Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

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 Revenue & Regulation Act ( S.776)

AnalysisOn March 30, 2017, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) introduced S.776, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act.

The bill’s official title is “A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the taxation and regulation of marijuana products, and for other purposes.”  The legislation aims to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances and set out requirements for the taxation and regulation of marijuana products.

Specifically, the federal tax code would be amended to impose: (1) an excise tax on any marijuana product produced in or imported into the U.S.; and (2) an occupational tax on marijuana production facilities and export warehouses. The definition of “marijuana product” wouldn’t include industrial hemp or any item containing marijuana that’s been approved by the FDA for sale for therapeutic purposes and is marketed and sold solely for that purpose.

Consequently, the Department of Justice would be required to remove marijuana from all schedules of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Pros

The bill appears to have contemplated criticism of legalizing marijuana on a federal level. The legislation would require producers, importers, and exporters of marijuana products to comply with rigorous licensing, recordkeeping, packaging, labeling, and advertising requirements. This would mean there will be greater control over the production and use of marijuana. The bill would establish penalties for violations of marijuana laws, including the prohibition of the sale of more than one ounce of marijuana in any single retail transaction.

Further, S.776 amends the CSA to require penalties for shipping or transporting marijuana into any state or jurisdiction where it’s illegal. Thus, states where cannabis is not legal will be protected from the substance crossing their borders. Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana (either medicinal or recreational), and the trend is towards greater acceptance of the substance.

Roughly six-in-ten Americans (62%) believe the use of marijuana should be legalized—a steady increase over the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This is twice the number that were in favor of legalization in 2000 (31%). And the majorities of younger Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal, including Millennials (74%), Gen Xers (63%), and Baby Boomers (54%). Given these numbers, in addition to the clinical data showing that it can help improve patient quality of life and its potential for revenue and jobs, the proposed legislation has backing among most working adults in the country.

Cons

While there are numerous compelling arguments for legalization and the passing of S.776, opponents say there’s also research demonstrating the dangers of marijuana use. A study by Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School found that young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation.

In addition, law enforcement claims that parameters don't exist for determining when someone is under the influence of marijuana. There’s no blood-alcohol content (BAC) test, which makes enforcement worrisome. Critics also point to the fact that THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, can stay in the bloodstream for days or weeks. As such, getting an accurate reading of impairment, and determining when marijuana was used, would entail some guesswork.

Potential Implications for the Cannabis Industry

As mentioned above, passage of S.776 would have a positive economic impact for the cannabis industry. For example, researchers in Colorado found that their taxed and regulated cannabis industry contributed more than $58 million to the local economy. Opponents are quick to point out that there was about $23 million in added costs to legalization, such as law enforcement and social services. However, the researchers at Colorado State University-Pueblo found that the county still wound up with a net positive impact of more than $35 million. The university’s report examined trends in revenue, construction, marijuana use, homelessness, crime, environmental impact, and other topics and found little conclusive evidence to support claims that marijuana legalization has caused widespread social change in the county.

Also, a national study in January found that legalizing marijuana across the country would create at least $132 billion in tax revenue and more than a million new jobs across the United States in the next decade. New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm that sponsored the study, said that the marijuana industry could create an “entirely new tax revenue stream for the government,” with millions of dollars in sales tax and payroll deductions.

Takeaway

The momentum certainly appears to be moving towards widespread legalization of marijuana at the federal level.

Another bill, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, with bipartisan support. would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to partner with other federal and state government agencies to study "the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment." If enacted, the National Academy of Sciences would conduct the research and publish its findings within 18-months.

However, none of the several bills recently introduced in Congress, including S.776, are given more than a 3% chance of passage into law by Govtrack. Whether the push towards adoption of bills such as these once Congress reconvenes after the mid-term elections remains to be seen.

--Jason Carr

October 21, 2018 in Federal Regulation, Legislation, Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

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)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Canadian Marijuana Experiment

On October 17 Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana allowing Canadians to grow, possess, and consume marijuana recreationally. Canada expects the legalization of recreational marijuana to boost their economy, but the laws surrounding marijuana are left up to each province's experimentation. Inquirer.net reports: Canada experiment

... legalization is expected to boost the Canadian economy, generating $816 million to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter without taking into account the black market, which is expected to account for a quarter of all joints smoked in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

A $400 million tax revenue windfall is forecast as a result, with the provinces, municipalities and federal government all getting a slice.

In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis in legal dispensaries in 2018, about 15 percent of the population. 4.9 million already smoke.

Inquirer.net states that by legalizing marijuana, the Canadian federal government overturns the marijuana ban that had been in place since 1923. The federal government left the task of creating laws to regulate legal marijuana up to the individual provinces. Hence, the world gets to sit back and watch to see which province's experimental regulations work the best. The article further reports:

Several [provinces] have already said they will not fully implement the law.

For example, even though federal law will permit each household to grow up to four cannabis plants, central Manitoba and Quebec in the east say they will ban it and go all the way to the Supreme Court over the matter.

Like with alcohol and tobacco, the question of legal age also falls to the provinces. Nineteen seems to be the standard, but it is 18 in Alberta, while Quebec, whose new government will enter office the day after legalization, wants to raise the age to 21.

With regards to sales, some provinces such as Quebec will implement a public monopoly while others, including Ontario and Nova Scotia, have decided to trust the market to the private sector.

As for law enforcement, federal police will be ordered to abstain for 28 days before working, as will police in Toronto.

Officers in Montreal, however, are simply asked to not show up to work high.

Another issue for the provinces to mull over is open consumption, with Montreal deciding to impose the same rules as those for tobacco, while people in other provinces will have to light up at home.

Legalizing marijuana clearly leads to many new problems, but with each province able to conduct their own experiment concerning the laws surrounding legalization, perhaps these experiments will lead to a structure the rest of the world can implement when moving towards a greener future.

--Wyatt Hinson

October 20, 2018 in Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2018

OPINION: Oklahoma Hospitals Should Reconsider Their Decision to Not Recommend Medical Marijuana

AaaTwo prominent Oklahoma hospitals have instructed their physicians to not make recommendations for medical cannabis under the state's new MMJ law, according to a recent article in Tulsa World.  The private Tulsa-based Saint Francis Health System and the public Oklahoma State University Medical Center are turning away requests for cannabis recommendations from their primary care providers.

These hospitals are doing a disservice to their patients and should reconsider their decisions.  Patients should not be blocked from using these treatments because of antiquated laws and outdated perceptions of the substance. 

Cannabis Illegal and of No Therapeutic Value, Health Systems Say

A Saint Francis spokeswoman has said that hospital rules require physicians to follow federal law, which considers marijuana a prohibited Schedule 1 drug. She explained in a statement:

Warren Clinic’s provider contracts and our hospitals’ bylaws require that physicians follow both state and federal laws governing the practice of medicine … To this end, Warren Clinic physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.

For its part, OSU Medical Center pointed out that its decision was based on the lack of evidence that any of the Schedule 1 drugs on the federal list have therapeutic value.

“Schedule I drugs lack clinical evidence for therapeutic purposes,” a statement from OSU Medical Center reads. “To this end, OSUMC physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.”

True, marijuana is still illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug. However, there is a move in many states to approve recreational marijuana (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada), as well as and medical marijuana use (Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas). There are now eight states where individuals can purchase marijuana for recreational use and 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is legal under state law.

Further, laws enacted in Connecticut and Maine permit the use of medicinal marijuana formulations by hospitalized patients.

Hospitals are exposed to a significant risk for allowing cannabis use by patients as cannabis continues to be illegal under federal law. This is because hospitals receive their accreditation from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These facilities also receive federal funds which may be vital to their ability to operate and provide services.

This threat may be perceived as real—especially since U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he will enforce federal law as it pertains to marijuana. Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo by the Obama administration that instructed federal attorneys not to hinder states’ ability to legalize marijuana, provided state officials prevented the drug from migrating to places where it remained outlawed, such as federal property, and kept it away from criminal gangs and children. This will allow U.S. attorneys throughout the country to decide whether to devote federal resources to marijuana enforcement based on their district’s priorities. Hospitals are reticent to risk penalties and the loss of federal funding by prescribing or providing the drug in their facilities.

But with more states approving the use of marijuana, hospitals are frequently being asked to allow patients to bring in their own supply for their own use. These hospitals have created their own inpatient medical marijuana policies. To help standardize this, the Minnesota Hospital Association has created a set of policy templates. These policies may help to insulate the hospital and its staff from the threat of federal prosecution, and permit patients to use a drug that has proven to be effective in their treatment.

Healthcare providers such as Saint Francis should implement similar policies that help to reduce liability without sacrificing patient care. Yes, there are potential legal implications for such an approach -- but the likelihood they will be targeted for prosecution is low, while the likely improved patient outcomes are high. 

The benefits of medical marijuana have been proven.  Patients report many benefits of CBD or cannabidiol—the chemical found in marijuana plants. This includes relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain, as well as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy. In fact, one form of childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, is nearly impossible to control; however, it has been found to respond dramatically to a CBD-dominant strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web.

Those suffering from debilitating illnesses should not be denied access to treatments that can help them, whether it is to ease their pain or to find a cure. Medical research in the past 20 years has uncovered substantial data about the benefits of medical marijuana and the chemicals found in cannabis. Further, hospitals are warranted in putting their federal funding at risk in order to prescribe marijuana in the interest of improved patient care and outcomes.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has released a list of close to 40 physicians across the state who have registered as providers willing to recommend medical marijuana for patients. The agency said it released the list “as a courtesy” to potential applicants whose own physicians may be unwilling to sign a recommendation.  But patients of St. Francis and OSU deserve to get this badly needed medicine from their own providers.

--Jason Carr

October 19, 2018 in Federal Regulation, Legal Ethics, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Research, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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)

Aiding and Abetting: Broadcasters Take a Gamble When Accepting Cannabis Advertisements

AaaBroadcasters should not rely on the fact that prosecutors have previously focused on the advertiser of the business, not the advertising medium, according to a lawyer who represents broadcasters.

Many broadcasters in states where marijuana is legal have accepted the business of both growers and dealers who have sought to advertise their products and services. Since rescission of the Cole Memorandum, which de-prioritized enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition against people and businesses who complied with state law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions went a step further by directing all U.S. Attorneys to pursue prosecutions related to marijuana activities. 

Lawyer Gregg Skall represents broadcasters and other parties in their regulatory dealings before the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") and in their commercial business dealings. A few months after the release of the Cole Memorandum, Skall notes:

[W]hen dealing with criminal law, special considerations come into the analysis. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 2 provides that whoever aids or abets the commission of a crime is punishable as a principal. The DOJ Criminal Resources Manual states that acts of the perpetrator become the acts of the aider and abettor and the latter can be charged with having done the acts even when the principal is not tried, convicted or even identified. Therefore, while it is extremely rare for a publisher to be tried for the crime of an author or advertiser, the situation surrounding marijuana use might prove to be so high-profile and controversial that an aggressive U.S. attorney might consider prosecuting the advertising medium.

Skall's current view is that broadcasters who accept the business of growers and dealers are in danger of losing their federal licenses. Those inclined to think there is a First Amendment right to advertise marijuana products and services should, he warns, think again. Broadcasters cannot rely on the First Amendment when advertising products or services that are illegal under federal law.

States have sought to advertise their products and services with broadcasters, and many have accepted their business. That decision, however, has always been risky, given the uncertain effect of the Cole Memorandum and its many qualification requirements. Marijuana remains classified as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and in a case called Raich v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even in states with compassionate use laws. Some broadcasters took comfort in the fact that prosecutions have nearly always been of the advertiser business and not the advertising medium. Yet, as I have written before, taking cannabis advertising is at most a calculated bet and that bet just got a lot worse."

iven the current administration's views on marijuana and the Attorney General's direction to U.S. Attorneys to pursue prosecutions related to marijuana activities, the bottom line is that broadcasters should not accept cannabis advertising until there is further clarification or Congress acts to reverse the effect of the decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum. Skall further warns that, "[A]s federal licensees, a broadcast licensee could very well endanger their license renewal, or even risk license revocation and criminal prosecution . . ."

Obtaining a license from the FCC is no small feat. Broadcasters that have paid fees, submitted applications, and complied with specific FCC licensing requirements may not want to risk their business for the sake of an advertising slot purchased by a business that is illegal under federal law.

--Kindal Wetuski

October 18, 2018 in Advertising, Business, Federal Regulation | 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

Budding Industries: How Cryptocurrency Might Solve The Cash-Only Cannabis Problem

Marijuana-Blockchain-1-890x480Where traditional efforts to comply with financial and logistical regulations have failed, blockchain industrialists believe that cryptocurrency could solve the "cash-only" cannabis problem by reducing the amount of capital moving through the system in the form of cash and increasing the efficiency, security, and predictability of payments.

Although some form of cannabis is legal in thirty of the fifty states, it remains classified as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is illegal on a federal level; therefore, it is impossible for cannabis businesses to get bank accounts from federally chartered banks. As a result, policy, as it currently stands, forces cannabis companies to operate on an all-cash basis. Despite $10 billion worth of sales transactions occurring within the cannabis industry last year, anyone involved in the business operation is susceptible to federal prosecution and left with limited financial service options.

For context, in mid-June, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved to block an amendment that would have allowed cannabis businesses to store their profits in financial institutions. Forbes reporter, Tom Angell provided insight of the Senate bill:

In a 21 - 10 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee tabled an amendment on Thursday that would have shielded financial institutions that open accounts for cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws from being punished by federal regulatory authorities.

Moreover, just a week earlier the House Appropriations Committee voted to reject a similar proposal, also reported by Angell:

A powerful congressional committee voted on Wednesday to reject a measure to protect banks that open accounts for marijuana businesses from being punished by federal financial regulators. Supporters then scrambled to craft a more limited measure focused on medical cannabis businesses, but it was ultimately withdrawn before a vote could take place.

 

The broader measure would have prevented the U.S. Department of Treasury from taking any action to "penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that is a manufacturer, producer, or a person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana or marijuana products" in accordance with state or local law.

The restrictive regulatory system leaves cannabis businesses open to organized crime like money laundering, theft, and cheating on payroll and taxes; however, there is speculation that cryptocurrency can ease these pains. Nick Meyers of The Phoenix New Times describes the premise of cryptocurrency in his article, Weed Money: Cryptocurrency May Be Key to Unlocking Bank Vaults for Cannabis Industry:

The basic idea of cryptocurrency is that it’s decentralized money, acting as both a currency and a transaction system.

. . .

Unlike official currencies such as the dollar, euro, or yen, no government authority tracks how much cryptocurrency is in circulation or who’s using it. Instead, these all-digital currencies use a process called blockchain.

 

The easiest way to think of a blockchain is as an electronic ledger that gets updated with each transaction. 

 

Every time someone makes a cryptocurrency transaction, that data, along with all previous transactions in the chain, gets stored in a new block.

 

The kicker is that blockchains are secure by design. Because transaction information gets stored in every new block, it’s difficult to tamper with or alter that data without compromising its authenticity.

In addition to solving the "cash-only" problem, the emerging blockchain industry can provide support regarding helping cannabis companies "meet regulatory requirements by offering immutable records showing the source of each plant in a harvest, where it is processed, how it is shipped and where it is distributed," as reported by John McMahon of News BTC

Moe Asnani, owner of Downtown Dispensary and D2 in Tucson, also stated that "anti-money-laundering laws are some of the biggest hurdles to legitimate cannabusiness banking, and having the verifiable ledger stored in high-security blockchains would demonstrate the market's legitimacy."

Asnani and McMahon's sentiment is shared amongst other cannabis and blockchain experts who say that blockchain platforms create transparency in the cannabis supply chain, and various cryptocurrencies, like HempCoin and ParagonCoin, are taking proactive approaches to solve the cash dilemma. 

Both cannabis and cryptocurrency are budding industries, and their similar challenges create the opportunity for joint growth; as cryptocurrency provides transparency to the cannabis business and marijuana operators can supply a stable customer base for the use of cryptocurrencies, perhaps this partnership will be the future of finance in the cannabis industry.

(For those unfamiliar with blockchain, Forbes and BlockGeeks are accessible resources.)

-- Gianna Redeemer

October 12, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Federal Regulation, Finance, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

SEC Charges a Texas-based Investment Fund with Fraud, Warning About Marijuana-Related Investments

ShipchandlerRetail investors have officially been warned about marijuana-related securities offerings according to a press release recently issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). A Texas-based investment fund and its founder allegedly exploited investor interest in the marijuana industry by lying about high returns, and has been charged with "defrauding investors with false promises of massive returns in cannabis-related businesses."

Even though the investment fund was based in Texas, the fraudulent activity was widespread. In the complaint, the SEC alleges that, from August 2017 through at least March 2018, the investment fund and its founder "orchestrated an unregistered securities offering fraud that victimized more than 60 investors across 26 states." The founder promised massive returns, but actually misappropriated more than $3.3 million of investor funds for designer clothes, luxury cars, and payments to earlier investors to prolong the fraud scheme.

The press release quoted Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Director of the SEC's Fort Worth Regional Office, stating that "Investors must remain vigilant and not let the fear of missing out dupe them into making bad investment decisions." In an effort to warn potential scam victims, the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) and Retail Strategy Task Force (RSTF) issued an alert for investors earlier this month which stated that "[S]cam artists often exploit 'hot' industries to trick investors, including by making false promises of high returns with low risks. The OIEA and RSTF are warning investors about these kinds of investment schemes involving marijuana-related companies." The SEC's alert further provides:

"OIEA regularly receives complaints about marijuana-related investments, and the SEC continues to bring enforcement actions in this area. If you are thinking about investing in a marijuana-related company, you should beware of the risks of investment fraud and market manipulation. Fraudsters may try to use media coverage about the legalization of marijuana to promote an investment scam."

Although the victims may have believed in promises of high returns on their investments, in reality, the fund "had no track record and its sole investment of $400,000 was in a cannabis company that had yet to harvest a crop," according to the SEC press release. The complaint alleged that the investment fund and founder misrepresented that the fund "had a management team with a ten-year track record of profitably investing more than $100 million in cannabis-related businesses; (2) provided outsized returns to more than 200 investors; and (3) investors could expect a 24% annual return." 

Those who are interested in investing in a cannabis-related business should heed the SEC's advice to "ask questions and understand the risks involved. Carefully research the investment and read any recent reports that the company has filed with the SEC." Company reports can be found by searching the SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (also known as EDGAR).

--Kindal Wetuski

September 29, 2018 in Business, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

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

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:

Unknown

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)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Canadian pot investors face potential US entry problems

AaaMarijuana will soon be legal in Canada, but is still illegal in the United States.  This means that those who are involved in cannabis businesses in the Great White North may find themselves running into trouble at the U.S. border as they attempt to enter the country.

Over at MarketWatch, reporter Jeremy C. Owens runs down some of the issues:

Todd Owen — a senior officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, overseeing border operations — told Politico in an interview published Thursday that border agents would still seek to permanently ban any foreign visitor who admits to working or investing in the cannabis industry, or admits to have taken the drug, even after recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

MarketWatch confirmed that stance in an email exchange with a CBP spokeswoman, who said investors could face a permanent ban from entering the U.S.

“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law,” spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said in a statement.

In a follow-up exchange, Malin confirmed that investing in publicly traded marijuana companies, including those traded legally on U.S. exchanges, is considered “facilitation” of illicit drug trade under CBP policy.

“That’s the first [time] I’ve actually heard them say a Canadian-only enterprise is an illegal enterprise for U.S. entry purposes,” said Scott Railton, a lawyer at Cascadia Cross-Border Law in Bellingham, Wash.

. . .

Lawyers who spoke with MarketWatch said guards at the border have the freedom to ask any questions they deem fit.

”They have really absolute power, in a nutshell,” Preshaw said.

At least until the situation in the U.S. changes, those entering from Canada will have this issue.  But it would be incredibly dumb for such visitors to lie to U.S. border agents.  Investing in a marijuana business may prevent you from entering the U.S.  Lying about it will get you entry into the U.S., but as a resident of a federal corrections facility.

--Frank Snyder

 

September 15, 2018 in Federal Regulation, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Recreational Marijuana, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Federally Approved Marijuana Research Lacking Despite Apparent Support from Attorney General Sessions

Sessions

Despite apparent support of federally approved medical marijuana research from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Wall Street Journal reports that none of the  26 applications for approval to grow marijuana for research has moved towards approval in the two years since the Justice Department began accepting the applications.   

Currently the only federally approved marijuana grow operation for research lies with the University of Mississippi which has been conducting research on marijuana since 1968.

According to the Journal, both Democrats and Republicans have penned letters urging Sessions to begin moving the applications through approval, but to no avail.  The Justice Department's failure to take any action on the 26 applications, it reports, has left both applicants and those hoping to benefit from research on the drug in a realm of uncertainty.  "'The federal government allows for multiple entities to produce controlled substances for scientific research all the time. Why should marijuana be any different?' said George Hodgin, a former Navy SEAL who started his own business, Biopharmaceutical Research Company, to conduct such research."

For now, researchers will have to wait patiently while the politics are sorted out. 

--Andrew Goodwyn

September 11, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Possible Safe Harbor for U.S. Military Veterans Who Need Medical Cannabis

AaaA bill filed in Congress would allow veterans to get medical marijuana from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  While a growing number of military veterans use medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, and other mental and physical war wounds, however, federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing it.  That might change.

Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently filed the Medical Marijuana for Veterans Safe Harbor Act that would legalize medical marijuana for veterans and empower physicians in the VA to issue medical marijuana recommendations in accordance with the laws of "the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs." Despite the fact that state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana are preempted by federal laws which prohibit such use, this bill effectively harmonizes federal law governing the VA with state law in states where medical marijuana is legal.

According to Tom Angell of Forbes, who reports on the story, Senators Nelson and Schatz are addressing long-term goals such as cannabis research and reduction of opioid use among veterans. The bill allocates $15 million for research on "the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain" and "the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse."

Some form of medical marijuana is permitted in 31 states and this legislation would grant veterans the same access to legitimately prescribed medication as other patients in those 31 states would have. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, says that "Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality. The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act."

--Kindal Wetuski

September 10, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Research, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)