Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Rounding up some recent notable marijuana social science research

Busy times over the last couple weeks has kept me from finding time to blog about a lot of notable recently-published marijuana research.  Making up for the silence, here is a review of the pieces that recently caught my attention:

"Using recreational cannabis to treat insomnia: Evidence from over-the-counter sleep aid sales in Colorado" by authored by Jacqueline Doremus, Sarah Stith and Jacob Vigil published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine

"What Have Been the Public Health Impacts of Cannabis Legalisation in the USA? A Review of Evidence on Adverse and Beneficial Effects" authored by Janni Leung et al. published in Current Addiction Reports

"Are Marijuana and Alcohol Substitutes? Evidence from Neighboring Jurisdictions" authored by Benjamin Hansen as a working paper

"Frequency of cannabis and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs and report chronic pain: A longitudinal analysis" authored by Stephanie Lake et al. published in PLOS Medicine

"Trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization: 2008-2018" authored by Zoe Alley, David Kerr and Harold Bae published in Addictive Behaviors

"Postmaterialism and referenda voting to legalize marijuana" authored by John Frendreis and Raymond Tatalovich published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

"Psychotic disorders hospitalizations associated with cannabis abuse or dependence: A nationwide big data analysis" authored by Manuel Gonçalves‐Pinho, Miguel Bragança and Alberto Freitas published in International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research

December 7, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Highlighting how, even after "decriminalization," punitive marijuana criminalization persists for some

Drug_tests7The Philadelphia Inquirer has this notable new article under the headline "The Marijuana Paradox: Philadelphia Has Decriminalized Marijuana, But Those Who Get High On Probation Still Risk Incarceration." I recommend the lengthy article in full, and here are some excerpts:

District Attorney Larry Krasner announced his office would not charge people with marijuana possession, or seek to revoke probation for use of the drug.  Medical-use cannabis dispensaries are popping up across the city.  And the lieutenant governor, crisscrossing the state on a listening tour, reported that the Wolf administration and a majority of the public support legalizing recreational use.

Even as most Philadelphians are free to get high with impunity — facing at worst a $100 fine — judges and probation officers continue to punish people for using the drug, resulting in court-mandated treatment, extended probation, and even incarceration.

It’s one factor contributing to Philadelphia’s bloated levels of community supervision and of incarceration — which are among the highest of any big city and come at an enormous cost.  Philadelphia spends more than twice as much per capita as other cities on corrections, and nearly twice as much on judicial and legal costs.

And it is a significant factor, going by the results of 53,313 drug tests administered by the Philadelphia adult probation department in 2018.  The majority of those tests were negative for any drug — but among the failed screens, about half were positive for marijuana alone, according to court data. That’s more than 11,000 tests flagged just for weed.

Philadelphia City Council held a hearing in February to examine the possibility of ceasing testing, but city leaders have so far been reluctant to move ahead of state law. Probation-reform legislation proposed in the state House would not bar testing but would prohibit courts from violating people for using marijuana if they have medical authorization.

Philadelphia’s chief defender, Keir Bradford-Grey, called marijuana screening a waste of resources that doesn’t make the city any safer: “Many of them are using it for PTSD and trauma. Many of them are using it for pain.  So these reasons are benign in terms of our notion of public safety — and this is why we are creating an endless cycle of probation for people who are being tested this way.”

And, at a time when the opioid crisis is killing more than a thousand people each year in Philadelphia, the courts’ most intensive drug-treatment and diversion programs are squandered on marijuana users.  For instance, just 18% of those coming out of Philadelphia Drug Treatment Court in 2018 were opioid users; 75% were marijuana users....

One way some jurisdictions are avoiding such outcomes is to simply stop testing for marijuana. Among them, New York City this year enacted a law barring its probation department from testing for marijuana in almost all cases.  But in Pennsylvania, probation officials and judges continue to craft their own — often conflicting — responses to marijuana use.

In September, Lebanon County Probation prohibited use even for those with medical marijuana cards.  For people on probation who were managing health conditions with marijuana, the consequences were in some cases severe.  One woman, Melissa Gass, 41, stopped using the drug to manage her epilepsy after her probation officer told her continued use would put her in violation. Soon, she was experiencing six or seven seizures a day.

In October, the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued on behalf of Gass and two other people on probation, and the state Supreme Court agreed to exercise its extraordinary King’s Bench authority — a power reserved for matters of “immediate public importance” — to review the case and temporarily bar Lebanon County from implementing its policy.  “We are reading this as a statewide injunction,” said Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which has identified six other counties — Elk, Forest, Indiana, Jefferson, Lycoming, and Northampton — that ban medical marijuana for those on probation.

But there’s no immediate relief for people like Jacob Makaravitz, 29, who are already incarcerated on probation violations.  This fall, he went to a doctor and obtained a medical marijuana card to manage his nerve pain, but failed to get his probation officer’s permission.  In October, a Lackawanna County judge sentenced him to one to three years in state prison for the unauthorized use.

James McGurl, 31, who was in drug court with Makaravitz, learned of his friend’s incarceration with alarm.  “It’s just pure insanity. You can sentence someone one to three years for a medical marijuana card prescribed to him by a doctor,” McGurl said. McGurl himself is a former heroin user who got clean through a 12-step program. “Marijuana has been a great help and aid to me in my recovery,” he said — but it was a marijuana charge that saddled him with a felony conviction and a sentence to intermediate punishment.  “Oddly, after I finally got clean, I ended up in jail and on drug court,” he said.  “Where were they when I was robbing people’s houses and being a total scumbag?”

In Philadelphia, the court accepts medical marijuana cards, but probation administrators and judges have conflicting ideas about how to deal with those who use marijuana without authorization, according to Laurie Corbin of the Public Health Management Corp., which holds an $8 million contract with the city to provide assessment and treatment for court-ordered clients.  “There’s a real concerted effort not to be bringing people in [to jail] with charges related to marijuana,” she said, “but then there are other behaviors related to marijuana use, where [they’re] breaking and entering or doing other kinds of crime.”....

Nationwide, more people receive court-ordered referrals into drug treatment for marijuana than any other kind of drug — 126,000 of them in 2017, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Administration.  More than half of all marijuana users in treatment are forced to go there by the criminal justice system. Notably, while just 13% of those in drug treatment in Pennsylvania are African American, 29% of those in treatment for marijuana are black.

Yet, a national epidemiological survey found that, as marijuana use has proliferated, the prevalence of marijuana-use disorders, described as abuse of or dependence on the drug, remains below 3% of adults nationwide.  That represents about three out of 10 marijuana users.  Statewide, 22% of people in drug treatment courts are marijuana users, but that number rises to 57% in Chester County and 75% in Philadelphia.

These programs are seen as a means to keep people out of jail while enforcing treatment.  But in reality, about one in three participants in these diversionary programs will be incarcerated as a sanction for repeated positive drug tests, missed court dates, or failure to attend treatment, an Inquirer review of court data from Philadelphia and surrounding counties shows.  Six out of 10 people leaving drug court in Pennsylvania graduate successfully; those who fail can face sentences of probation, jail, or even state prison.

Despite the potential for harsh consequences, some are grateful for the counseling that judges and probation officers provide. They say they need other coping mechanisms besides dulling trauma with marijuana, and court-ordered counseling or treatment may provide those skills But to those who flounder under the strictures of drug treatment court, it feels like a trap.

November 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cannabis Trademarks and the First Amendment"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Robert Greenberg.  Here is its abstract:

A review of Supreme Court trademark litigation interpreting the First Amendment as well as recent trademark litigation at the state and federal levels.  The prohibition on immoral trademarks has been steadily eroding as a result of First Amendment litigation at the United States Supreme Court.  In light of recent Supreme Court decisions on trademark registrations and free speech, the question then becomes: Is the ban on cannabis trademark registrations justifiable in light of the First Amendment in view of these recent cases?  The issue of whether the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) should or will issue registrations in light of this recent line of cases is discussed.

November 26, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Persistently discouraging news about persistent racial disparities in marijuana enforcement

Because just about every examination of marijuana enforcement reveals discouraging racial disparities, I tend not to blog about every report or headline I see documenting these persistently discouraging realities.  But as I saw three more data points in this ugly enforcement story, I figured it was time for a round up of links.  So:

From Cincinnati, "Cincinnati's first round of marijuana decriminalization data shows warnings mostly given to African Americans"  

  • Key data point: "Officers issued 67 warnings last month. Of those, 64 were handed out to African Americans...."

From New Jersey, ACLU Data Brief, "Still Unequal, Still Unfair: An Update on New Jersey’s Marijuana Arrests"

  • Key data point: "Updated data from 2016 reflects the same troubling racial disparities from 2013, as Black people were three times more likely to be arrested than white people for marijuana possession. The racial disparity is even more extreme in certain localities."

From New York City, "Cops Arrest 260 People Of Color For Weed, Only 20 White: NYPD"

  • Key data point: "Cops arrested people of color on low-level drug charges at a staggering rate last quarter with black and Hispanic people making up 90 percent of arrests, new data show.... Of the 291 people arrested on criminal and unlawful marijuana possession charges, 167 were black, 95 Hispanic, 18 white and 11 Asian, according to NYPD data.  Just 19 were women and 272 men."

November 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"Yes, marijuana has a gateway effect. But so do most addictive substances."

The title of this post is the title of this notable new Washington Post commentary.  I am not keen on the headline, but I am keep on the contents, especially because a Democratic Prez Candidate Debate scheduled for tonight makes this piece is a timely must-read.  But that is true primarily because it is authored by Keith Humphreys, who I always consider to be a timely must-read.  Here are excerpts:

When former vice president Joe Biden asserted over the weekend that marijuana shouldn’t be legal because it might be a “gateway” to hard drug use, pro-legalization critics were quick to paint him as an out-of-touch codger still fighting the last drug war.  But the reaction isn’t entirely fair: Yes, the marijuana gateway theory that was omnipresent in the 1980s was at best distorted and at worst dishonest.  Nevertheless, gateways between marijuana and other addictive substances are real — and they swing in both directions.

During the heyday of anti-marijuana sentiment in America, fear-based prevention programs warned adolescents that a huge percentage of adults who experienced some horrible drug-related outcome (e.g., becoming addicted to heroin) had used marijuana when they were younger.  These statistics were technically accurate, but even as teenagers, most of my classmates and I could see the logical flaws in the implication that marijuana was inevitably a road to ruin.  Just because most people who used heroin had previously used marijuana didn’t prove that most people who used marijuana would go on to use heroin.

But strip away that era’s ideological agenda, designed to assign marijuana a unique and powerful role in ruining lives, and a more nuanced underlying truth about gateways reveals itself. People who become users of almost any addictive substance are at higher risk of subsequently using and having problems with other substances.  A recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report found moderate evidence that this is the case for cannabis, but it’s also true of other drugs, including legal ones such as alcohol and tobacco.  At least three causal forces can create such gateways.

First, people can become habituated to particular routes of administering drugs....

Social networks are the second force behind drug gateways. Drug use, like many other behaviors, is very commonly a social activity. This creates gateway effects between drugs in part because classes of behavior (e.g., playing sports, traveling to exotic locales, collecting antiques or, yes, taking drugs) come to seem more normal when your friends all engage in them.... 

Gateways can also result from users’ desire to combine the effect of a new drug with a familiar one.  Established cocaine users sometimes become heavy drinkers (and vice versa) because they find the cocaethylene produced in the body by this drug combination particularly euphoric. Similarly, the fact that many people take the trouble to carve out cigars and fill them with marijuana (known as smoking “blunts”) demonstrates that tobacco and marijuana combined is uniquely reinforcing to some users.

So those who mocked Biden’s claim that marijuana could be a gateway to other drugs thus got the science wrong. There are plenty of ways using the drug can make people more likely to use other substances.

But research also shows that singling out marijuana is wrong; the gateway effect is in fact shared by many substances.  If Biden continues to oppose the legalization of marijuana on the grounds that marijuana could lead to other drugs, it is only fair that he should answer another question: Why have we made alcohol and tobacco legal and often subjected them to insufficient restrictions when they are powerful gateways, too?

November 20, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical community perspectives | Permalink | Comments (0)

US House Judiciary Committee advances sweeping marijuana reform bill, the MORE Act, by a vote of 24-10

As report in this press piece, headlined "House panel passes bill aiming to legalize marijuana, but top Democrat concedes ‘Senate will take its own time,’" a notable marijuana reform bill advanced in Congress today, but its long-term prospects are still limited.  Here are the basics:

The Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted in favor a bill that decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, with a couple of Republicans supporting the measure.

The panel’s chairman, however, had acknowledged Tuesday that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act could be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled Senate. “The Senate will take its own time, but then the Senate always does,” said Jerry Nadler, the New York Democrat. He aimed to sound upbeat during Tuesday’s news conference ahead of Wednesday’s markup session for the bill: “The energy and the political pressure from the various states is growing rapidly. The Senate is subject to that, too. We’ll accomplish this.”...

Nadler, for his part, had on Tuesday described the committee vote on the MORE Act as “part of a long-term fight.” He stressed Wednesday that House lawmakers can negotiate with the Senate. Pro-marijuana activists have been celebrating the action in the House Judiciary Committee, with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also known as NORML, calling it the “biggest marijuana news of the year” and the “first-ever vote to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.”

Besides decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, the MORE Act aims to expunge prior marijuana convictions and spur re-sentencing hearings for people still under supervision. It also would set up a 5% sales tax on marijuana products that would fund three grant programs, including one that would provide job training, legal aid and other services to the individuals hit hardest by the War on Drugs....

The MORE Act [available here] has more than 50 co-sponsors in the House, including Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for the measure on Wednesday. The backers of the bill in the Senate include Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

The House committee voted 24-10 in favor of the bill on Wednesday, a House clerk said. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the committee’s top Republican, was among the GOP lawmakers who didn’t support the measure.

Collins said the MORE Act was a non-starter for most of his Republican colleagues. He suggested it won’t become law and lead to real change. “Do we want to accomplish something or do we just want to make a political statement?” Collins asked.

Groups in Washington that have disclosed lobbying on the MORE Act this year include the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), the Cannabis Trade Federation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and NORML.

The cannabis industry has set a fresh record for its overall annual lobbying spending in Washington, with an outlay of $3.77 million through this year’s third quarter as it has pushed for a bill that would protect financial institutions that work with the marijuana industry.

November 20, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The Complicated Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Parenting"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Kathryn Foust, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the sixteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The fifteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)    Here is this latest paper's abstract:

The intersection between marijuana and parenting is both highly controversial and largely unexplored.  Despite the trend of legalization (medicinal and recreational) across the country, there is a widening discrepancy between criminal laws and child welfare policies.  Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, a parent might still be charged with child abuse or neglect as a result of his or her marijuana use.  Although second-hand marijuana smoke has proven to be a relatively low risk of harm to children, other areas of concern have not been adequately studied, such as the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.  Despite the lack of reliable scientific studies on the impact of ingestion by children, some initial studies have shown a marked increase in frequency of accidental ingestions and resulting hospital treatment in states that have legalized marijuana.  The palatability and attractiveness of “edibles” is likely the cause of this measurable and dramatic increase. Overall, parental marijuana use has been inadequately studied by science, but some reliable data is available which could be used overhaul existing children’s services policies.

Prior student papers in this series:

November 20, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Jersey legislators turn to 2020 referendum as means for seeking full legalization reforms

New-jersey-reform1As reported in this Politico piece, headlined "New Jersey marijuana legalization bill dead; lawmakers will let voters decide," legislators in the Garden State have failed again to achieve significant marijuana reforms through the traditional legislative process and now have a new 2020 plan.  Here are the details and backstory:

For the second time this year, top Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey pulled the plug on legislation to legalize cannabis sales for recreational use, killing any likelihood Gov. Phil Murphy will deliver on a key campaign promise before 2021.

Instead, legislative leaders introduced a resolution Monday that would put a recreational use question on the November 2020 ballot. The resolution would need to pass both houses of the state Legislature by three-fifths majorities in one year or by simple majorities in consecutive years to make it onto the ballot.

“We made further attempts to generate additional support in the Senate to get this done legislatively, but we recognize that the votes just aren’t there. We respect the positions taken by legislators on what is an issue of conscience," Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a joint statement with Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who had been the lead sponsor of the cannabis legalization bill, NJ S2703 (18R), in the upper house....

Murphy, who campaigned heavily on a pro-cannabis platform in 2017, was disappointed by the announcement, but said in a statement he has “faith that the people of New Jersey will put us on the right side of history when they vote next November.“ “By approving this ballot measure before the end of this legislative session, New Jersey will move one step closer to righting a historical wrong and achieving what I have spent more than three years advocating for,” the governor said.

Several polls released over the last two years suggest a solid majority of New Jersey residents support marijuana legalization. Even so, NJ RAMP —an affiliate of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana — has already said it plans to fight the measure at the ballot box.

Should voters approve the referendum, it would be up to the Legislature to take action to grant oversight of the adult use industry to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which was previously established through medical marijuana legislation passed earlier this year....

Monday’s announcement marks the conclusion of a long odyssey for the Democrat’s recreational use bill, which was originally scheduled for a vote in March after months of protracted negotiations between Murphy, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. That vote was scuttled after Sweeney and Murphy failed to whip up the necessary 21 votes in the upper house. A majority of Assembly members supported the bill.

Two months later, amid an escalating feud between Murphy and South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross over tax incentives, Sweeney said there wasn’t a viable path forward for the bill’s passage, laying some blame on the administration’s efforts to unilaterally expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

Sweeney reversed course several months later, saying he’d like to give the legislation another shot with some technical revisions to accommodate regulatory changes established through the state’s new medical marijuana law, NJ A20 (18R), along with criminal justice reforms that have since been included in subsequent legislation. Both bills had previously been linked to the fate of recreational use legislation.

November 20, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

US House Judiciary Committee to hold mark up of MORE Act proposing federal decriminalization of marijuana on Nov 20

6a00d8341bfae553ef0223c85155dc200c-320wiAs detailed in this press release, "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) [Monday] announced the Committee will hold a markup on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), comprehensive legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, reassess marijuana convictions, and invest in local communities. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the companion bill in the Senate."  Here is more about MORE moving forward legislatively:

Ahead of the markup, on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, Chairman Nadler, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and additional Members of Congress, will hold a press conference to highlight the legislation.

"Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote." said Chairman Nadler. "Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana.  It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Blumenauer, as well as other Members of Congress who have helped pave the way for this important measure. I look forward to moving this legislation out of the House Judiciary Committee, making it one step closer to becoming law."

"Our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in the past for far too long. As states continue to modernize how we regulate cannabis, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies are fair, equitable, and inclusive," said Congresswoman Lee. "As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus, I am pleased to see Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee take this historic step in marking up the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act. I’m pleased that this critical bill includes key tenets from my own legislation to right the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs by expunging criminal convictions, reinvesting in communities of color through restorative justice, and promoting equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry. I applaud Chairman Nadler for his leadership and look forward to seeing this bill move out of committee."

Tuesday Press Conference on MORE Act

Date: November 19, 2019

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Location: Rayburn House Office Building Room 2237, Washington, D.C.  Live stream: https://www.facebook.com/HouseJudDems/

Wednesday Markup of the MORE Act

Date: November 20, 2019

Time: 10:00 a.m.

Location: Rayburn House Office Building Room 2141, Washington, D.C. Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVvv3JRCVQAl6ovogDum4hA

 

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.  
  • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
  • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry. 

The full text of the MORE Act is available at this link.  Based on my email traffic, I know a lot of marijuana reform groups are very excited about this legislative development.  But I will await news that the full House will be voting on the bill, as well as some indication that the Senate might be interested in taking up any marijuana reform proposals, before thinking that federal reform is anywhere close to becoming a reality.

As noted in this prior post when the MORE Act was first introduced, I am excited that the  most comprehensive federal marijuana reform bill to be getting attention includes a provision (Section 5) establishing a "Cannabis Justice Office" within the within the federal Office of Justice Programs.  In my 2018 article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," I make the case for using marijuana revenues to help build an institutional infrastructure for helping to remediate the various harms from the war on drugs.  Though this proposed Cannabis Justice Office is not exactly what I had in mind, I am thrilled to see a major reform bill focus on creating an infrastructure for continued emphasis on justice and equity issues.

Prior related post:

New Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act envisions creating a Cannabis Justice Office

November 19, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

"Exposure to Cannabis Marketing in Social and Traditional Media and Past-Year Use Among Adolescents in States With Legal Retail Cannabis"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Here is its abstract:

Purpose

The objective of this study was to examine adolescents' self-reported exposure to cannabis marketing in states with legalized cannabis and its association with past-year cannabis use.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional, online panel survey of 469 adolescents aged 15–19 years residing in four states with legal retail cannabis for adult use.  Adolescents self-reported exposure to cannabis marketing on social or traditional media (i.e., outdoor or print) and past-year cannabis use.  Logistic regression generated estimated odds of youths' past-year cannabis use by marketing exposure after adjusting for demographic factors and cannabis-related social norms.

Results

Exposure to cannabis marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was associated with increased odds of past-year cannabis use of 96% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 15%–234%), 88% (95% CI: 11%–219%), and 129% (95% CI: 32%–287%), respectively.  Odds of past-year cannabis use increased by 48% (95% CI: 16%–87%) with each additional social media platform where adolescents reported exposure.

Conclusions

Despite restrictions that prohibit cannabis advertising on social media, adolescents are exposed to cannabis marketing via social media, and this exposure is associated with recent cannabis use.  States should consider further regulation of cannabis marketing on social media.

November 16, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"Association Between Recreational Marijuana Legalization in the United States and Changes in Marijuana Use and Cannabis Use Disorder From 2008 to 2016"

Download (5)The title of this post is the title of this notable new original research by multiple authors published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Here is its abstract:

Importance

Little is known about changes in marijuana use and cannabis use disorder (CUD) after recreational marijuana legalization (RML).

Objectives

To examine the associations between RML enactment and changes in marijuana use, frequent use, and CUD in the United States from 2008 to 2016.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This survey study used repeated cross-sectional survey data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008-2016) conducted in the United States among participants in the age groups of 12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 years or older.

Interventions

Multilevel logistic regression models were fit to obtain estimates of before-vs-after changes in marijuana use among respondents in states enacting RML compared to changes in other states.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Self-reported past-month marijuana use, past-month frequent marijuana use, past-month frequent use among past-month users, past-year CUD, and past-year CUD among past-year users.

Results

The study included 505 ,796 respondents consisting of 51.51% females and 77.24% participants 26 years or older.  Among the total, 65.43% were white, 11.90% black, 15.36% Hispanic, and 7.31% of other race/ethnicity.  Among respondents aged 12 to 17 years, past-year CUD increased from 2.18% to 2.72% after RML enactment, a 25% higher increase than that for the same age group in states that did not enact RML (odds ratio [OR], 1.25; 95% CI, 1.01-1.55).  Among past-year marijuana users in this age group, CUD increased from 22.80% to 27.20% (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.01-1.59).  Unmeasured confounders would need to be more prevalent in RML states and increase the risk of cannabis use by 1.08 to 1.11 times to explain observed results, indicating results that are sensitive to omitted variables.  No associations were found among the respondents aged 18 to 25 years.  Among respondents 26 years or older, past-month marijuana use after RML enactment increased from 5.65% to 7.10% (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.16-1.40), past-month frequent use from 2.13% to 2.62% (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.08-1.41), and past-year CUD from 0.90% to 1.23% (OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.08-1.71); these results were more robust to unmeasured confounding.  Among marijuana users in this age group, past-month frequent marijuana use and past-year CUD did not increase after RML enactment.

Conclusions and Relevance

This study’s findings suggest that although marijuana legalization advanced social justice goals, the small post-RML increase in risk for CUD among respondents aged 12 to 17 years and increased frequent use and CUD among adults 26 years or older in this study are a potential public health concern.  To undertake prevention efforts, further studies are warranted to assess how these increases occur and to identify subpopulations that may be especially vulnerable.

November 13, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"A special exception for CBD in foods and supplements?"

X13596446The question in the title of this post is the headline if this notable new editorial in the journal Drug Discovery Today authored by Patricia Zettler and Erika Lietzan.  (Disclosure/humble brag: Professor Zettler is on the Ohio State College of Law faculty and a member of our Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)  Here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece:

In the last two years the cannabidiol (CBD) market has exploded. Consumers can purchase CBD-containing oils, lotions, gummies, tea, coffee, water, popcorn, and cereal, on store shelves and online. Celebrities and athletes are touting the benefits of these products, and sales are forecast to exceed $20 billion in the next five years.  This market explosion has coincided with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2018 approval of the first CBD drug (Epidiolex), for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children, as well as the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed cannabis with low levels of delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC) — “hemp” — from the federal list of controlled substances.  And it comes on the heels of nearly 40 states enacting comprehensive laws to legalize cannabis for medical use (and sometimes recreational use) within their borders.

Yet significant questions remain about the legal status of these widely available CBD products.  Most sales of CBD-containing foods and supplements violate the “drug exclusion rules” in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).  But FDA has yet to enforce those rules, apart from sending warning letters to a few sellers.  The agency is instead considering what approach to take.  Several former agency officials — including former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — have urged FDA to create a sensible, science-based path forward for consumer products.  The time is ripe for the agency, lawmakers, health care providers, the drug discovery community, and the public to consider the purpose of the drug exclusion rules and what a different approach — exempting CBD — might mean for consumer and patient access and safety, as well as innovation incentives....

As a practical matter, CBD-containing foods and supplements may be here to stay.  Lawmakers or FDA may decide that the drug exclusion rules are unwarranted for CBD, given the federal descheduling of hemp, state legalization of cannabis products, and (eventually) rigorous evidence that CBD products are relatively safe.  But FDA should not default into this position simply because a robust, albeit unlawful, market has already emerged.  A decision to give CBD special treatment should be made thoughtfully and with public participation, accounting for possible gains in consumer access and choice, as well as the lost opportunity to learn, and harness, CBD’s full therapeutic potential.

November 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

"Cannabis use disorder among people using cannabis daily/almost daily in the United States, 2002–2016"

Download (7)The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors about to be published in the December 2019 issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.  Here is the abstract:

Background

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) prevalence among people reporting past-year cannabis use declined from 2002–2016.  We examined whether similar reductions in CUD were observed among people reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use.  We expected that CUD prevalence among people reporting daily/almost daily use would not decrease.

Methods

We used 2002–2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data, including 22,651 individuals using cannabis 300+ days in the past year.  CUD was defined using DSM-IV criteria for cannabis abuse and/or dependence. Age categories included: 12–17, 18–25, and 26 + .  Annual prevalence of CUD, cannabis dependence, cannabis abuse, and each individual abuse/dependence items accounted for the complex survey design.  Differences in trends over time were examined by age group.

Results

From 2002–2016, the prevalence of CUD among people reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use decreased by 26.8% in adolescents, by 29.7% in ages 18–25, and by 37.5% in ages 26 + .  Prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis dependence decreased significantly among adolescents (-43.9%) and young adults (-26.8%) but remained stable in adults 26 + .  Reductions in most dependence items were observed in young adults, with less consistent patterns in adolescents and adults 26 + .  Prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis abuse decreased overall and for each abuse item across all age groups.

Conclusions

Contrary to expectations, CUD prevalence decreased significantly across all ages reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use between 2002–2016.  Cannabis dependence prevalence decreased for adolescents and young adults and was stable only among adults ages 26+ reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use.  Potential drivers of this decrease should be further explored.

November 10, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"The Evolving Federal Response to State Marijuana Reforms"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper now available via SSRN authored by Rob Mikos.  Here is its abstract:

The states have launched a revolution in marijuana policy, creating a wide gap between state and federal marijuana law.  While nearly every state has legalized marijuana in at least some circumstances, federal law continues to ban the substance outright.  Nonetheless, the federal response to state reforms has been anything but static during this revolution.  This Essay, based on my Distinguished Speaker Lecture at Delaware Law School, examines how the federal response to state marijuana reforms has evolved over time, from War, to Partial Truce, and, next (possibly) to Capitulation.  It also illuminates the ways in which this shifting federal response has alternately constrained and liberated states as they seek to regulate marijuana as they deem fit.

November 6, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"Going Green in American Professional Sports: Why Marijuana Usage Should Be Allowed and What Policy Changes Should Ensue"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Lucian Lungu, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the fifteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The fourteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)    Here is this latest paper's abstract:

In America, professional sports carry significant importance.  This billion-dollar industry is largely controlled by four professional leagues — the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) — together known as “the big four.”  Currently, each league has player conduct rules aimed at preventing the use of marijuana.  This paper analyzes the marijuana-related policies of each league and goes on to suggest that these regulations must be revised to allow for marijuana usage.

I argue that the historical misconceptions of marijuana; the outdated, illogical reasons for its initial and continued prohibition in sports; the prevalence and positive public sentiment of marijuana in society today; the ineffectiveness of the leagues’ current policies; and the widespread use of life-threatening, team-prescribed drugs in every league require that these policies be updated.  Subsequently, I discuss the potential medical benefits of marijuana for athletes.  Lastly, based on my analysis, this paper predicts the immediate future of marijuana in the big four and details what I believe should happen in the future.

Prior student papers in this series:

November 5, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable new poll explores Americans' views on CBD and marijuana

This new Politico piece reports on this interesting new polling that seems to me to present the deepest accounting of (shallow?) views on a range of cannabis related issues.  Here is part of the Politico piece: 

Americans now think marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes, according to new polling results from POLITICO and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health released Monday. Just 1 in 5 Americans believe marijuana is very harmful to people who use it. Twice as many said the same about alcohol, 52 percent characterized e-cigarettes as very harmful and 80 percent said tobacco cigarettes are very harmful....

The poll shows marijuana largely has avoided a perception hit following nearly 2,000 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, including at least 37 deaths. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 80 percent of vaping products linked to lung problems contained THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana. Most of the vaping products tied to the outbreak were bought on the black market, although a handful of deaths have been tied to products purchased through state-legal marijuana dispensaries. The poll was conducted in early October, at least a month after news broke of health issues associated with vaping....

The market for CBD products has exploded since hemp was legalized under the 2018 farm bill, with Americans using it to treat everything from back pain to cancer. But despite widespread use, many Americans don't know what it is.

Nearly half of respondents indicated they weren’t familiar with CBD. Yet CBD is widely seen by the general public as a benign substance. Only 8 percent of total adults polled and 5 percent of those familiar with CBD said they think it is very harmful.

A majority of people familiar with CBD said they want little to no interference or regulation by the federal government. Only half of those who knew what CBD was thought the Food and Drug Administration should regulate the safety of products that contain it. The FDA is wrestling with how it should regulate the rapidly growing industry.

Of consumers familiar with CBD, 55 percent said they should be able to buy it over the counter if they think it‘s effective for them — whether or not a clinical trial has proven that it actually is. And more than 3 out of every 5 CBD users say they’d consider using their favorite products even if the FDA found that the product doesn’t actually help in the way it claims to....

While 67 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents support federal marijuana legalization, only 45 percent of Republicans are on board. That translates to 62 percent of Americans supporting federal legalization, a huge leap from the 44 percent of Americans who thought legalization was a good idea in 2009...

But when it comes to CBD, there is no partisan divide. According to the Harvard poll, 13 percent of Republicans and Democrats indicated they use CBD products. In addition, 83 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans think it should be sold in drugstores like CVS or Walgreens. The real CBD divide is generational: 21 percent of adults under 30 use it, versus 11 percent of adults over 65.

November 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Has the 'M' word been framed? Marijuana, cannabis, and public opinion"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Robert Mikos and Cindy Kam.  Here is its abstract:

Over the past two decades, a growing cadre of US states has legalized the drug commonly known as “marijuana.”  But even as more states legalize the drug, proponents of reform have begun to shun the term “marijuana” in favor of the term “cannabis.”  Arguing that the “M” word has been tainted and may thus dampen public support for legalization, policy advocates have championed “cannabis” as an alternative and more neutral name for the drug.  Importantly, however, no one has tested whether calling the drug “cannabis” as opposed to “marijuana” actually has any effect on public opinion.

Using an original survey experiment, we examine whether framing the drug as “marijuana” as opposed to “cannabis” shapes public attitudes across a range of related topics: support for legalization of the drug, moral acceptance of its use, tolerance of activities involving the drug, perceptions of the drug’s harms, and stereotypes of its users. Throughout each of our tests, we find no evidence to suggest that the public distinguishes between the terms “marijuana” and “cannabis.”  We conclude with implications of our findings for debates over marijuana/cannabis policy and for framing in policy discourse more generally.

November 4, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"The Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws and Dispensaries on Self-Reported Health"

S21946191The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Elena Andreyeva and Benjamin Ukert published in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy. Here is its abstract:

Growing evidence suggests that medical marijuana laws have harm reduction effects across a variety of outcomes related to risky health behaviors.  This study investigates the impact of medical marijuana laws on self-reported health using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1993 to 2013.  In our analyses we separately identify the effect of a medical marijuana law and the impact of subsequent active and legally protected dispensaries.

Our main results show surprisingly limited improvements in self-reported health after the legalization of medical marijuana and legally protected dispensaries.  Subsample analyses reveal strong improvements in health among non-white individuals, those reporting chronic pain, and those with a high school degree, driven predominately by whether or not the state had active and legally protected dispensaries.  We also complement the analysis by evaluating the impact on risky health behaviors and find that the aforementioned demographic groups experience large reductions in alcohol consumption after the implementation of a medical marijuana law.

October 30, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis"

Download (6)The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by multiple authors published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Here is its "Summary":

Background

Medicinal cannabinoids, including medicinal cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have been suggested to have a therapeutic role in certain mental disorders.  We analysed the available evidence to ascertain the effectiveness and safety of all types of medicinal cannabinoids in treating symptoms of various mental disorders.

Methods

For this systematic review and meta-analysis we searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for studies published between Jan 1, 1980, and April 30, 2018.  We also searched for unpublished or ongoing studies on ClinicalTrials.gov, the EU Clinical Trials Register, and the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry.  We considered all studies examining any type and formulation of a medicinal cannabinoid in adults (≥18 years) for treating depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis, either as the primary condition or secondary to other medical conditions.  We placed no restrictions on language, publication status, or study type (ie, both experimental and observational study designs were included). Primary outcomes were remission from and changes in symptoms of these mental disorders.  The safety of medicinal cannabinoids for these mental disorders was also examined. Evidence from randomised controlled trials was synthesised as odds ratios (ORs) for disorder remission, adverse events, and withdrawals and as standardised mean differences (SMDs) for change in symptoms, via random-effects meta-analyses.  The quality of the evidence was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias tool and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.  This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017059372, CRD42017059373, CRD42017059376, CRD42017064996, and CRD42018102977).

Findings

83 eligible studies (40 randomised controlled trials, n=3067) were included: 42 for depression (23 randomised controlled trials; n=2551), 31 for anxiety (17 randomised controlled trials; n=605), eight for Tourette syndrome (two randomised controlled trials; n=36), three for ADHD (one randomised controlled trial; n=30), 12 for post-traumatic stress disorder (one randomised controlled trial; n=10), and 11 for psychosis (six randomised controlled trials; n=281).  Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) improved anxiety symptoms among individuals with other medical conditions (primarily chronic non-cancer pain and multiple sclerosis; SMD −0·25 [95% CI −0·49 to −0·01]; seven studies; n=252), although the evidence GRADE was very low.  Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) worsened negative symptoms of psychosis in a single study (SMD 0·36 [95% CI 0·10 to 0·62]; n=24). Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) did not significantly affect any other primary outcomes for the mental disorders examined but did increase the number of people who had adverse events (OR 1·99 [95% CI 1·20 to 3·29]; ten studies; n=1495) and withdrawals due to adverse events (2·78 [1·59 to 4·86]; 11 studies; n=1621) compared with placebo across all mental disorders examined.  Few randomised controlled trials examined the role of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis.

Interpretation

There is scarce evidence to suggest that cannabinoids improve depressive disorders and symptoms, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis. There is very low quality evidence that pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) leads to a small improvement in symptoms of anxiety among individuals with other medical conditions.  There remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework.  Further high-quality studies directly examining the effect of cannabinoids on treating mental disorders are needed.

October 30, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bronx Borough Prez issues new marijuana reform report focused on social justice issues

Marijuana-report-cover-bxbpI was intrigued to see this short but compelling report released this week by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. titled "Marijuana Justice in New York: The Path to Reform." The report gives special attention to issues of criminal justice reform and economic empowerment, and here and the report's six recommendations as set forth in its executive summary:

Proposal 1: Community Reinvestment. Low-income and minority communities across the state that have been disproportionately affected by past marijuana criminalization should see the benefits of legalization. Some of the revenue from legalization should be returned to these communities in the form of grants and other opportunities.

Proposal 2: Second Chances for Job Applicants who Fail Drug Tests for Marijuana. Many New Yorkers have failed drug tests for marijuana in the past, which has prevented them from getting a job. Employers should be encouraged to call these job-seekers back for future openings, and services should be available to help these individuals find employment.

Proposal 3: Equity in Licensing. The marijuana industry in New York State should reflect the population of New York State. The state should ensure that licenses are granted to qualified equity applicants so that those harmed by marijuana criminalization will be able to benefit from its legalization. The licensing system should ensure that small and minority-owned businesses are able to participate in the industry so that large, out-of-state companies cannot box them out.

Proposal 4: Access to Capital and Banking Services. Currently, banks are reluctant to engage with the marijuana industry. The state should ensure access to funds for small marijuana businesses so that the industry is not dominated by larger businesses that do not reflect the diversity of the state. New York State should advocate for Congress to pass a law protecting financial institutions from prosecution for legal cannabis-related activities.

Proposal 5: Automatic Expungement. The decriminalization bill introduced an expungement mechanism in New York State for the first time and provided that low-level marijuana offenses could be expunged. A legalization bill must make more former marijuana offenses subject to expungement as well. Past criminal convictions limit opportunities, and the enforcement of marijuana laws has fallen disproportionately against minorities and low-income communities.

Proposal 6: Ending Family Separations because of Marijuana. Currently, a positive drug test for marijuana is sufficient to start a child neglect investigation. No families should be broken apart because a parent, particularly a new parent, tests positive for marijuana.

October 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)