of. The trick is that their product, while dangerous, is not on the Controlled Substances Act.  Legislators go down a never ending path when trying to legalize recreational marijuana because their audience for the bill is too large. When there is a medical marijuana bill, the same terms need to be defined, but the size of affected users is not nearly as large. This allows for the creation of what could be the template for recreational marijuana. 

With what seems to be a movement towards legalization of marijuana across the United States, the best options for states that have not created medical marijuana laws, to do so before attempting to legalize recreational marijuana. It can placate certain fears of the general public, give the legislators a template, and it opens doors to those who really need it sooner rather than later. 

--Loren D. Elkins

October 21, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

MAIER - U.K. approves medical cannabis use starting November 1

AcannabisDoctors in Britain can start writing cannabis prescriptions in less than a month. The motivation for the government to quickly legalize medical use came from two cases of sick children whose suffering was eased by cannabis. Both kids have life-threatening epileptic seizures and are successfully managing their diseases with cannabis.  The New York Times reports

The change was announced on Thursday by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, after he called for an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products over the summer, and his office said in July it had decided that “senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need.”

Mr. Javid said on Thursday, “Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.”

The home secretary commissioned the review after the cannabis-based medicine of Billy Caldwell, 12, who has life-threatening epileptic seizures, was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on June 11. The case was publicized in the British news media and prompted a national discussion on the legalization of medicinal cannabis products.

Ms. Caldwell, the young boy's mother, spoke praise of the Home Secretary for the "swift movements" on behalf of her son and others. The whole process, from Mr. Caldwell's case to approval of medicinal cannabis took about four months. The Home Secretary clarified that general practitioners will not be authorized to write cannabis scripts, but specialized doctors will have discretion to give patients who have exhausted other options access to medical cannabis. This change adds the U.K. to a growing list of states and countries that have legalized medical cannabis use. 

--Manda Mosley Maier

October 18, 2018 in Drug Policy, International Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Marijuana linked to lower sperm count

Smoking Sperm
New research suggests
that marijuana usage may damage sperm count, according to a story in the Daily Mail.  
Researcher Omer Raheem compared the findings of marijuana users, former marijuana users, and men who never used marijuana. His results found that, 

[T]hose who had ever used the drug had poorer semen quality than those who hadn’t.

The team saw damage on all fronts – decreased volume, morphology (the shape), and total progressive motile count (how many sperm can actually move).

Men who had smoked marijuana also had higher risks of abnormally shaped sperm, which can hamper its attempts to enter an egg.

Cannabis use is booming both in recreational use and in medical use which is exciting but also reason to be skeptical. The drug is now legal in more than half of the United States for medical use, and nine for recreational use. And yet, science is still racing to catch up with legalization, and the true benefits and down sides are still coming to light.

Cannabis is understudied so a lot of the effects of long-term and heavy usage are unknown in the scientific community. Dr. Raheem think that doctors should use studies such as these to warn their patients about possible "negative' effects".  

-Fernando Lira Gomez

 

October 18, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, Tribal Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Despite legalization, marijuana arrest rates continue to rise

AaaWith almost half of all U.S. states having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, one would think that marijuana-related arrest rates in the U.S. would be decreasing. Not so, according to new data released by the FBI last week. Forbes.com has the story:

There is now an average of one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds, according to a new FBI report released on Monday. The increase in marijuana arrests—659,700 in 2017, compared to 653,249 in 2016—is driven by enforcement against people merely possessing the drug as opposed to selling or growing it, the data shows.

 

Last year, there were 599,282 marijuana possession arrests in the country, up from 587,516 in 2016. Meanwhile, busts for cannabis sales and manufacturing dropped, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.

 

"At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero," Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in an interview.

 

"Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality," added NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives."

 

Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.

Marijuana-related arrests rates have historically been a major topic of debate in U.S. marijuana policy. Advocates of legalization argue that the drug is harmless, citing the lack of reported overdoses normally associated with drug use, and that legalization would actually decrease the amount of illegal drug trade that can result in violence. They state that it is unfair to group persons in possession of marijuana together with violent offenders, and that it fills our prisons with non-violent offenders, effectively ruining lives over possession of a substance that has not been found to cause physical harm of any kind.

Meanwhile, supporters of the status quo cite the unknown–and possibly unknowable–health risks associated with marijuana, including possible damage to the hippocampus, which is responsible for short and long term memory. Additionally, supporters of marijuana's current criminal status argue that it is difficult to police marijuana intoxication and that more widespread use will result in more traffic fatalities. Finally, some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, and legalizing it will not only create new weed smokers, but will also create a morality vacuum in which young people may believe that other drugs are not as harmful as they have been made out to be and begin venturing into the world of casual drug use.

For the time being, these statistics suggest that marijuana use and possession are increasing, even in states where the drug has not yet been legalized. This inherently means that the illegal drug trade is still alive and well, possibly vindicating the position of those that are in favor of federal legalization or decriminalization. However, some data has shown that even in states where marijuana has been legalized, foreign cartels are still able to sell the drug to customers, indicating that even full legalization may not be a cure to illegal marijuana trafficking. Regardless, there is a sharp outcry against the current harsh penalties for marijuana possession, and these new FBI statistics indicate that the problem is only getting worse.

 -John Robinson

October 14, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 12, 2018

British Colombia's marijuana: Not ready for legalization?

BC FlagWith the fast approaching legalization of marijuana in Canada, a British Colombia public health advisor is suggesting that the provincial government's policies will need improvement.

As have various US states, BC is now faced with the dilemma of how to handle legalization of an industry that is still in its infancy. CBC has the story:

The B.C. government's expert on keeping people safe in the consumption of recreational cannabis says getting ready for legalization on Oct. 17 is still very much a work in progress.

"What we have been saying for the past eight months is that we are building the plane as we are flying it," said Gerald Thomas, the director of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and gambling prevention and policy for the Ministry of Health.

Thomas is an academic consultant on public health as it relates to consumption of those substances.

On Friday, he participated in a panel discussion at a cannabis conference at the University of British Columbia on issues concerning upcoming legalization.

. . .

Thomas did not take questions from media afterwards, but told around 150 people in attendance that the government doesn't "have it right," when it comes to its recreational cannabis policy.

Since the majority of marijuana legalization policy has not had to stand the test of time, there is not a tried and true basis for British Colombia to model their policies on. CBC goes on to report:

Despite the work done to date, there are still unknowns such as how people seeking to use marijuana for therapeutic uses will get reliable advice in the legal recreational system.

It's also unclear what will happen to producers of products, like edibles, which aren't currently part of the recreational plan, and how police forces will deal with impaired driving and marijuana.

"Having just spent the last eight months of my life consumed by the cannabis monster, I call it, I would suggest with most of folks here that we don't have it right," said Thomas.

"We have been pushed to the wall to try and make this happen in such a short time frame."

Still he told the audience though that people in the government who are working to be ready for legalization are doing their best to get it right.

The article lastly notes that Thomas hopes the government can get marijuana policies right before parties conform to the existing structure and make the policies difficult to modify.

--Wyatt Hinson

October 12, 2018 in Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Local Regulation, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Latest US Territory to Legalize Marijuana Use Makes History

AaaOn Friday, a small US territory made a big splash in the country’s marijuana legalization history. According to Forbes.com, the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands signed a bill into law that provides

adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.

The article further points out that this is the first US jurisdiction “to go from having cannabis totally illegal to allowing recreational use without first having a medical marijuana program.” It was “unclear if the governor was going to sign or veto the legislation, as he had previously expressed concerns about the public safety implications of legalizing marijuana.”


Though the governor signed the recreational scheme into law, he also used his “line-item veto powers to cancel some provisions of the proposal, including one to allow a government entity to be licensed to grow cannabis, as well as a provision requiring recreational marijuana consumers to obtain $5 permits.”

Legalization advocates are hopeful about the effect this may have on other US Jurisdictions.

"This is the first legislatively enacted law in the U.S. that taxes and regulates marijuana for adults’ use, but it will be far from the last," Karen O'Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview. "New Jersey could follow suit within weeks, and as many as five more state legislatures could do so within the next year. Public support for legalizing marijuana is strong and growing, and elected officials are increasingly getting the message."

Other advocates are hopeful that the “building momentum will add pressure on the federal government to modernize its approach to cannabis.”

 --Ashleigh Morgan Williams



September 29, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Legislation, Local Regulation, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nevada cannabis industry shatters revenue projections; state expects more growth to come

Nevada is the latest state to feel the economic boom of legalized cannabis, and so far it is smooth sailing for state regulators. The state fully legalized the drug beginning in January 2017 and total industry sales soared over $500 million, $425 million of which came from recreational sales alone. These numbers drastically outperformed both state projections, and first year sales of other states. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has the story

Vegas-weedIncluding recreational and medical marijuana as well as marijuana-related goods and accessories, Nevada stores
eclipsed a half-billion dollars in sales, just under $530 million, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nevada Department of Taxation.

 

Bill Anderson, executive director of the Tax Department, said that the industry “has not only exceeded revenue expectations, but proven to be a largely successful one from a regulatory standpoint.”

 

“We have not experienced any major hiccups or compliance issues,” he added. “As we move into fiscal year 2019, we expect to see continued growth in the industry by way of additional businesses opening up, and we expect revenues to continue to be strong.”

This stunning performance translated into $70 million in tax revenue for the state. To give some context to these metrics, state regulators projected $265 million in sales and $50 million in tax revenue, according to the Review-Journal. Furthermore, the states of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon–largely considered to be trailblazing states in the cannabis industry, and all with larger populations than Nevada by at least 1 million citizens–recorded first-year cannabis sales of $303 million, $259 million, and $241 million, respectively, putting them far behind Nevada's first year numbers. Perhaps most surprisingly, despite being home to Las Vegas, Nevada only collected $49 million in intoxicating beverage taxes from 2016-2017, signaling that marijuana may be a greater source of revenue for the state than alcohol moving forward.

Nevada's "sinful" tourist economy can likely be thanked for such astounding numbers, although the state's casinos have come out against marijuana use in their facilities, out of fear of losing their gaming licenses. Additionally, the state's marijuana law prohibits consumption anywhere but in private residences. State Senator Tick Segerblom told the Las Vegas Sun: “The numbers are kind of leveling off, and we need to reach the tourist market a little more. We need a venue where people can come and enjoy marijuana properly."

These results suggest a few things: first, that tourism economies can drive marijuana sales even in states with lower populations and where marijuana use is not widely supported by dominant businesses. Second, that as more states legalize cannabis they may take cues from states that have previously approved legalization in order to more efficiently bring the drug to market. Finally, that there is still much progress to be made with respect to laws surrounding marijuana consumption in states where it has been made legal. Perhaps as more states begin venturing into legalization, they will use Nevada as a model of how best to regulate, tax, and sell cannabis.

--John Robinson

September 29, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Restaurant Wants to Use Marijuana to Ease Lobsters’ Pain. Slow Your Roll, Maine Says.

2018-09-22 14_51_03-The New York Times - Breaking News  World News & MultimediaYour death is imminent.  It will be painful. Minutes beforehand, your executioner hands you . . . a joint.

Charlotte Gill, the owner Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, contemplated that very idea when thinking about how lobsters are cooked. It is fair to say that no reasonable person would want to be thrown into boiling water while still alive (or dead for that matter) so Charlotte, a self-proclaimed animal lover, decided to use the recently legalized recreational marijuana use for more than her own satisfaction.

She decided to get the lobsters high before cooking them in order to ease their pain and suffering. While, scientifically, questions still remain as to whether lobsters can even feel pain or get high, Charlotte contends that,

it is undeniable that the marijuana is having the intended effect. In a series of tests, restaurant employees put a lobster in a small container and added a few inches of water. They channeled marijuana smoke through a tube until the container was filled with it, and kept the lobster there for about three minutes.

Before the lobster went into the container, it would flap its tail and click and wave its claws. After being exposed to the smoke, the lobster was docile and serene.

It’s still a very alert lobster, but there’s no sign of agitation, no flailing of legs, no trying to pinch you. So calm, in fact, that you’re able to freely touch the lobster all over without them trying to strike at you or to be aggressive in any way.

This method is preferable, she said, to dropping a live crustacean into boiling water without the marijuana.

A more important question, to the Maine government at least, is whether getting lobsters high before cooking them leads to the consumer getting high; essentially, whether a high lobster turns into an edible post-cooking. Charlotte and her employees conducted their own experiments to find out those results,

staff members have tested their urine after eating the marijuana-treated lobsters, she said, and no trace of the drug has been found. In the latest experiment, Ms. Gill’s 82-year-old father has been eating copious amounts of marijuana-sedated lobster every day; he will soon take a blood test.

She said she hoped her tests could prove to the state that the lobsters were not absorbing the marijuana.

It is a unique and creative way of utilizing the legalization of marijuana, undoubtedly. While questions to remain as the effects on humans; whether lobsters feel pain; and whether lobsters can even get high; this use has garnered plenty of publicity for the restaurant -- yet another way marijuana legalization has helped boost business.

For now the Maine government is still skeptical as to whether this use should be allowed.

 

-Fernando Lira Gomez

September 28, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Edibles, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

California 5-Year-Old Can Bring Cannabis to Kindergarten Classroom

AaaA California judge ruled that a kindergartner can continue bringing her cannabis-based drug to school. The 5-year old at the center of this ruling is Brooke Adams, a Santa Rosa student who is living with a rare form of epilepsy, treatable with an ointment that contains the same active ingredient found in marijuana. The oil is applied three times a day by a nurse who accompanies Adams to school. 


FoxNews.com
reporter Christopher Carbone provides the full story

The Rincon Valley Union School District had sought to ban the ointment from the school because it contains the active ingredient in marijuana.

 

Officials said allowing Adams to use the drug at school would violate state and federal laws barring medical marijuana on school grounds.

. . .

 

The judge's temporary order permitted the young girl to start school in August while the district's objections were considered. . .

 

Judge Charles Marson made the order permanent on Friday.

California law currently allows for the use of medical marijuana in private spaces with a doctor's recommendation. Additionally, California's Medical Marijuana Law provides, "Patients should avoid possession of marijuana in school zones, as there are typically additional penalties for the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana near schools, whether it is for medical or recreational use." 

Adams' situation demonstrates the need for guidance in regards to cases similar to hers, as medical marijuana is proving to be a viable solution for numerous illnesses and diseases. 


Joe Rogoway, attorney for the Adams family, stated he "hopes the ruling opens the door for other students who say they need to use a cannabis-based drug on campus for medical reasons."

Assistant Superintendent, Cathy Myhers shared a similar sentiment stating, "We are happy to have a decision that supports our ability to educate and serve this student in our public schools."

 

-- Gianna Redeemer

September 28, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Amsterdam to begin experimenting with legal marijuana production

The legalization of marijuana production in Canada and a few U.S. states may soon be taking root across the Atlantic. The Dutch government will soon begin experimenting with legal marijuana production, according to CNBC.

PotAmsterdam has long been viewed as a model for the legalization of marijuana. In the 1970’s the Dutch government adopted a toleration policy for marijuana consumption. When visiting Amsterdam, it is common to see recreational use of marijuana in the many famous Dutch coffee shops that line the streets. Although tightly regulated, the Dutch government allows coffee shop customers to purchase up to 5 grams of marijuana for consumption.  

Though consumption of marijuana is allowed, producing and acquiring marijuana is not. It's illegal for coffee shops to purchase their supply of marijuana. Cannabis production is also forbidden. “This has led to an illicit market for cannabis in the Netherlands,” Stijn Hoorens, associate director at RAND Europe, told CNBC.

The prohibition on production is largely overlooked by authorities, however, it poses many difficulties for the coffee shops who must procure marijuana illegally. "The most difficult thing about having a coffee shop in the Netherlands is that it's allowed to sell it, but it's not allowed to buy it," Joachim Helms, co-owner of Green House Coffeeshops in Amsterdam and chairman of the Dutch Cannabis Retailers Association, told CNBC.

Now, as Canada and several U.S. states have legalized various schemes of marijuana production and distribution, the Dutch government has taken notice. According to CNBC, the Dutch government is planning an experiment with legal marijuana production in a handful of municipalities. But it's a small step in an increasingly growing legal weed market.

With the Dutch government actively experimenting with the legalization of production, many coffee shop owners are optimistic that the legal quagmire they continually face could soon be a thing of the past. Like Canada, they hope that Dutch companies will be allowed to produce marijuana. "To walk around in those companies and facilities for us is really a dream come true because it's growing weed in a 100 percent legal way," Helms told CNBC.

 

--Colin Heinrich

September 27, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Canada's New Cannabis Laws Create a New Border Problem?

With Canada legalizing adult-use marijuana, effective October 17, 2018, it is expected that Canadian citizens will partake in this new industry, either through consumption or investment means. While the substance may be legal in Canada, and a few U.S. states that border Canada, crossing the border could become difficult. 

CC

In an interview with The Star Vancouver, Len Sanders, a Washington based immigration attorney, explained how the federally controlled U.S.-Canada border has begun to classify those in the marijuana industry as "drug traffickers." He went on to say that this enforcement applies to people involved with the actual plant, such as growers, users, and dispensary owners, to people who have either directly invested or their investment will be used in the cannabis industry. He mentions how the CEO and two employees of Keirton Inc. (a large agriculture equipment manufacturer)  were stopped at the border and moved to a secondary location only to be told that they were banned for life from entering the United States. Keirton Inc. was not the only group to face this punishment. In an interview with the Financial Post, Sam Zneimar was banned for life simply for investing in U.S. based marijuana companies. 

 In this current administration, U.S. citizens have seen a big push for more enforcement at our Southern border and a new wave of keeping America "safe". But will the same hold true on the other side of the country? In both interviews the offending party expressed sympathy for the poor border patrol agent that was made to enforce this law. These articles both mention a civil interaction between a "drug trafficker" and a border patrol agent and an unfortunate outcome. The U.S. has yet to tweet about the "drug traffickers" that are attempting to get into the U.S. through Northern points of Entry. 

 --Loren D. Elkins

 

With the legalization efforts coming out of Mexico, it should be interesting to see how those investors will be greeted at the border.                         

September 27, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Federal Court Win for Connecticut Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana

Connecticut MarijuanaMedical marijuana users in Connecticut now receive extended employment-related protections under the state’s medical marijuana law as a federal court rejects an argument that the state laws conflict with federal laws and are therefore preempted. Dale L. Deitchler and Elizabeth R. McKenna, employment lawyers with national firm Littler Mendelson, report:

A Connecticut federal court has issued another decision in the case of Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Company LLC, further expanding protections to individuals who are qualified under Connecticut's Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA) to use marijuana. . . . [T]he parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. These motions presented the court with another opportunity to address the extent to which PUMA protects qualified medicinal marijuana users—even though marijuana remains illegal as a matter of federal law. On September 5, 2018, the court granted partial summary judgment in the plaintiff's favor and concluded that she had successfully asserted a PUMA discrimination claim, and discussed the damages available. Significantly, the court considered and rejected additional arguments that federal/state law conflicts preempted enforcement of the Connecticut law, concluding that state law can co-exist with federal laws criminalizing marijuana use.

In an earlier decision, known as Noffsinger I, the Connecticut federal court held, “that various federal laws prohibiting use and sale of marijuana do not prohibit employers from hiring individuals who use marijuana in compliance with state law.” According to Deitchler and McKenna,

The case involves claims brought by an applicant who accepted a job offer contingent on passing a drug test. Before taking the test, the plaintiff informed her potential employer she was qualified under PUMA to use marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The plaintiff reportedly used marijuana "in the evenings" and provided current dosage information.

The employer rescinded the job offer after the plaintiff tested positive for cannabis. The plaintiff sued, alleging that the employer violated PUMA's anti-discrimination provision, claiming her rejection was discriminatory because she was qualified to use marijuana under PUMA.

The Noffsinger II court concluded the employer violated PUMA by rescinding the plaintiff's job offer on the basis of a positive pre-employment drug test when it knew she was using marijuana as permitted under Connecticut law.

The employer bases its position on, among other authority, the federal Drug Free Workplace Act and the federal False Claims Act.

Reading the DFWA narrowly to prohibit only the possession and use of illegal drugs at work, the court concluded that the DFWA did not require the defendant to rescind the plaintiff's job offer because she reportedly used marijuana for medicinal use after work during off-hours.

The court reached the same conclusion in response to the employer's argument that the federal False Claims Act barred it from hiring the plaintiff. . . .[T]he court concluded that "there is no federal law that bars defendant from hiring plaintiff on account of her medicinal use of marijuana outside work hours.

The court also found the employer’s argument that the employment decision was based on the positive drug test result, not on the employee’s status of a PUMA-qualified medical marijuana user unpersuasive. The authors explain:

The court disagreed, in effect finding action based on a positive workplace drug test for marijuana constitutes status-based discrimination when an employer knows the result was caused by marijuana use lawful under Connecticut law. The court explained, "[there] would be no reason for a patient to seek PUMA status if not to use medical marijuana as permitted under PUMA.

According to Deitchler and McKenna, “[t]he takeaway is that the DFWA is not a "free pass" to justify or defend the application of a "zero tolerance" policy in jurisdictions that have adopted protections for medical marijuana users.”

As 30 states in the US have legalized medical marijuana use, it is likely worthwhile to follow the development of this case as it could have a lasting effect on the relationship between state and federal laws in the labor and employment arena.

--Ashley Goldman

September 27, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

One in 11 US Teenagers Has Vaped Cannabis

JAMA PediatricsAccording to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Prevalence of Cannabis Use in Electronic Cigarettes Among US Youth, roughly one in 11 American middle and high school students have used a battery powered vaping device, or e-cigarette, to consume marijuana or other cannabis products. The report was based on a 2016 National Youth Tobacco survey, which found that about 9% of the 20,000 youths surveyed had vaped cannabis at least once. Applied across the US, this means that nearly 2 million teens have used e-cigarettes to vape cannabis. 

Although using cannabis through an e-cigarette does not have the same risks of smoking it, there are still health risks to be concerned about. Lead study author Katrina Trivers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta told The Verge:

"The use of marijuana in these products is of particular concern because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory and may impair later academic achievement and education."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to what regulators have described as an "epidemic" of teen vaping. The FDA's proposed crackdown gives vaporizing companies two months to demonstrate efforts to keep vaping devices out of the hands of the youth population, or risk being shut down. 

 --Taylor Allan

 

September 23, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Massachusetts Cannabis Cash Finds a Home at Federal Credit Union

It's no secret that recreational marijuana is a cash cow, but until recently, retailers have had no piggy bank in which to deposit all their earnings. However, thanks to the efforts of Gardner Federal Credit Union, marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts may have found a home for their earnings. The Boston Business Journal has the story:

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The bank said Friday afternoon that it would begin banking for the industry, working with Safe Harbor Services, a
wholly-owned affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union that is the leader in compliance-based cannabis banking services.

 

“As a credit union committed to helping people and serving the underserved, we found in Safe Harbor a partner who offered a viable and proven compliant-based cannabis banking option and a way to keep our communities safe. Our board of directors recognizes the need to provide banking services for the safety of our citizens in reducing the ‘cash on the streets’ and I applaud them for their vision and commitment to providing public safety," said GFA Federal Credit Union’s CEO, Tina Sbrega.

Banking has long been a thorn in the side of recreational marijuana retailers. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, if a bank were to accept funds derived from marijuana sales, that would constitute money laundering. The resulting friction between state legalization and federal drug policy has created an business ecosystem where cash is king. Colorado marijuana entrepreneur Babak Behzadzadeh told The New York Times: "If we had bank accounts, it'd be much easier."

Safe Harbor Services began helping local banks and credit unions in Colorado accept marijuana money in 2014, serving a vital–and very profitable–role in the cannabis industry. The company has expanded its reach outside of Colorado, now offering its services to credit unions like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts. The company is able to help its customers deposit their cannabis profits "legally" by ensuring that none of the money is derived from activities specifically prohibited by the Cole memorandum, and that the banks who accepted cannabis cash were careful about what they did with it–specifically ensuring that it did not migrate outside of states in which marijuana was legal. However, with the recent rescission of the Cole memorandum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is not clear that Safe Harbor will be able to continue offering their services to financial institutions. 

Polls show that the majority of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, and 30 states have legalized the drug in some form. With this increasing momentum in favor of legalization, states have expressed an interest in allowing banks to accept money derived from marijuana sales in order to quell threats of violence and robbery to marijuana businesses, who generally carry large amounts of cash on hand. Whether the current administration will crack down on organizations like Safe Harbor and their partners like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts remains to be seen, but something will have to be done with all of the cash currently being generated by the marijuana industry.

 -John Robinson

September 22, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Crackdowns of black market operations in legalized territory are amping up

AaaOperating a dispensary without a license? Beware! Los Angeles and several other California cities are increasing efforts to stop cannabis operations that continue to operate without a license.

Officials initially issued warnings to the many perpetrators, but after many months of noncompliance, LA is now filing criminal charges against various retailers, growers, and delivery services. 

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that earlier this month, prosecutors there have charged 515 people for helping to run 105 illegal marijuana operations: 

“Our message is clear: If you are operating an illegal cannabis business you will be held accountable,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said.

It’s widely believed that Los Angeles has the world’s biggest marijuana market, and businesses have thrived for years under the state’s loose medical marijuana laws. But since the start of the year, new California laws have required all cannabis businesses to have both a state and city license to operate — licenses that can add costs to operations in the form of fees, testing requirements and hefty taxes.

The new laws also let cities regulate the marijuana industry, and many cities so far have opted against allowing such operations. Los Angeles, however, began licensing retail outlets in late January and most other types of marijuana businesses on Aug. 1. As of Friday, the city said 163 businesses have been given temporary licenses to operate.

But that represents just a fraction of the overall marijuana market, and for the past eight months, the City Attorney’s office coordinated with the Los Angeles Police Department to identify and investigate businesses that were operating without licenses. Most are retail shops, the City Attorney’s office said, but action also was also taken against marijuana growers, extraction labs and delivery services.

California and other legalized states, like Washington, and Colorado, continue to struggle with black market operations well after legalization has taken effect. In an effort to level the playing field, Los Angeles and other cannabis officials say they will take all measures necessary to crackdown on illegal operations. The 120 criminal cases recently filed in LA are intended as a loud and clear signal to all cannabis operators that they must follow the licensing regulations, or face the consequences. 

--Manda Mosley Maier

 

September 14, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)