Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Student presentation on "Regulatory Frameworks States Have Developed for Edibles"

As students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar continue "taking over" my class by making presentations on research topics of their choice, I will continue providing in this space background on their topics and links to relevant materials they provide.  The last of three presentations this week will focus on the (always hot) topic of edibles, and here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided:
 
For my paper, I'll be looking at the regulatory frameworks states have developed for edibles.  After some background on edibles and their significance to the marijuana industry, I'll discuss the varying levels regulations that states have employed.  Then I discuss the three major types of regulations for edibles: (1) testing; (2) packaging and labeling; and (3) THC content.  Finally, I conclude by assessing the effectiveness of each type and making my own recommendations for moving forward.
 
For background, please see the resources below:

Alice G. Walton, Is Eating Marijuana Really Riskier than Smoking It?, FORBES (June 4, 2014).

Jeff Rossen & Jovanna Billington, Rossen Reports Update: Edible Marijuana That Looks Like Candy Is Sending Kids to the ER, TODAY (Sept. 16, 2017).

Robert J. MacCoun & Michelle M. Mello, Half-Baked--The Retail Promotion of Marijuana Edibles, 372 NEW ENG. J. MED. 989 (2015).

Mike Montgomery, Edibles Are the Next Big Thing for Pot Entrepreneurs, FORBES (July 19, 2017).

Ryan Vandrey et al., Cannabinoid Dose and Label Accuracy in Edible Medical Cannabis Products, 313 JAMA 2491-93 (2015).

Daniel G. Barrus et al., Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles, RTI PRESS 6 (Nov. 2016).

April 9, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

"Charlotte Figi, 13-year-old Coloradan whose CBD journey inspired medical marijuana reform, dies of COVID-19"

This is really sad

Charlotte Figi, the young Colorado Springs girl whose battle with Dravet syndrome inspired changes to medical marijuana laws, has died of complications from the coronavirus, according to a nonprofit organization co-founded by her mother. She was 13 years old.

Realm of Caring, the nonprofit that focuses on medical cannabis research and education, attributed Figi’s death to “COVID-19 complications” in a Facebook post. A message posted to the Facebook page of Charlotte’s mother, Paige Figi, on behalf of the Figi family says, “Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever.”

Neither El Paso County nor state health officials have publicly announced the death of a 13-year-old Coloradan due to COVID-19; Charlotte would be the youngest person to date to die in Colorado in connection with the coronavirus.

Charlotte was one of Colorado’s many medical marijuana refugees, whose family moved to the state following the legalization of cannabis. From the time she was an infant, she suffered from frequent and severe seizures because of Dravet syndrome, including many that required hospitalization. But at age 5, Paige Figi gave her cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis known more commonly as CBD, and Charlotte’s condition changed overnight.

 

April 8, 2020 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Student presentation exploring "Intersectionality of Sports and Marijuana"

As I mentioned in this recent post, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are now "taking over" my class by making presentations on research topics of their choice. The COVID-19 crisis means my resilient students are doing their presenting online,  and students are still providing in this space background on their topic and links to some relevant materials before they present.  Another coming presentation will focus on sports (remember those?), and here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided:

For my paper, I will be discussing the intersectionality of Sports and Marijuana.  I will primarily focus on athletes, both past and present, being used as a vehicle in leading the charge for reforming marijuana in their respective sports, but also in America.  Athletes of past have had influences on a variety of societal issues and inequalities, and I will compare some of the past actions to how athletes of today can affect marijuana.  I will also focus on the new agreements in both the MLB and NFL regarding their stance on marijuana, and what impact that will have on the reformation of sports.  I will conclude my paper by predicting what the future of sports’ stance will have on the reformation of America.  Below are a few links I’ve read over which I will be using in my paper:

"Politics and Sports: A Long and Complicated Relationship"

"If you thought sports were ever separate from politics, think again"

"'All my best games I was medicated': Matt Barnes on his game-day use of marijuana"

"Miami Heat: Sports, Race and the Murder of Trayvon Martin"

April 8, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Pandemic upends pot legalization: Ballot campaigns and cannabis bills get pushed aside during public health crisis"

Download (8)The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Politico article, and here are excerpts:

What was supposed to be a banner year for marijuana legalization is becoming a bust.

Advocates are pushing ballot referendums in nearly a dozen states, from Idaho to New Jersey. Governors and state lawmakers who failed to pass legalization last year — most notably in New York — vowed that 2020 would be different. But social distancing has put ballot drives on pause and state lawmakers are overwhelmed with addressing the crisis at hand.

“People are scared. They don’t want to touch a pen or paper,” said Melissa Fults, executive director of Arkansans for Cannabis Reform. “All we can do is sit and wait.”

So even with marijuana sales spiking, the coronavirus pandemic is crippling marijuana legalization efforts on the state level — and campaigns on all kinds of other issues, too. “The coronavirus has impacted every signature drive on every issue across the country,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.

Even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who declared that marijuana legalization would be a “top priority” earlier this year, abandoned the initiative when his state emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. “Too much [to deal with], too little time,” Cuomo said when asked about marijuana legalization during a recent press briefing.

A few states are poised to vote on marijuana referendums: New Jersey voters will decide whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in November, and Mississippians are expected to face two competing medical marijuana referendums.

But some ballot campaigns have abandoned this year’s plans and are eyeing 2022, and advocates are unsure what will happen to legalization bills with dozens of legislative sessions suspended or postponed. Even anti-legalization advocates are not cheering these developments. “Obviously this isn’t the reason we would want legalization measures to be set back,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “Lives are on the line.”

Nearly a dozen marijuana legalization ballot campaigns were angling for a spot on the 2020 ballot until coronavirus-related orders made it nearly impossible for canvassers to collect signatures. "[Circulating petitions] contributes to the public health problem," said Schweich. "There’s no playbook on how to do a signature drive during a pandemic."

Of all the legalization ballot campaigns still collecting signatures, Smart and Safe Arizona is perhaps the best positioned to succeed. It filed early and collected more than 300,000 signatures to date, well beyond the 238,000 verified signatures it needs by July 2 to qualify. Ballot campaigns typically submit more than the required number of signatures since a good portion generally can’t be verified by government officials. “Marijuana is in very good shape even with the lockdown order. We’d like to collect more,” said Stacy Pearson, a spokesperson for the campaign.

For other campaigns facing July deadlines, including Arkansas and Nebraska, advocates hope to get back out in the field in May. “[We] had already started hiring canvassers when this whole coronavirus thing happened,” said Tommy Garrett, a former Republican state senator in Nebraska who now serves as chairman of ADOPT, a statewide coalition that aims to reduce state property taxes and legalize medical marijuana....

The Arizona campaign recently joined three other ballot initiatives in filing a petition to the Arizona Supreme Court to allow them to use e-signatures. Advocates are looking into whether they can email people to find out if they are willing to sign a petition if it were dropped off outside their front door so they could use their own pens to sign it. The person could then leave the signed petition outside their door to be collected.

Arkansans for Cannabis Reform plans to work with two other campaigns on separate issues to help each other. The idea is to have canvassers for each campaign carry the petitions for all three signature drives. They’re discussing ways to safely collect signatures, such as having people drive up to canvassers to sign a petition while remaining in their cars. “We’re just going to have to get really creative,” Fults said.

Meanwhile, other recreational legalization campaigns are all but dead, including those in Missouri and Oklahoma. Medical marijuana legalization campaigns in Idaho and North Dakota have both expressed plans to focus their efforts on making the 2022 ballot instead.

"Coronavirus is taking up all the oxygen in the room," said Andrew Freedman, senior vice president at the public affairs firm Forbes Tate Partners. "People are just going to go home when all the essential business is passed." States with marijuana bills including Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut all shifted their priorities as coronavirus cases surged....

Some advocates are hoping the crisis bodes well for legalization efforts in the long run, as states face revenue decimated by the crisis. "[Cannabis businesses] are taxed heavily,” said Richard Acosta, CEO of Subversive Real Estate Acquisition REIT, a cannabis-focused real estate investment operation. “The economic slowdown makes cannabis legalization at the state and federal level more attractive.”

Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Scott Fetgatter recently said he plans to introduce legislation to establish a taxed, regulated recreational marijuana market, arguing it could bring in $100 million per year in revenue and help with a budget crunch expected because of the health crisis.

But until the worst is over, lawmakers likely will be consumed with more urgent matters. Legislative leaders in Connecticut, who had been discussing marijuana legalization matters with Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont, are now working with the governor on a coronavirus stimulus package. The session has been postponed until at least April 13.

A medical marijuana legalization bill was chugging along in Kentucky’s legislature with a 65-30 vote in the Republican-dominated House. Now, the bill is languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee as the legislature swerved to deal with the state budget amid the coronavirus crisis.

Some prior COVID-cannabis related posts:

April 8, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Student presentation on "Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana, or 'High Driving'"

As I mentioned in this recent post, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are now "taking over" my class by making presentations on research topics of their choice. Though the COVID-19 crisis means my resilient students are doing their presenting to the class online, going online has been going pretty well so far.   

As regular readers know, students provide in this space a little background on their topic and links to some relevant materials before they present.  Our first presentation planned for this week will focus on marijuana-influenced driving, and here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):

Marijuana legalization proponents quite often compare marijuana use to that of alcohol, claiming that alcohol consumption is far more dangerous, especially when a vehicle is involved.  Legalization dissenters, on the other hand, often make the argument that legalization would lead to rampant use and, inevitably, increases in traffic fatalities and damages as the result of people driving while stoned.  The aim of my class presentation and paper is to explore three topics related to Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana, or, as I like to call it, "High Driving": (1) Marijuana’s effect on driving ability, (2) The different state approaches to testing and prosecuting High Driving, and (3) what research shows about the relationship between the different legal marijuana regimes, the prevalence of High Driving, and the resulting consequences.

For background on these three interrelated topics, please reference the resources below:

"It’s High Time: A Common Sense Approach To Marijuana-Impaired Driving"

"Crash Fatality Rates After Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Washington and Colorado"

"The effects of medical marijuana laws on cannabis-involved driving"

"Drug Impaired Driving/Marijuana Drug-Impaired Driving Laws" (slightly out of date)

"Marijuana Use and Highway Safety"

April 7, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Student presentation on the very timely topic of "The Legal and Regulatory Framework for Marijuana Delivery"

As long-time readers know and as I mentioned in this recent post, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this time of year typically "take over" my class by making in-class presentations on research topics of their choice. This year, of course, the COVID-19 crisis has precluded in-person gatherings, but my resilient students are still hard at work on their projects and will be presenting to the class online.

Before presentations, students typically provide in this space a little background on their topic and links to some readings or relevant materials. The second of our presentations planned for this week will focus on the very timely topic of marijuana delivery rules, and here is how my student has described her topic along with background readings she has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):

The topic I am interested in is the legal and regulatory framework of marijuana delivery services. In states that allow recreational use, several companies have tried, with varying degrees of success, to start marijuana delivery services, like Postmates but for marijuana products. In terms of additional reading, here are a few suggestions:

April 2, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center conducting new survey on COVID-19 impacts on cannabis industry

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center has just created a short new survey intended to help explore how COVID-19 is impacting the cannabis industry.  The survey link is here, and this is the basic set up:

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges across the United States, the crisis continues to affect every aspect of the economy.  In response to the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act to provide relief to small businesses across the country.

However, the cannabis industry is ineligible for the act’s benefits due to federal prohibition.  In addition, the particular challenges that small and minority-owned cannabis businesses face were not addressed in the early discussions about the industry’s ability to persevere throughout the crisis.

We want to hear from you.

In an effort to learn more about the issues cannabis businesses and consumers are experiencing during the pandemic, and how government entities could best address these issues, DEPC has created a 3-minute survey.

Please complete and share our survey with your networks.

Take the survey

April 1, 2020 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Coronavirus Upends Marijuana, Psychedelics And Drug Reform Ballot Measures"

Download (26)The title of this post is the headline of this new Forbes piece by Tom Angell highlighting one way that the COVID-19 crisis seems certain to slow the drug law reform momentum heading into November.  Here are the details:

Marijuana and drug policy reform advocates came into 2020 believing it would be a big — and perhaps unprecedented — year for legalization and decriminalization measures on state ballots. From California to Missouri to Oregon, they had high hopes for placing far-reaching initiatives before voters in November.

But many of those efforts have been severely impeded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has made mass signature gathering to qualify ballot measures all but impossible as public health and government officials have urged social distancing measures.

Here’s a look at the growing list of ballot initiatives on cannabis and broader drug reforms that have been effectively halted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

California

Separate campaigns to amend California’s legal marijuana program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are calling on officials to allow them to collect ballot signatures digitally instead of in-person due to the health risks of the the latter traditional route amid the pandemic. So far those requests seem to have been ignored.

Missouri

Activists in Missouri announced that they have “no practical way” of collecting enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization measure before voters amid the pandemic and are now considering shifting their focus to the 2022 election.

Nebraska

A campaign working to qualify a medical cannabis measure for the November ballot is temporarily suspending signature gathering efforts during the coronavirus outbreak “out of an abundance of caution.”

Oregon

Activists behind a measure to decriminalize possession of all drugs and expand treatment services using current marijuana tax revenue has halted in-person signature collection efforts. That said, the campaign says it has almost enough to qualify and so is urging supporters to download, print, sign and mail petitions to help. Also in Oregon, a separate team of advocates working to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms has also suspended mass signature collection efforts despite similarly having almost enough to ensure ballot access. They are asking people who want to sign to fill out an online form so that petitions can be mailed to them.

Washington, D.C.

Activists in the nation’s capital were hoping to give voters a chance to decide on a measure to effectively decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics—including psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine — in November.  But they, like their colleagues in states across the country, have acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic makes in-person signature collection virtually impossible. They’ve asked for a change in the law to allow for electronic petition signing, but officials have demurred, and so the campaign is now exploring a plan to mail petitions to supporters who would then collect signatures from their immediate family members and close friends.

Beyond the ballot, the coronavirus outbreak has also impeded efforts to advance marijuana reform bills through state legislatures in place like Connecticut, New York and Vermont as sessions have been largely halted due to health concerns.

But ... in South Dakota, separate measures to legalize marijuana and allow medical cannabis have already qualified for the state’s November ballot.... In Mississippi, the state certified that advocates collected a sufficient number of signatures to place a medical marijuana legalization question before voters.... In New Jersey, the legislature voted late last year to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the November ballot.  And in Arizona, activists announced last week that they have already collected more signatures than needed to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the ballot — though they have not yet been submitted to and verified by the state.

This accounting leave out Ohio, where a campaign for full legalization of marijuana was just getting launched when COVID-19 started shutting down the state. I suspect still other states and localities may have had similar nascent efforts shut down as well.

March 31, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Starting student presentations with "Better Branding on the Big Screen: How the Marijuana Industry Can Use Product Placement to Build Increase Support"

3504As long-time readers know, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar typically "take over" my class after Spring Break week through in-class  presentations on the research topics of their choice.  This year, of course, the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted our usual plans by disrupting usual schedules and precluding in-person gatherings.  But, I am pleased and proud to now be able to report that my resilient students are still hard at work on their projects and will be presenting to the class online.

As long-time readers also should know, before presentations, students are expected to provide in this space a little background on their topic and links to some readings or relevant materials.  The first of our presentations taking place this week will focus on marijuana and media, as the title of this post highlights, and here is how my student has described his topic along with the background readings he has provided for his classmates (and the rest of us):

Reefer Madness is often credited for spreading anti-marijuana sentiment across the country.  Could modern movies depicting marijuana have the opposite effect?  This paper asks whether film can influence our opinions on marijuana use and legalization.  While evidence regarding marijuana specifically is sparse, other data shows that movies can affect the viewer’s opinion on a given topic.

If movies do have a persuasive effect, how can the marijuana industry harness this effect to build public support?  Luckily, a mechanism for doing so already exists: product placement. Many different companies (including tobacco companies) use already use product placement to produce a positive view of their products among consumers, subsequently leading to higher sales.  The marijuana industry can use “generic” product placement not to increase sales of a specific product, but to build a positive image of marijuana more generally.

My paper discusses legal and industry barriers that could prevent or minimize the industry’s ability to engage in product placement.  Taking these barriers into account, the industry must place its products strategically.  However, if done correctly, product placement would be a viable persuasive tool.

Marijuana Product Placement, Branding on the Rise as Marketing Execs Reimagine Legal Ganja: An article covering the recent trend of marijuana product placement in an attempt to portray marijuana use in more positive light. The basis of my paper and presentation is that this type of product placement can be used to help push public opinion to support for marijuana use.

Changing Real-World Beliefs with Controversial Movies: An article discussing how film effectively influences viewers’ attitudes and beliefs on a given topic and an analysis of a study attempting to quantify this effect.

Here’s Smoking At You, Kid: Has Tobacco Product Placement in the Movies Really Stopped?: Written just before the turn of the century, this law review article discusses the history of tobacco product placement in movies and possible ways to prohibit the practice.

High Art: The Subversive History of Stoner Comedies: An article discussing the marijuana-user community’s interactions with film, and how stoner comedies provided leading-role opportunities for minority actors even when the rest of Hollywood wouldn’t.

A Christmas Miracle: Washington Court Overturns Marijuana Sign Rules That Banned String Lights Spelling ‘Pot’: A Reason piece discussing a recent Washington state court decision concluding that marijuana advertising is “lawful activity” for the purposes of commercial speech.  The case is relevant because commercial speech only receives First Amendment protection if it concerns lawful activity.

‘Easy Rider’ at 50: How the Rebellious Road Movie Shook Up the System: a look back at Easy Rider’s impact on the filmmaking industry.

March 31, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Advocacy groups urge ceasing of cannabis arrests and release of cannabis offenders during COVID-19 outbreak

As detailed in this press release, the "Last Prisoner Project and other organizations are urging law enforcement officials to dramatically curtail arrests for non-violent crimes, including ceasing arrests for cannabis offenses. In addition to curtailing arrests, the organizations are calling for officials to release or grant clemency to those incarcerated for cannabis offenses along with dramatically reducing the number of incarcerated non-violent prisoners, whether sentenced or un-sentenced." Here is more:

The Marijuana Policy Project, Last Prisoner Project, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, National Cannabis Industry Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have sent a letter calling for these actions to the National District Attorneys Association, National Governors Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Chiefs of Police, National Correctional Industries Association, American Correctional Association, and AFSCME.

The letter is available at this link, and here are excerpts:

[W]e are imploring you to curtail arrests for non-violent offenses, such as marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale until the country is better able to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Similar actions have already been taken in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and nationally by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Many jurisdictions give police broad discretion to choose infractions and summonsed misdemeanors as alternatives to serious charges and arrests.  In addition, officers have wide discretion to merely provide warnings for minor offenses.  We encourage broad use of this flexibility in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition to curtailing arrests, we are urging you to release cannabis offenders, along with dramatically reducing the number of incarcerated non-violent prisoners, whether sentenced or un-sentenced.  By significantly reducing the number of inmates in local jails and prisons, you can ultimately reduce the risk of the coronavirus being spread amongst inmates, staff, and the community.  Guards return to their families and communities after their shifts, as do prisoners upon their release.  The larger the number of individuals incarcerated, the greater the likelihood and possible scope of a related outbreak.  This puts prisoners, guards, and the larger community at risk as the communities grapple with this public health crisis. Significantly reducing the number of inmates is a necessary step to ensuring public health in the face of this crisis.

Many localities — including Baltimore; Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; New Jersey; Los Angeles; and New York City — and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have already begun to release inmates incarcerated for non-violent, drug-related offenses with the understanding that infections in prisons and jails are rampant, and releasing inmates could save the lives of not only inmates but also the custodial, medical, and safety staff that serve them.

March 27, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cannabis finds its moment amid coronavirus outbreak"

CoronavirusandcannabisgraphicThe title of this post is the title of this notable new Politico piece.  Here are excerpts:

Cannabis is turning out to be the one thing the coronavirus can’t destroy.

Marijuana sales are booming, with some states seeing 20 percent spikes in sales as anxious Americans prepare to be hunkered down in their homes potentially for months. Weed sellers are staffing up too, hiring laid-off workers from other industries to meet demand. And in the midst of a historic market meltdown, stock prices for cannabis companies have surged, in some cases doubling since the public health crisis began.

“We are hiring because we are having to shift our business a bit,” said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, which is valued at $1 billion. The company is staffing up its delivery fleet, retail workers, and people to handle increased inventory shipments. “Now is a great time [to apply], particularly if you’re in a business that has seen layoffs.”

Nearly all of the 33 states with legal medical or recreational markets have classified marijuana businesses as an essential service, allowing them to remain open even as vast swaths of the retail economy are shuttered. San Francisco and Denver initially announced plans to shut down dispensaries, but immediately backpedaled after a public furor.

Weed shops are essentially being treated the same as pharmacies, reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural perceptions about the drug over the last decade. “It is a recognition that it has taken on much greater significance around the country,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime Capitol Hill champion for cannabis. “This is something that makes a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day. I do think that this might be part of a turning point.“

Concerns about whether smoking pot is the smartest response to a pandemic that’s causing severe lung injuries in tens of thousands of Americans have been largely drowned out. "Public opinion has pushed lawmakers to think about cannabis — and particularly medical cannabis — in different ways than they used to," said John Hudak, a cannabis policy expert at the Brookings Institution, and author of Marijuana: A Short History. "A lot of state policymakers are trying to get this right and they obviously see the risk of shutting down a dispensary to be higher than the rewards of shutting down a dispensary."...

The burgeoning industry does face some stiff financial headwinds: The massive stimulus package moving through Congress this week to help beleaguered businesses shuts out cannabis companies from taking advantage of its benefits, reflecting the continued federal illegality of marijuana. Prior to the recent boom in sales, the industry had been in financial turmoil, with many companies laying off workers and scuttling acquisitions as they ran short on cash. “I'm frustrated Senate Republicans refused to allow us to include them in this legislation, but we aren't giving up," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Wednesday.

In addition, some medical experts question the wisdom of allowing uninhibited access to marijuana during a massive public health crisis. They worry that customers flocking to pot shops could spread the virus, that stoned customers will engage in risky behavior and that smoking pot will worsen the lung damage for people who do become infected. “If you keep the pot stores open, you're just adding fuel to the fire,” said Karen Randall, an emergency room doctor in Colorado. “You're having a whole bunch of people who are trashing their lungs.”...

The federal government said Thursday that a staggering 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. While the cannabis industry can’t do much to remedy that bloodletting, some companies are looking to hire people who have recently lost their jobs. Harborside — which operates three shops in the Bay Area — found itself suddenly understaffed as delivery requests increased by 45 percent and phone calls exploded from around 100 to 8,000 per day.... Harborside has hired 10 employees in the last few weeks — some of whom were directly laid off as a result of the coronavirus — and plans to hire at least six more. The largest increase was in their delivery fleet, going from four drivers to 10.

And they’re not alone. “Two and a half weeks ago, our sales just exploded,” said Zachary Pitts, CEO of California cannabis delivery service Ganja Goddess. “People are leaning on delivery more now … even though storefronts are still open in California.” Pitts estimated that he’s increased his workforce by about 15 percent in recent weeks, and is working on hiring more. The company has suspended normal vetting processes and is instead relying on trusted referrals....

As states move to declare marijuana an essential business, the gulf between state and federal policy has never been wider. Congress is poised to enact a $2 trillion stimulus package this week, but the cannabis industry will not see a cent. “In the same way that cocaine dealers in the United States who are suffering under Covid-19 are not going to be eligible for relief under the stimulus bill, cannabis companies won't either,” said Hudak of the Brookings Institution. “Illegal businesses do not access legal funding.”

The cannabis industry generated $15 billion in sales last year and employs 340,000 people. Employers and workers pay federal taxes, and are required to comply with other coronavirus-related measures such as paid sick leave coverage. But for cannabis companies to access assistance made available through the stimulus package, Congress or the administration would need to dictate their inclusion. A spokesperson for Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he wants to include such a provision in a future coronavirus aid package. Similarly, Murray said she is “exploring what can be done in the upcoming appropriations process to help them through this crisis and beyond."

March 27, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

In a post-COVID economy, will job creation and tax revenue from marijuana reform become irresistible?

6b8d8e30-6f74-11ea-a7be-e45c6843ab56Even before we have a real handle on the public health tragedy created by the coronavirus in the US, the economic fallout is already profound as represented by just one headline this morning: "A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy."  The Chair of the Federal Reserve is now saying "We may well be in a recession,” and the Treasury Secretary has been talking about a possible 20% unemployment rate.  Though I do not know how extreme will be our economic struggle in the weeks and month ahead, I do know that advocates for marijuana reform are likely to waste no time stressing the potential job creation and tax revenue benefits from marijuana reform.  As this title of this post suggests, I cannot help but wonder if in many states, and maybe even at the federal level, an economic development argument for marijuana reform may start to become nearly irresistible.

I do not have the time right now to do a comprehensive review of pre-COVID press pieces and articles and reports making much of the varied potential economic benefits of marijuana reform.  But this haphazard collection of titles and links provides a flavor for what I expect we will be hearing a lot from marijuana reform advocates in the weeks and months ahead:

"The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed"

"Cannabis Is Becoming A Huge Job Creator"

"Using Marijuana Revenue to Create Jobs"

"Legal Marijuana Is A Boon To The Economy, Finds Study"

"Why Legalizing Marijuana Could Give the U.S. Economy a Big Boost"

"The Economic Effects of the Marijuana Industry in Colorado"

"The National Cannabis Economy"

"The marijuana industry looks like the fastest-growing job market in the country"

"The Other Green Jobs: Legal Marijuana and the Promise of Consumption-Driven Economic Development"

UPDATE:  I just saw this new Yahoo Finance article headlined "Coronavirus could accelerate US cannabis legalization."  Here are excerpts:

DataTrek Research’s Jessica Rabe writes in a note, “there’s a simple and effective solution for states and cities to help cover their huge budget shortfalls after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides: legalize recreational sales of marijuana.”...

“We’ve been thinking a lot about how life will change post-virus, and one big difference will be that state and local governments are going to encounter large unexpected tax receipt shortages,” Rabe wrote.  “That’s particularly true when it comes to sales and income taxes amid stressed consumer balance sheets and massive layoffs. And unlike the Federal government, states can’t print unlimited amounts of money.”

Legalization of cannabis for adults, Rabe points out, could be a really easy way to shore up tax basis without driving people out of state, as raising income tax might do. Already it has been successful at raising “hundreds of millions of dollars annually in states like Colorado,” she said. 

March 26, 2020 in Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noticing post-reform pattern of federal marijuana prosecutions ... and realizing what it really tells us about the modern drug war

Screen-Shot-2020-03-24-at-7.30.34-AM-1024x668Over at my sentencing blog, I noted here that the US Sentencing Commission this week released its national yearly data on federal sentencing for Fiscal Year 2019.  I am extremely pleased to see that Kyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment has already drilled into this data in this post titled "Feds Prosecuted Even Fewer Marijuana Cases In 2019 As More States Legalize, New Data Shows."  Here are excerpts:

Federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking declined again in 2019, and drug possession cases overall saw an even more dramatic decline, according to a new report published by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Monday.

While drug cases still represent the second most common category of crimes in the federal criminal justice system, the data indicates that the bulk of those instances are related to methamphetamine trafficking, which has steadily increased over the past decade.

But for marijuana, a different kind of trend has emerged.  As more states have moved to legalize cannabis, federal prosecutions have consistently declined since 2012.   To illustrate the shift, marijuana trafficking cases represented the most common drug type that was pursued in 2012, with about 7,000 cases.  As of fiscal year 2019, those cases are now the second least common, with fewer than 2,000 cases.

Notably, the year of that peak, 2012, was when Colorado and Washington State became the first to legalize for recreational purposes.  Though the report doesn’t attempt to explain why cannabis cases are on the decline, advocates have postulated that state-level marijuana reform has helped curb illicit trafficking by creating a regulated market for consumers to obtain the products. “Twenty-five percent of the public now live in jurisdictions where the sale of marijuana to adults is legal,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Of course there will be a corresponding drop in the number of illegal sales.”

Another possibility is that evolving public opinion and state policies have contributed to a shift in perspective among prosecutors, who may no longer wish to prioritize enforcing cannabis prohibition in the era of legalization.  While all marijuana sales — even in states with legalization laws — remain federally prohibited, the Trump administration has in practice continued the Obama-era approach of generally not interfering with the implementation of local policies even though then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally rescinded a memo on the topic from the prior administration.

In any case, the new U.S. Sentencing Commission report also shows a broader decline in drug possession cases in general. In fact, the most significant reduction in crime category for 2019 was drug possession, which fell from 777 federal cases the previous year down to 563 — a 28 percent drop....  While marijuana trafficking cases decreased, the average sentence for a conviction increased by two months, from 29 to 31.  Overall, drug trafficking prosecutions did increase by about 1,000 cases in 2019, though again that’s largely attributable to an increase in methamphetamine-related prosecutions.

This discussion of new federal data — particularly the notion that state-level marijuana reforms "helped curb illicit trafficking by creating a regulated market for consumers to obtain the products — elides the important reality that ALL state-legal marijuana stores are stilled engaged in "illicit trafficking" under federal law.  I stress this point because there are more than 10,000 federally-illegal (and state-licensed) marijuana businesses in just the states of California and Oklahoma alone.  Save for limits in a spending rider (which Prez Trump has sought to disavow), the US Department of Justice could decide to prosecute many thousands of the out-in-the-open marijuana dealers (most of whom have given states all their marijuana dealing plans in writing in order to get a state license).

I make this point because I mean to stress that the major decline in federal marijuana prosecutions over the last decade does not demonstrate that there are fewer federal marijuana crimes taking place in the US.  Rather, it seems clear that there are now many more, and many more obvious, federal marijuana crimes taking place in the US, and there is also reason to fear that "fully illicit" marijuana activity (dealing that does not even comply with state laws) may not be in decline in any way.  And yet we see this marked decline in federal marijuana prosecutions simply because federal prosecutors, quite soundly in my view, simply believe it is an ever-less-good use of their time to be prosecuting all the marijuana offenders who continue to grow their drug-dealing businesses in plain view.  

March 26, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

New Brookings paper envisions a "Cannabis Opportunity Agenda"

2020At Brookings, Makada Henry-Nickie and John Hudak have this interesting new brief as part of  its "Policy 2020" series titled "It is time for a Cannabis Opportunity Agenda." Here is the paper's executive summary:

The 2020 election season will be a transformative time for cannabis policy in the United States, particularly as it relates to racial and social justice.  Candidates for the White House and members of Congress have put forward ideas, policy proposals, and legislation that have changed the conversation around cannabis legalization.  The present-day focus on cannabis reform highlights how the War on Drugs affected targeted communities and how reform could ameliorate some of those wrongs.  The national conversation on cannabis stands at a pivotal inflection point that provides policymakers and legislators with an extraordinary opportunity to establish a policy context wherein inclusive economic opportunities can thrive in tandem with responsible investments to redress longstanding harms.

When Congress works to remedy a discriminatory past or to rectify decades of institutionalized bias, it has an obligation to thoroughly consider implicit and explicit hurdles to equity.  Nowhere is this deliberation more critical than in drug policy reform.  For decades, the criminalization of drugs led to foreclosed opportunities for people of color who were disproportionately victimized by unequal criminal enforcement.  In 2013, police officers were 3.73 times more likely to arrest people of color for cannabis possession than whites.  Arrest disparities were even more egregious in some communities where Blacks were 8.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession.  The racist roots of the War on Drugs inflicted significant collateral damage on minority groups, saddling young men and women of color with drug convictions — often before age 30 — and setting them on a course of institutionalized disadvantage because of the crippling, collateral consequences of criminal records.

Today, amidst a thriving state-legal cannabis industry, the same people hurt most by the drug war face the greatest barriers to participating in the emerging cannabis economy.  As elected officials consider how to reform the nation’s cannabis laws and rectify these serious socioeconomic and racial issues, they must erase any ambiguity about the protections, corrective actions, and inclusive opportunities intended to reverse the generation-long ills of the War on Drugs.  We argue that 2020 is an opportune moment to design a comprehensive pragmatic Cannabis Opportunity Agenda: a set of policies that addresses the social harms of marijuana prohibition and seeks to rehabilitate impacted communities with a focus on equity, opportunity, and inclusion.

March 25, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advocacy groups urge governors to ensure "medical cannabis patients do not experience disrupted access to crucial medicine" during COVID crisis

I just saw that, earlier this week, an array of advocacy groups sent this short letter to the National Governors Association headed "Emergency Call To Action To Governors In States With Medical Cannabis Programs." Here is the heart of the letter (which also attaches a similar letter from last week from Americans for Safe Access):

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the undersigned national drug policy, HIV/AIDS, and public health organizations write to all U.S. governors and medical cannabis program directors to amplify a letter sent last week by the nation’s leading medical cannabis and patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA).  We are joining their call for necessary, immediate actions and safeguards to ensure that medical cannabis patients do not experience disrupted access to crucial medicine.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis laws enacted and, cumulatively, these states serve over three million patients.  Medical cannabis patients often live with debilitating ailments, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain that significantly affect quality of life.  It is critical that policymakers and other decision makers who are working to address the current COVID-19 pandemic are also considering the public health consequences that will follow the decision to abruptly interrupt the legal supply chain for medical cannabis patients.  We are especially worried about vulnerable patients being unintentionally pushed to the unregulated market, where there will not be access to lab-tested, tightly controlled products.  This could endanger the health of those who rely on cannabis as medicine.

The undersigned organizations -- who support research and access to medical cannabis -- join ASA in calls for the recognition of medical cannabis as necessary medicine and for the recommendations below to be implemented to ensure that patients’ access to medicinal cannabis will continue.

March 25, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Just some of the latest headlines highlighting how COVID-19 is changing the marijuana reform world

I suspect regular readers have an inkling for why I have not blogged in this space for a few weeks.  For this blogger, the new coronavirus world has meant a lot more time spent rescuing kids from shuttered colleges, gearing up for online classes, and lots of blogging at Sentencing Law & Policy about the impact of the virus on our criminal justice systems.  Because a lot of organizations and journalists spend a lot of time covering marijuana news, I have not tried to keep up here with all the ways in which the COVID-19 is changing the marijuana reform world.

That all said, I think it useful to keep up with news in this space, if only to document how this historical moment is being captured in news stories and headlines.  So, as social distancing turns into lockdowns and as stimulus package proposals get closer to becoming law, here is a sampling:

From Boston.com, "Charlie Baker order lets medical marijuana shop stay open, but shuts down recreational sales"

From Business Insider, "Cannabis site Leafly just laid off nearly 40% of its workforce as coronavirus upends the marijuana industry"

From CNN Business, "Cannabis advocates to governors: Our businesses are 'essential'"

From Forbes, "Coronavirus Crisis Shows Marijuana Is ‘Essential’ And Mainstream"

From MLive, "Michigan is smoking more marijuana than any other state during coronavirus pandemic, survey says"

From Marijuana Business Daily, "Coronavirus outbreak could delay marijuana legalization along East Coast, other states"

From Marijuana Business Daily, "Adult-use cannabis sales plunge after briefly hitting new heights on coronavirus concerns"

From Marijuana Moment, "Marijuana Industry Pleads For Access To Federal Coronavirus Business Relief"

From Marijuana Moment, "Nebraska Medical Marijuana Campaign Suspended Due To Coronavirus"

From Westworld, "Ask a Stoner: Quarantining Proves We Should Grow Our Own"

UPDATEThese topics made the New York Times this afternoon: "Is Marijuana an ‘Essential’ Like Milk or Bread? Some States Say Yes"

March 24, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Terrific coverage at CCRC on "Legalizing marijuana and expunging records across the country"

Regular readers know that I am always interested in marijuana reform impacts criminal justice systems, and that I am particularly interested in topics covered in my Federal Sentencing Reporter article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," regarding how marijuana reform efforts may be impacting criminal record expungement efforts.  Consequently, I was terrifically excited to see this new post and resource from the terrific Collateral Consequences Resource Center authored by Deputy Director David Schlussel under the title "Legalizing marijuana and expunging records across the country."

Readers are urged to check out the full posting and materials, and this snippet from the start of the post provides a flavor of why:

As the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana has now reached a majority of the states, the expungement of criminal records has finally attained a prominent role in the marijuana reform agenda.  Laws to facilitate marijuana expungement and other forms of record relief, such as sealing and set-aside, have now been enacted in more than a dozen states.  Most of these laws cover only very minor offenses involving small amounts of marijuana, and require individuals to file petitions in court to obtain relief.  But a handful of states have authorized streamlined record reforms that will do away with petition requirements and cover more offenses.  In the 2020 presidential race, Democratic candidates have called for wide-ranging and automatic relief for marijuana records.

Given these important developments that we expect will continue in the present legislative season, we have put together a chart providing a 50-state snapshot of:

(1) laws legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana; and

(2) laws that specifically provide relief for past marijuana arrests and convictions, including but not limited to conduct that has been legalized or decriminalized.

We hope this tool will help people assess the current state of marijuana reform and work to develop more expansive, accessible, and effective record relief.

March 12, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"Buds Behind Bars: An Analysis of People v. Raybon"

The title of this post is the title of this short piece just posted to SSRN authored by Heather Razook concerning a case currently pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. Here is its abstract:

In 2019, the first and third California Appellate courts both decided cases examining the same issue: whether proposition 64 decriminalized marijuana possession in state correctional institutions.  People v. Perry, from the first district, held that Prop 64 did not decriminalize and People v. Raybon, from the third district, held that Prop did decriminalize marijuana possession in correctional institutions.  The cases presented two exceptionally similar arguments with opposite outcomes.  This paper compares those arguments and predicts an outcome for People v. Raybon that is currently up for review in the California Supreme Court.

March 11, 2020 in Court Rulings, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coalition urges Prez Trump to "immediately being the process of granting clemency to those serving federal time for non-violent cannabis offenses"

Screen+Shot+2018-09-27+at+2.12.48+PMAs reported here by Marijuana Moment, a "coalition of criminal justice reform advocates — including several Republican officials and a major basketball star — recently delivered a letter to President Trump, imploring him to grant pardons or commutations to people serving time in federal prison for non-violent marijuana offenses." Here is more:

Weldon Angelos, who himself was convicted over cannabis and handed a mandatory minimum sentence before a court cut his sentence and released him, led the effort. He’s since become a reform advocate, and he rallied support for the new letter from a wide range of politicians, activists, entertainment figures and legal experts.

“On behalf of cannabis offenders serving federal prison sentences, their loved ones, and supporters across the country, we strongly urge you to immediately being the process of granting clemency to those serving federal time for non-violent cannabis offenses,” the letter, signed by several Republican state lawmakers, a former federal prosecutor, Koch Industries and NBA champion Kevin Garnett, among others, states. “Our nation’s view of cannabis has evolved, and it is indefensible to incarcerate citizens based on the unduly harsh attitudes of past generations.”

The letter, which was delivered to a staffer at the White House late last month, notes that Trump has expressed support for states’ rights to enact their own marijuana programs and it appeals to the president’s desire to accomplish unilaterally what Congress has been unable to do. “We respectfully urge you to begin the process of identifying and granting clemency to those serving federal time for cannabis offenses, particularly those who were prosecuted in states where cannabis is now legal. We stand by to help in any way possible.”

“[W]hile there are a number of proposals being introduced in Congress to finally put an end to cannabis prohibition, they tend to lack any real avenue of relief for those who are serving time for selling cannabis,” it continues. “Given the timidity of this proposed legislation, the gridlock in Congress, and the imperative fo freedom, clemency is the right tool to fix this problem.”

Angelos, who launched the cannabis reform advocacy campaign Mission Green, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that while comprehensive cannabis reform is important, the “more urgent need is to at least free those who were following state law or are in states where it’s legal now.”

“I think those ones are a no-brainer and low-hanging fruits that I think the president could take care of immediately,” he said. “Then we can work with Congress to try to have broader solutions to the problems than just clemency. Clemency can only do so much.”

Among the more than 50 signatories are two individuals whose sentences Trump previously commuted, along with representatives of #cut50, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Terra Tech Corp and Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Actor Danny Trejo and the New Haven police chief also signed the request.

March 10, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 7, 2020

"Implications of Cannabis Legalization on Juvenile Justice Outcomes and Racial Disparities"

Download (27)The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  Here is its abstract:

Introduction

The objective of this study is to assess the changes in rates of juvenile cannabis criminal allegations and racial disparities in Oregon after legalization of cannabis (July 2015) for adults.

Methods

This study included all allegations for cannabis-related offenses that occurred from January 2012 to September 2018 in Oregon.  Negative binomial regression models were used to examine monthly cannabis allegation rates over time, and tested differences between youth of color and white youth, adjusting for age, gender, and month the allegation occurred.  Analysis was conducted in January–March 2019.

Results

Cannabis allegation rates increased 28% among all youth and 32% among cannabis-using youth after legalization.  Rates of allegations were highest for American Indian/Alaska Native and black youth.  Rates for black youth were double that of whites before legalization, and this disparity decreased after legalization.  For American Indian/Alaska Native youth, rates were higher than whites before legalization, and this disparity remained unchanged.

Conclusions

Adult cannabis legalization in Oregon was associated with increased juvenile cannabis allegations; increases are not explained by changes in underage cannabis use. Relative disparities decreased for black youth but remained unchanged for American Indian/Alaska Native youth.  Changing regulations following adult cannabis legalization could have unintended negative impacts on youth.

The paper cites to this notable similar work published last year in JAMA Pediatrics titled "Youth and Adult Arrests for Cannabis Possession After Decriminalization and Legalization of Cannabis."  That study, looking at arrest data through 2016, found that "arrest rates of youths significantly decreased in states that decriminalized cannabis possession for everyone but did not decrease in states that legalized adult use."

Importantly, these studies are looking at arrest data only to and through a few years after state marijuana reforms.  I know Colorado experiences an interesting spike in juvenile marijuana arrests the year right after dispensaries opened, but then there was a notable decline in arrests thereafter.  These are important numbers, but I think we really need to keep examining them over a greater time period before  reaching any firm conclusions about enforcement patterns.

March 7, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)