Friday, February 3, 2023
Americans for Safe Access releases "2022 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States"
My wonderful marijuana seminar is about to turn to a close examination of the laws, policies and practices around medical marijuana reforms, and I am incredible grateful that the folks at Americans for Safe Access (ASA) unveiled their latest comprehensive annual report on medical marijuana reform just in time for our collective review. This new 150+ page report, titled "2022 State of the States Report: An Analysis of Medical Cannabis Access in the United States," provides both a national and state-by-state perspective on medical marijuana reforms. This ASA press release about the report provides a bit of an overview:
The report evaluates the effectiveness of each state cannabis program from a patient perspective and assigns a grade using a rubric that reflects the key issues affecting patient access, broken down into more than 100 categories, including: barriers to access, civil protections, affordability, health and social equity, and product safety. The report also assigns penalties for harmful policies. ASA distributes the report to state legislators and regulators in every state, as well as hundreds of health and patient organization across the country.
Despite an increase in registered patient numbers and states with medical cannabis programs, the report highlights the fact that states are still falling short in creating programs that fulfill the needs of all patients-- the average grade among states was only 46.16% with Maryland earning the highest score of 75.71%. The report also highlights new issues facing patients including a decline in legislative improvements to state medical cannabis programs and the negative impacts recreational adult-use laws are having on medical cannabis access.
The report also offers solutions to improve state programs including legislative and regulatory language. Since the first edition in 2014, advocates and state legislators have utilized ASA’ report to pass new legislation and regulations to improve medical cannabis access. This year’s report offers policymakers a Medical Cannabis Equity Checklist with legislative improvements for states with recreational adult-use programs or those considering adopting such programs, to ensure patient access is not harmed.... ASA recognizes that state policymakers and regulators have been tasked with creating the infrastructure for a supply chain that remains illegal at the federal level and are now addressing a new health concern of the seemingly federally legal, unregulated cannabinoid market. In 2022 alone, 99 pieces of legislation were introduced regarding the unregulated cannabinoid market. The State of the States report calls on state legislatures to join patient advocates in calling on Congress to pass comprehensive federal legislation, and offers steps to do so in the “State's Government's Role in Ending Federal Prohibition” section.
February 3, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, January 30, 2023
"Changes in Prescribed Opioid Dosages Among Patients Receiving Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain, New York State, 2017-2019"
The title of this post is the title of this new study published in JAMA Network Open. Here are the publication's "Key Points" and "Abstract":
Question Is receiving medical cannabis for a longer duration associated with reducing prescription opioid dosages among patients receiving long-term opioid therapy?
Findings In this cohort study among 8165 patients with chronic pain receiving long-term opioid therapy, receiving medical cannabis for a longer duration was associated with prescription opioid dosage reduction. Higher opioid dosages were associated with larger reductions.
Meaning These findings contribute evidence toward potential clinical benefits of medical cannabis in reducing prescription opioid intake, which may decrease patients’ risk of opioid overdose.
Importance Patients with chronic pain often receive long-term opioid therapy (LOT), which places them at risk of opioid use disorder and overdose. This presents the need for alternative or companion treatments; however, few studies on the association of medical cannabis (MC) with reducing opioid dosages exist.
Objective To assess changes in opioid dosages among patients receiving MC for longer duration compared with shorter duration.
Design, Setting, and Participants This cohort study of New York State Prescription Monitoring Program data from 2017 to 2019 included patients receiving MC for chronic pain while also receiving opioid treatment. Of these, patients receiving LOT prior to receiving MC were selected. Individuals were studied for 8 months after starting MC. Data were analyzed from November 2021 to February 2022.
Exposures Selected patients were divided into 2 groups based on the duration of receiving MC: the nonexposure group received MC for 30 days or fewer, and the exposure group received MC for more than 30 days.
Main Outcomes and Measures The main outcome was opioid dosage, measured by mean daily morphine milligram equivalent (MME). Analyses were conducted for 3 strata by opioid dosage prior to receiving MC: MME less than 50, MME of 50 to less than 90, and MME of 90 or greater.
Results A total of 8165 patients were included, with 4041 (median [IQR] age, 57 [47-65] years; 2376 [58.8%] female) in the exposure group and 4124 (median [IQR] age, 54 (44-62) years; 2370 [57.5%] female) in the nonexposure group. Median (IQR) baseline MMEs for the exposure vs nonexposure groups were 30.0 (20.0-40.0) vs 30.0 (20.0-40.0) in the lowest stratum, 60.0 (60.0-70.0) vs 60.0 (60.0-90.0) in the middle stratum, and 150.0 (100.0-216.2) vs 135.0 (100.0-218.0) in the highest stratum. During follow-up, significantly greater reductions in opioid dosage were observed among the exposure group. A dose-response association of patients’ opioid dosage at baseline was observed with the differences in the monthly MME reductions between exposure and nonexposure groups, with a difference of −1.52 (95% CI, −1.67 to −1.37) MME for the lowest stratum, −3.24 (95% CI, −3.61 to −2.87) MME for the middle stratum, and −9.33 (95% CI, −9.89 to −8.77) MME for the highest stratum. The daily MME for the last month of the follow-up period among patients receiving longer MC was reduced by 48% in the lowest stratum, 47% in the middle stratum, and 51% in the highest stratum compared with the baseline dosages. Among individuals in the nonexposure group, daily MME was reduced by only 4% in the lowest stratum, 9% in the middle stratum, and 14% in the highest stratum.
Conclusions and Relevance In this cohort study of patients receiving LOT, receiving MC for a longer duration was associated with reductions in opioid dosages, which may lower their risk of opioid-related morbidity and mortality.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
After extended study, the federal Food and Drug Administration has decided it cannot figure how to regulate cannabidiol (CBD). This FDA press release explains its decision, and here are excerpts:
Given the growing cannabidiol (CBD) products market, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened a high-level internal working group to explore potential regulatory pathways for CBD products. Today we are announcing that after careful review, the FDA has concluded that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products with the regulatory oversight needed to manage risks. The agency is prepared to work with Congress on this matter. Today, we are also denying three citizen petitions that had asked the agency to conduct rulemaking to allow the marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements.
The use of CBD raises various safety concerns, especially with long-term use. Studies have shown the potential for harm to the liver, interactions with certain medications and possible harm to the male reproductive system. CBD exposure is also concerning when it comes to certain vulnerable populations such as children and those who are pregnant.
A new regulatory pathway would benefit consumers by providing safeguards and oversight to manage and minimize risks related to CBD products. Some risk management tools could include clear labels, prevention of contaminants, CBD content limits, and measures, such as minimum purchase age, to mitigate the risk of ingestion by children. In addition, a new pathway could provide access and oversight for certain CBD-containing products for animals.
The FDA’s existing foods and dietary supplement authorities provide only limited tools for managing many of the risks associated with CBD products. Under the law, any substance, including CBD, must meet specific safety standards to be lawfully marketed as a dietary supplement or food additive.
The working group ... has closely examined studies related to the CBD-based drug Epidiolex, published scientific literature, information submitted to a public docket, as well as studies both conducted and commissioned by the agency. Given the available evidence, it is not apparent how CBD products could meet safety standards for dietary supplements or food additives. For example, we have not found adequate evidence to determine how much CBD can be consumed, and for how long, before causing harm. Therefore, we do not intend to pursue rulemaking allowing the use of CBD in dietary supplements or conventional foods.
This Washington Post article about the decision highlights some industry grumpiness and the broader context:
“When it comes to the safety of CBD, the FDA gets it wrong,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said in a statement. He called the agency’s intent to tighten regulations “unprecedented and unnecessary” but said he endorsed a legislative solution to allow marketing of CBD in dietary supplements and foods.
Alex Buscher, a Colorado-based lawyer who advises hemp companies, said that CBD doesn’t seem to be riskier than other dietary supplements on the market that have the potential for side effects if taken at higher-than-recommended doses. “The FDA is kicking the decision back to a divided Congress, which will take time to create a new regulatory framework,” he said. “We need actual regulation from the FDA.”Advocacy groups and food industry experts criticized the FDA decision.
Food safety experts have said that the FDA has been in an impossible situation as states have decriminalized marijuana — which remains illegal under federal law — and related products have gained popularity. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of this past February, 37 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have legalized medical use. As of Nov. 9, 21 states (plus D.C., Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) have decriminalized recreational use — a strong indication that public sentiment has shifted.
“I’m sure the FDA probably concluded that no matter which way they went, it would involve trying to fit a very big genie back into a very small bottle, and create a political firestorm,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “It’s not surprising that they would want to seek some cover from Congress.”
Monday, January 23, 2023
Highlighting the hazy "who" of marijuana reform with state reforms and persistent federal prohibition
In the classroom and also in some of my scholarship, I often lean into the questions relating to "who" takes the lead with various legal doctrines and reforms. In the marijuana space, of course, these "who" questions have the added complications from conflicting federal and state (and sometimes local) laws and regulations. Usefully, this lengthy new Grid piece provides something of an overview of the messy realities of discordant "whos" in the marijuana policy space. The full title for the piece highlights its themes: "Marijuana can be legal and illegal at the same time: How the hazy mix of state and federal laws is creating a mess: It’s hard to figure out when and where using or selling marijuana is a crime — and when it’s not." Here are excerpts:
America is a little dazed and even more confused when it comes to how legal (or not legal) marijuana is. State laws have been changing dramatically over the past decade — but they’re also inconsistent across state borders. Something legal in one state could get you arrested the next state over. It has created a dizzying patchwork of rules, regulations and exceptions made even worse by the federal government’s complete ban of the substance....
[J]ust because federal agents aren’t exactly arresting every single person with a cannabis plant on their windowsill (there aren’t enough agents for that) that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. In child custody cases, for instance, one party can cite marijuana use as a violation of federal law when arguing that someone shouldn’t get custody.
There are also no workplace protections at the federal level, even for workers who use cannabis legally or medicinally in a state. That means that workers can be fired if they fail a drug test, even if they’re in a state where it’s legal and they aren’t currently using or high. Some states have passed worker protections for off-duty use of marijuana to address the issue.
And then there is housing: Federally subsidized public housing bans cannabis use. An applicant or tenant who is found to be in violation of this law might be denied housing or evicted — even if it’s legal in the state they are living in....
Besides the matter of taxes and prices, the matrix of federal and state policies has allowed a thriving “gray market” to proliferate.... This market might take the form of storefronts offering marijuana as a “gift” accompanying a purchase in D.C., where buying and selling weed is illegal — but possessing it isn’t — because of congressional members opposed to legalization putting a rider in a budget bill nearly a decade ago....
The removal of a federal prohibition might result in consolidation. Any huge company, which would be able to ship the product across state lines, could buy out any smaller competitors and bring down prices for legal cannabis products. (For reference, Rand previously estimated that all the cannabis used in the U.S. could be grown on a few dozen industrial-size farms.)
January 23, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
This interesting new Forbes article, "Delta-8 THC Generated $2 Billion In Revenue In Two Years, Report Finds," provides a summary of interesting economic data regarding the interesting "legal" THC products. Here are excerpts:
Delta-8 THC products have seen a surge in popularity in the past two years, resulting in over $2 billion in sales as an alternative to traditional marijuana. According to a recent report by cannabis analytics firm Brightfield Group, the increasing popularity of delta-8 THC products is causing other cannabis industries to take notice and take action.
Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid derived from hemp that has been reported to produce similar but milder effects than traditional delta-9 THC contained in marijuana. Delta-8 THC is found naturally in small amounts, but the products currently on the market are created by chemically converting CBD into the Delta-8 molecule.
Delta-8 THC products popped up following the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation with a THC level below 0.3% at the federal level. However, the legalization brought companies to produce a wide array of products containing minor non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG, but also other cannabinoids that have milder psychoactive effects than THC, which are not categorized as illegal because they are derived from hemp.
However, there have been safety concerns raised about Delta-8 THC and similar products, as the conversion of CBD molecules into THC molecules requires a skilled chemist to ensure safety, and improper or imprecise techniques can lead to high levels of impurities in the final product. In addition, the health effects of consuming these impurities are currently unknown.
Nevertheless, the report notes a considerable overlap among the users of CBD, cannabis, Delta-8, and other newly developed cannabinoid products. The report indicates that 35% of CBD users have purchased psychoactive hemp-derived products within the last half-year. Furthermore, in states where marijuana is legal, nearly a quarter of marijuana users express interest in purchasing delta-8 products in the future. As consumers are inclined to experiment with new products, there may be a shift towards delta-8 over time, particularly if the cost difference remains favorable.
In states where marijuana is still illegal, delta-8 has emerged as a cost-effective and accessible way to experience psychoactive cannabis. It can be obtained legally or through mail-order, providing consumers with a less risky (legally) alternative to getting marijuana illegally. That was also confirmed by a study published last year, which showed that the public interest in delta-8-THC increased rapidly in 2020 and 2021 and was exceptionally high in those U.S. states that haven't decriminalized or legalized recreational cannabis.
However, the report notes that delta-8's increasing popularity in places where marijuana is still illegal could negatively impact support for legalization. "If Delta-8 continues to gain popularity and build a foothold in areas where Delta-9 is restricted, legalization measures could see less popular support and grassroots fundraising, slowing progress toward full U.S. legalization," the report reads.
In addition, it seems that there is already a significant amount of confusion between delta-8 and delta-9, the main compound of marijuana, even in places where that is legal. The report observes that retailers selling delta-8 products present themselves as dispensaries and do not clarify that the compound is derived from hemp.
Friday, January 13, 2023
In shadow of full legalization initiative, Ohio legislature again discussing broad expansion of medical marijuana program
Last year brought lots of chatter in the Buckeye State remarding marijuana reform, but not much legal reform actually was completed. A proposed ballot initiate for full legalization got bumped a year because of the timing of signature collection, and other bills proposing full legalization did not advance in the Ohio General Assembly. But there was some momentum behind a bill to significantly expand the state's medical marijuana program in the Ohio legislature in 2022, though that bill only passed one house of the legislature and so did not make it to Gov DeWine's desk.
But, as this local article details, these Ohio marijuana reform issues and possibilities are all already garnering attention early in 2023. Here are excerpts from the article with the key details:
A newly introduced Ohio Senate bill would create a 13-member medicinal cannabis oversight commission, as well as a new state agency, in hopes of being more responsive to the state’s medical marijuana industry and expand the diagnoses for which it could be prescribed.
Senate Bill 9 is similar to Senate Bill 261 from last legislative session in that they both are trying to update the state’s 6-year-old law that legalized medical marijuana in Ohio. However, the oversight board is new in SB 9.
Currently, the Ohio Department of Commerce, the State Medical Board of Ohio and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy oversee regulations and licensing in the marijuana program. “What we’ve found is that many of the growers want to expand and grow more,” said Sen. Stephen Huffman, who is sponsoring the bill with fellow Republican Sen. Kirk Schuring. “There’s more growers, there’s more demand. They put an application into the Department of Commerce, and it sits there for 18 months, two years. Hopefully this takes the bureaucracy out of this and streamlines things and make it a better-functioning industry.”
SB 9 comes as the legislature also must decide what to do about a recreational marijuana initiated statue proposal. The legislature has until May 3 to pass a law based on the proposal, backed by a group of medical marijuana licensees. If the General Assembly does nothing, which is likely as GOP leaders have said they’re not interested in the proposal, then the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol can collect signatures to get on the ballot for voters to decide the matter. The coalition believes it has wide support from Democrats and Republicans in Ohio.
Under SB 9, the Medical Marijuana Oversight Commission would oversee the Division of Marijuana Control. The Division of Marijuana Control would fall under the Ohio Department of Commerce....
SB 9 would allow medical marijuana for patients with autism spectrum disorder and opioid use disorder, in addition to conditions for which medical marijuana has already been approved. The new bill additionally allows medical marijuana for other conditions that physicians, in their discretion and medical opinion, determine are debilitating to a patient.
A similar provision was in SB 261, stating that drug was allowed for conditions if a doctor determines “the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.” SB 261 passed the Senate in December 2021. It died in the House, though, in the session that ended late last year.
SB 261 allowed marijuana cultivators to expand grow space. The larger square footage isn’t in SB 9 but Huffman, who is a physician from Miami County, said he’s willing to discuss amending his bill with more grow space. “In my discussions with Sen. Schuring, we felt this would be a positive move and positive change for the industry,” Huffman said. “At the same time hopefully members of the House will be comfortable with it.”
"Building Solidarity in Support of Immigrants’ Rights in the Evolving Marijuana Legislative Landscape"
As I have mentioned before, after a very busy Fall semester, I am catching up on the posting of some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. And now I have just started teaching a new semester of my marijuana seminar, it is especially enjoyable to be able to highlight some of the great work that was done by students in my last class. The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Charlotte Kalfas who was in my marijuaan seminar last year and who now completing her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is the abstract of her paper:
This paper attempts to raise the profile of and build solidarity among disparate groups on the issue of considering how immigration law should be amended or enforced in the wake of the move towards legalization, whether on a state-by-state or federal level. It goes into detail on perspectives and policy rationales for amending the INA to remove marijuana from disparate political perspectives -- those who are already committed to immigrants' rights, those who are already committed to marijuana legalization, and those who are less amenable to either.
For the first group, it's fairly self-explanatory: marijuana use is a deportable offense for immigrants whether or not it is legal, which makes little sense in the era of marijuana reform. For legalization supporters, I focus on economic developments and social justice. Allowing immigrants into the group of people who could purchase and use marijuana would both bring more revenue into the market and create a new group of folks who could work in both agricultural and retail ends of the business. Further, given the divisive history of the connections between marijuana criminalization and immigration, noncitizens should be a key consideration in legalization legislation and regulation just as social equity programs are now for women and other minoritized people. Finally, for those who aren't familiar or amiable to either perspective, the paper dives into arguments about justice and fairness from a legal perspective, and the assertion that supporting minoritized individuals such as immigrants and people of color is beneficial for all members of the U.S.
January 13, 2023 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Stateline has this notable new article, headlined "Motley Marijuana Laws Drive Consumers — and Revenue — Across State Lines," that gives particular (but still incomplete) attention to the fact that marijuana reform storys have become somewhat consistent on the coasts while being quite varied in the middle of the USA. I recommend the article in full, and here is a flavor of its coverage:
Less than half a mile south of the Wisconsin border in Illinois, the Sunnyside Cannabis Dispensary bustles with activity. Cars with license plates from Wisconsin, Minnesota and other pot-banning states slide in and out of the shop’s expansive parking lot.
The bright and airy retail store is an easy hop off Interstate 90, which spans the nation’s entire northern tier. For many westbound customers, Sunnyside is the last chance to legally buy recreational, or “adult-use,” marijuana products until Montana, more than 900 miles away. And heading south from this truck-stop town to the small Illinois city of Metropolis, dispensaries likewise hug the Prairie State’s boundaries with Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky, where pot sales are outlawed.
State lines delineate the vastly varying marijuana regulations across the Midwest. Illinois, Michigan and, since December, Missouri allow recreational marijuana, while neighboring states have some of the strictest laws in the nation. The contrasting statutes create some law enforcement concerns in states where marijuana is outlawed — when residents legally use marijuana just across the border or bring it back home.
But many elected officials in those states say the larger problem is the loss of potential revenue from an industry that could bring visitors, jobs and tax dollars. Public support for the liberalization of marijuana laws in this region is growing, following national trends. Much of the debate is economic, as restrictive states see their residents paying marijuana sales and excise taxes to neighboring states.
In Illinois, which legalized adult-use marijuana in 2019, out-of-state residents account for 30% of recreational marijuana sales, according to state filings. Sales in the state have risen from just more than $400 million in fiscal 2020 to more than $1.5 billion in fiscal 2022. Tax disbursements to local Illinois governments in fiscal 2022 reached $146.2 million, a 77% increase over 2021.
Illinois law mandates that a fourth of marijuana tax revenue be used to support communities that are “economically distressed, experience high rates of violence, and have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.” The significant revenue is a big pull for states that outlaw marijuana to consider changing their policies. But some opponents to legalized cannabis worry about what other effects marijuana sales could have on their communities....
Indiana, which has some of the nation’s toughest marijuana laws, borders two states (Illinois and Michigan) with recreational sales. “I try to enforce the laws as best I can based on what Indiana wants us to do,” said Ken Cotter, prosecutor for St. Joseph County, Indiana, along the Michigan border. The region is known as Michiana.
“I was worried that if Michigan legalizes marijuana, folks from Indiana might want to go to Michigan, get the marijuana and drive back — that's one thing. But if they then went to Michigan, legally smoked it there and then drove [under the influence], that's a whole different ball game,” Cotter said. Cotter, a Democrat, said there has not been an increase in marijuana possession cases in his jurisdiction since Michigan legalized recreational sales in 2018, but that marijuana-based DUI charges have “increased dramatically.”
But Cotter was cautious not to draw broader conclusions from his jurisdiction of 270,000 residents, stressing that more data and reporting is a pressing public safety need. That’s in line with an expansive 2021 report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C., suggesting it’s too soon to know all the effects of the changing laws. The report noted that early studies, including those on public safety, have varied conclusions, and that data comparisons at this point can be problematic.
A recent survey by a national law firm finds some Midwestern states among those least favorable to the cannabis industry. Indiana’s laws rank 49th among states and the District of Columbia in receptiveness to cannabis, according to Thompson Coburn, a national law firm that has a cannabis practice. Wisconsin stands 47th, Kentucky 41st and Iowa 38th. In Wisconsin, for example, the first conviction for a small amount of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor, but any subsequent possession charge is a felony....
In Minnesota, where Democrats now control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, lawmakers introduced an adult-use bill on Jan. 5. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz quickly tweeted his support: “It's time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law.”
And in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told Wisconsin Public Radio in December that recreational marijuana will “be in the budget,” but that a hostile GOP-led legislature stands in the way. "Even though the people of Wisconsin by huge numbers in polling support recreational marijuana in the state of Wisconsin, I just don't know if the Republicans are there yet," Evers told WPR. "All I know is that there is talk on the Republican side, from what I've heard, around medicinal."...
Iowa appears unlikely to move toward liberalization of its marijuana laws, despite a Des Moines Register poll from 2021 showing 54% of Iowans supporting the legalization of adult-use products.
January 10, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
As I am gearing up for another exciting new semester of teaching my always exciting Marijuana Law and Policy seminar at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, I was especially drawn to this lengthy new op-ed by Justin Strekal at Marijuana Moment which has the same title as this post. I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts highlighting some of its main themes:
2022 was the best of times for marijuana policy reform in America—but if you read the headlines or (god forbid) log onto Twitter, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the worst.
This Orwellian doublethink is understandable if you look at it through the lens of a minute-by-minute analysis, or by only looking at the stock prices of the young, dominant players in the emerging cannabis industry. But we must keep the long game in mind when we think about ending the 85-year policy of marijuana prohibition and criminalization....
I have been a supporter of the SAFE Banking Act since I started at NORML in 2016, and I even took pro-SAFE meetings with groups that have since evolved their positions on the bill and are now demanding reforms to its underlying structure.
Back then, the purpose of the effort was to advance an aspect of legalization and the regulated marketplaces in Congress at a time when neither chamber had a leader who explicitly said they supported reform, be it SAFE or comprehensive. In other words, being for SAFE Banking was a form of harm reduction, not a cure.
Since the 115th Congress, a lot has changed. This includes the funding power of the reform movement, which has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the number of earnest advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project and Americans for Safe Access shrinking, for example. On the flip-side, K Street lobby shops are hiring new suits seemingly every month, many of whom never thought about marijuana prohibition before being paid by a private company or trade association to do so....
As for what the Republican flip in the House means for this reported agreement between Schumer and Daines? What about comprehensive reform? Well, I’m not going to give you a percentage likelihood because only snake oil salespeople treat Congress like a betting market.
Whatever comes next in the House majority, it’s important to remember that 51 percent of House Republicans already voted for SAFE in the last Congress, including leaders like Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Dave Joyce (R-OH), Bryon Donalds (R-FL), Kevin Hern (R-OK) and many others....
Because democracy is a verb and, as recent and ongoing events clearly show, things are not working well in America. But for the first time ever, there is actually a pathway to accomplish something pertaining to marijuana law reform — but only if the monied interests are willing to live up to the rhetoric they espouse.
January 10, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
As I have recently mentioned, after a very busy Fall semester, I am catching up on the posting of some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. As I seek to catch up in the days ahead, as I continue to relish the chance to highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates. The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Jenna Pletcher who is in the midst of her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is its abstract of her paper:
America’s legal cannabis market is growing exponentially and more states are beginning to legalize cannabis products. Currently, the legal cannabis industry supports 428,059 workers nationally, and it is predicted that a mature cannabis market would support 1.5 million to 1.75 million workers. However, it can be unclear what legal protections are offered to these workers under a federal prohibition regime.
The basic right of workers to form a union is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). However, the NLRA does not protect agricultural workers, and it is not clear which positions in the cannabis industry are considered “agricultural.” In addition, it is unclear whether the National Labor Relations Board will consistently exert jurisdiction over retail workers in a federally prohibited recreational marijuana industry. This paper will evaluate the applicability of the NLRA to the cannabis industry, the policy concerns surrounding the use of labor peace agreements to fill in gaps left by federal labor laws, and what widespread unionization could mean for a quickly growing sector of the economy.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
The NORML folks have this effective and helpful new posting, titled "2022 Year In Review: Norml’s Top Ten Events In Marijuana Policy," which provides a useful review of 2022 reform highlights. I recommend the full post, for more of the details, but here are the headline "Top 10" items:
#10: Mississippi Becomes 37th State To Legalize Medical Cannabis Access
#9: Survey: Over 90% Of Pain Patients Report Reducing Their Opioid Intake Following Medical Cannabis
#8: Analysis: State-Legal Marijuana Industry Employs Over 428,000 Full-Time Workers
#7: Potus Signs Law Facilitating Clinical Cannabis Trials And Drug Development
#6: FBI Fails To Provide Comprehensive Marijuana Arrest Figures For The First Time
#5: Historic Percentages Of Americans Say Cannabis Should Be Legalized
#4: More Lawmakers Enact Workplace Protections For Cannabis Consumers
#3: Senate Fails To Move Safe Banking Act
#2: Tens Of Thousands Of Americans Receive Marijuana-Specific Pardons And Expungements
#1: Three More States Enact Adult-Use Legalization Laws
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
It has been an interesting couple of months for discussions of marijuana reforms at the federal level. Prez Biden got the federal reform conversation amped up in early Fall when he pardoned low-level marijuana possession offenders and ordered administrative review of marijuana Schedule I status under the CSA (basics here). Then, with the November midterm election giving control of the House to Republicans in the next Congress, formal and informal discussions of broad and narrow federal statutory marijuana reforms grew along with suggestions of including reforms in lame-duck bills (basics here and here).
This buzz did result in one tangible reform, as Congress in November passed and Prez Biden in December signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act. But, though historic and important, this research reform bill is unlikley to be all that impactful and consequential anytime soon. And hopes for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act and other possible reforms were finally fully dashed this week, raising the possibility that we may not see big federal marijuana reforms coming from Congress for many, many more years.
Of course, Marijuana Moment has great coverage of all the action, and here are some of the pieces that discuss a significant failure in the modern marijuana reform movement:
Friday, December 9, 2022
"Solving a Drug Epidemic with More Drugs: A Discussion on the Expansion of Medical Marijuana in Ohio and its Impact on the Opioid Crisis"
As I have recently mentioned, during a very busy semester, I have fallen a bit behind posting some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. As I try to catch up in the days ahead, as I continue to relish the he chance to highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates. The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Brianna Sweeney who is in the midst of her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is its abstract of this paper:
Ohio has suffered greatly at the hands of the opioid epidemic, but a new form of treatment could be on the rise for those who struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD). As Ohio Senate Bill 261 has proposed “opioid use disorder” as a new qualifying condition for the recommendation of medical marijuana, the possibility emerges of medical marijuana’s positive impact on the opioid crisis. This paper will explore the relationship between medical marijuana and the opioid epidemic, including the policy debate of medical marijuana’s advantages and disadvantages, particularly in comparison to prescribing opioids, and its ability to assist in opioid use disorder treatment. Next, it will turn to the research on how medical marijuana laws have potentially affected opioid related death rates across the country. Narrowing in on the pertinent issue, the research discussion will also cover how medical marijuana impacts OUD and OUD treatment. Finally, the paper discusses the lack of conclusive research available, the need for further research, and a possible route for Ohio to take as this topic and the understanding of it evolves. It is this paper’s hope that Ohio can provide another opportunity to prevent lives lost to opioids, contribute to the end of the epidemic, and promote future work and conversations on this topic.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
As mentioned in this post from the past weekend, lots and lots of folks had seeemingly come to believe that significant federal marijuana reform was quite likely to get enacted in Congress this month. But this new Politco piece, headlined "How the plan to pass a weed package went awry, " not only explains why the prospects for reform are dim this month, but perhaps for many years to come. Here are excerpts:
Democrats almost had a weed deal — for real this time. For weeks, a bipartisan group of senators worked to negotiate a historic package in the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The ideologically diverse crew included Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
The bargain they ultimately reached represents the broad spectrum of cannabis issues: banking, guns and criminal record expungements. The package gave progressives, libertarians and conservatives all something to be happy about. But in the final days of negotiations over the National Defense Authorization Act, which they hoped would serve as a must-pass vehicle for the cannabis package, enthusiasm evaporated. The unraveling of the plan was sparked by top Republicans attacking cannabis banking legislation that was the centerpiece of the deal....
The SAFE Banking Act, which the cannabis package revolves around, would allow banks to offer financial services to the weed industry.... SAFE was then paired with the HOPE Act — a bill introduced by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and progressive stalwart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that creates grants for expungements at the state level, lending it a “states rights” component. Finally, the GRAM Act — introduced by late Alaska GOP Rep. and former co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Don Young — was thrown in. It would protect marijuana users’ right to own a firearm.
Support was there: At least 10 Republicans have co-sponsored or signaled they support the SAFE Act to date. Co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in November he was open to SAFE and HOPE, especially if Daines was on board. On Thursday, Daines said conversations were productive and Paul claimed that there were more than 60 votes for the package.
But the potential deal began to fall apart when key Republican senators took aim at the cannabis banking provision. On Monday, staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other senators involved in the deliberations met with representatives from the Justice Department to discuss concerns about how agency officials would enforce the bill. Following that meeting, Grassley’s office released a statement attacking the bill.
Then on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor to rip Democrats for trying to add extraneous proposals to the defense spending bill. “We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities, like making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs,” he said.
Even stalwart supporters got cold feet about attaching the cannabis package to the NDAA. Cramer and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who both support the banking bill, said a defense spending package wasn’t the place for it. “It dilutes the proper role of this place,” Cramer said, suggesting that the deal be given a full committee markup and floor time instead.
The NDAA isn’t the last piece of legislation that will likely be passed in the lame duck, but the same obstacles will apply to an omnibus funding package that’s being negotiated. Simply put, if McConnell remains opposed to SAFE, it won’t make it into a major package.
But the bill isn’t dead yet: Paul is still bullish on its prospects, saying he is confident there are more than 60 senators in favor of SAFE if it were to receive a standalone floor vote. Democrats left this until the last minute, though, and the chances that the Senate can find any floor time for a standalone SAFE “plus” package before the end of the year are slim....
Daines said he’s focused on getting something passed before the end of the year, but other GOP supporters, including Tuberville, said they may just need to deal with it in the next year. Republicans are set to take over the House in January, dimming the chances for SAFE. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has voted in favor of the bill, but he hasn’t signaled that cannabis is something he wants to spend time on.
It may be that after more than three years of trying to see SAFE passed, Democrats took a gamble with the lame duck and ran out of time to get it passed.
Because I am not an expert in congressional procedure, I do not know if there would be a way in 2023 for a SAFE+ package of reforms to make its way through the new Congress as a stand alone bill. But I do know that if Senate Minority Leader McConnell and and the future House Speaker McCarthy are not excited about moving forward any federal marijuana reform legislation, then no such legislation will move forward in the next Congress. And, as political prognosticators know, there is a pretty good chance that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could become Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come January 2025. Thus, an oppositional Senator McConnell could very well scuttle any federal cannabis reform efforts for the next four years and maybe longer.
That said, Prez Biden and his agencies can possibly move forward with reforms under the CSA without Congress involved. And, like the research bill that became law recently, there may be smaller reforms (included needed criminal justice measures) that Senator McConnell and other marijuana skeptics may not aggressively oppose. And, with the red states of Oklahoma and Ohio possibly embracing full legalization in 2023, the broad politics here are always in flux. So, I do not think that all is lost with federal reform even as the plans and paths get much less certain.
Of course, 23 months ago, when Prez Biden was picking his cabinet and the Democrats won the Georgia run-offs to take control of the Senate, many believed federal marijuana reforms coming from a Democratic-controlled Congress would be right around the corner. Fast forward to the end of 2022, and Congress in a few weeks will no longer be controlled entirely by Democrats, and they have remarkably little to show on cannabis reform for their time in full control.
Monday, December 5, 2022
I was intrigued and pleased to see that the cover story of the latest issue (December/January 2022-2023) of the ABA Journal is all about cannabis lawyering. This new piece is headlined "Lawyers are lighting up the budding cannabis industry: Justice Cannabis Co. is one of the biggest of the little guys in the rough-and-tumble, fast-paced and legally treacherous world of marijuana growing and selling."
Becuase I do not see too many really good pieces broadly reviewing the state of cannabis lawyering, I was a little disappointed that the ABAJ article is almost entirely about the practice and experience of lawyers involved with Justice Cannabis. Still, the ABAJ piece is an interesting read that covers a good bit of marijuana law along the way. Here is an excerpt:
As of early February, 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia permitted the medical use of cannabis products. And as of November, 21 states, two territories and D.C. had approved cannabis for adult nonmedical use.
The cannabis industry generated $25 billion in revenues from legal sales in 2021 and employs more than 400,000 people nationwide. It was expected to reach $32 billion in annual sales in 2022 and could exceed $50 billion by 2030.
It can be a lucrative and fascinating area of practice, according to attorneys such as William Bogot of Fox Rothschild, who left the Illinois Gaming Board to take on cannabis work. It also can be frightening, says Lisa Dickinson of the Dickinson Law Firm in Spokane, Washington, who is chair of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section's Cannabis Law and Policy Committee. “It's still the wild, wild west,” she says.
The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the production, distribution, sale, use or possession of cannabis--which is classified alongside heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug with a high likelihood of addiction and no safe dose. The federal statute provides no exception for medical or other uses authorized or regulated by state law. The penalties for some offenses are severe. The rapid bifurcation of state and federal law has woven deep contradictions into the legal system and American society, and it has created a thorny dilemma for cannabis businesses and the attorneys they need to help them.
For attorneys, there are two issues that have a chilling effect on their participation: The first is whether by representing a business that is breaking federal law they are violating the ethics of the profession, which could cost them their license to practice; the second is they could be charged with engaging in criminal activity, resulting in fines and prison.
Sunday, December 4, 2022
New reporting by Axios and Politico suggest that US Senators on both sides of the aisle are working to get notable marijjuana reform measures included in this year's (must-pass) National Defense Authorization Act. The Politico piece, headlined "Senators push for SAFE Banking in defense bill," starts this way:
A landmark bill that would make it easier for banks and other financial institutions to service the cannabis industry could finally be poised for passage. The SAFE Banking Act could be included in the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to take up next week.
Republican senators had a “productive” meeting about the legislation on Thursday with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told POLITICO. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said he "hopes" it is in the NDAA.
The final decision is likely to be made on Monday, when the House Rules Committee meets to tee up the compromise version of the NDAA for a vote on the House floor as early as Tuesday. A final version of the defense bill was expected to be filed Friday, but has been delayed as House and Senate leaders iron out last-minute issues around what outside bills should be attached.
The Axios piece adds these details:
The targeted legislation is the result of the pairing of two bills —Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act—that would attract both conservatives and progressives across Congress.
The latest changes to the bill ensure that the legislation does not unintentionally make it harder for law enforcement to prosecute other crimes involving other drugs or money laundering.
Schumer and the bipartisan group plan to attach this legislation to a must-pass year-end bill like the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
Schumer and Sen. Jeff Merkley have been working with Republicans for months, including Sens. Steve Daines, Rand Paul, and Dan Sullivan.
Friday, December 2, 2022
As reported in this Marijuana Moment piece, "President Joe Biden has officially signed a marijuana research bill into law, making history by enacting the first piece of standalone federal cannabis reform legislation in U.S. history." Here is more:
The bill cleared the House in April and the Senate last month, and a White House spokesperson confirmed to Marijuana Moment that the president intended to sign it. On Friday, he did just that.
The law gives the U.S. attorney general 60 days to either approve a given application or request supplemental information from the marijuana research applicant. It also creates a more efficient pathway for researchers who request larger quantities of cannabis....
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD) sponsored the House version of the research legislation, which is substantively identical to a Senate bill from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that previously cleared that chamber....
The four co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus — Blumenauer and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Brian Mast (R-FL) — released a joint statement following the president’s signing.
“For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws,” they said. “The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis.”...
In a press release, Schatz said that “the medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits.” “Our new law will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options,” he said.
Blumenauer and Harris previously championed a separate cannabis research bill that advanced through their chamber in April. Unlike that legislation, however, the newly approved bill notably does not include a provision that scientists had welcomed that would have allowed researchers to access cannabis from state-legal dispensaries to study.
The research legislation further encourages the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines. One way it proposes doing so is by allowing accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration to cultivate their own cannabis for research purposes.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now mandated to approve applications to be manufacturers of marijuana-derived, FDA-approved drugs under the bill. Manufacturers will also be allowed to import cannabis materials to facilitate research into the plant’s therapeutic potential.
Another section requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look at the health benefits and risks of marijuana as well as policies that are inhibiting research into cannabis that’s grown in legal states and provide recommendations on overcoming those barriers.
The bill further states that it “shall not be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for a State-licensed physician to discuss” the risk and benefits of marijuana and cannabis-derived products with patients.
Monday, November 28, 2022
"Medical Cannabis and Autism Spectrum Disorder – Ohio's Marijuana Policy and its Intersection with the Historical Controversial Cannabis Treatment"
In a very busy semester, I have fallen a bit behind posting some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. I am hopeful about catching up in the days ahead, as I continue to relish the he chance to highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates. And the title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Lindsey Mead who is in the midst of her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is its abstract:
In the state of Ohio, medical marijuana is offered as a treatment option for many different illnesses and disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. However, one condition missing from this list of syndromes that may legally use medical marijuana as a form of treatment is autism spectrum disorder. This paper aims to understand why autism spectrum disorder is not included in this list while also analyzing relevant present legislation such as House Bill 60 and Senate Bill 261. To answer these questions, this paper examines the benefits of treating autism with medical marijuana as well as the reasoning for why this treatment has been perceived so negatively.
Sunday, November 20, 2022
This notable new five-page Congressional Research Service report titled "Does the President Have the Power to Legalize Marijuana?". Here is how it gets started:
Marijuana and other products derived from the cannabis plant are regulated under both federal and state law. In recent years, a significant divide has developed between federal and state regulation. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is strictly regulated and may not legally be used for medical or recreational purposes. In contrast, a substantial majority of states have relaxed state law prohibitions on medical or recreational marijuana.
The fall of 2022 saw two key developments in federal and state marijuana regulation. In October 2022, President Joe Biden granted clemency to certain low-level federal marijuana offenders and directed the Attorney General to review the status of marijuana under federal law. While some observers consider President Biden’s grant of clemency to represent a significant change in federal marijuana policy, as a legal matter it did little to alter the growing disparity between federal and state marijuana regulation. Then, in November 2022, voters in five states considered ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana at the state level, two of which were adopted. Legislators and commentators have proposed a number of legal reforms that would alter federal marijuana regulation and potentially reduce the divergence between federal and state law.
This Legal Sidebar provides an overview of the legal status of marijuana under federal and state law, then discusses recent developments including the grant of clemency for federal marijuana possession offenses and November 2022 state ballot initiatives related to marijuana. The Sidebar concludes with an overview of selected legislative proposals related to marijuana.
This CRS document is dated November 16, 2022, so it only makes a brief reference/link to the federal research bill that was passed by Congress on that very day, the "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act." As of this writing (Nov 20, 2022), that bill is still awaiting the President's signature.
Friday, November 18, 2022
"Association of Recreational Cannabis Legalization With Alcohol Use Among Adults in the US, 2010 to 2019"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new article just published in JAMA Health Forum. This research was authored by Vandana Macha, Rahi Abouk and Coleman Drake. Here is its abstract:
Importance In the US, cannabis use has nearly doubled during the past decade, in part because states have implemented recreational cannabis laws (RCLs). However, it is unclear how legalization of adult-use cannabis may affect alcohol consumption.
Objective To estimate the association between implementation of state RCLs and alcohol use among adults in the US.
Design, Settings, and Participants This was a cross-sectional study of 4.2 million individuals who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2010 to 2019. A difference-in-differences approach with demographic and policy controls was used to estimate the association between RCLs and alcohol use, overall and by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and educational level. Data analyses were performed from June 2021 to March 2022.
Exposures States with RCLs, as reported by the RAND−University of Southern California Schaeffer Opioid Policy Tools and Information Center.
Main Outcomes and Measures Past-month alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking.
Results Of 4.2 million respondents (median age group, 50-64 years; 2 476 984 [51.7%] women; 2 978 467 [58.3%] non-Hispanic White individuals) in 2010 through 2019, 321 921 individuals lived in state-years with recreational cannabis laws. Recreational cannabis laws were associated with a 0.9 percentage point (95% CI, 0.1-1.7; P = .02) increase in any alcohol drinking but were not significantly associated with binge or heavy drinking. Increases in any alcohol use were primarily among younger adults (18-24 years) and men, as well as among non-Hispanic White respondents and those without any college education. A 1.4 percentage point increase (95% CI, 0.4-2.3; P = .006) in binge drinking was also observed among men, although this association diminished over time.
Conclusions and Relevance This cross-sectional study and difference-in-differences analysis found that recreational cannabis laws in the US may be associated with increased alcohol use, primarily among younger adults and men.