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.

November 28, 2022 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

New CRS report (incompletely) reviews "Recent Developments in Marijuana Law" in Fall 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.

November 20, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

November 18, 2022 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

"President Biden's Pardons: What It Means for Cannabis and Criminal Justice Reform"

Bac4c356-7915-4767-bd62-7e39643a3eb3Though I have already flagged this event at my other blog, I wanted to be sure to highlight here this exciting webinar scheduled for next month (December 13 starting at 12noon), which is organized by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and the Last Prisoner Project.  Here is a bit of the backstory and the panel lineup:

On October 6th, 2022, President Biden issued a proclamation granting pardons to over 6,500 people with federal simple possession of marijuana offenses.  In an acknowledgment of the fact that the vast majority of cannabis convictions take place on the state level, President Biden simultaneously encouraged the country’s governors to use their clemency power to issue similar grants.  While the President’s executive actions are an unprecedented and important step forward, there is still much more work ahead to fully redress the harms of cannabis criminalization.

Please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and the Last Prisoner Project as we host a panel of experts to discuss how these pardons will affect people with cannabis convictions on their record, how states could act on the President's call, and what implications this may have for the future of cannabis and criminal justice reform in the United States.

Panelists:

Elizabeth G. Oyer, U.S. Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice

JaneAnne Murray, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the University of Minnesota Law School Clemency Project

Sarah Gersten, Executive Director and General Counsel, Last Prisoner Project

Moderator:

Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law; Executive Director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

November 17, 2022 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, November 16, 2022

Congress passes marijuana research bill, the "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act"

-1x-1With a Senate motion, the US Congress made some history today by passing a standalone piece of marijuana reform legislation.  Here are the basics from Politico:

The Senate passed a bill designed to expand medical marijuana research on Wednesday by unanimous consent. Passage of the legislation, which is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in their respective chambers, signaled a new era in federal cannabis policy: It’s the first standalone marijuana-related bill approved by both chambers of Congress.  The House passed the bill in July, also by unanimous consent.

The bill, which will make it easier for scientists to conduct medical marijuana research and protect doctors who discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using the drug with patients, now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk....

Passage of the medical research bill by unanimous consent signals that perceptions about marijuana are changing.  While expanded research is arguably the most conservative action Congress could take on marijuana, it is something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.  The bill came close to passing in September, but was held up by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Cornyn lifted the hold earlier this week.

“After working on the issue of cannabis reform for decades, finally the dam is starting to break,” Blumenauer told POLITICO in a statement.  “At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use.”

This Marijuana Moment article, headlined "Senate Sends Marijuana Research Bill To Biden’s Desk, With Schumer Saying He’s Having ‘Productive Talks’ On Broader Reform," highlights why this little bit of history might be a sign of things to come:

Just before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor that he is continuing to have “productive talks” about a broader package of cannabis reforms he hopes to pass before the end of the lame duck session.

In the meantime, while numerous marijuana measures have been filed and advanced in each chamber in recent sessions, reform has consistently stalled before reaching the president. But now, the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act” is just one signature away from historic enactment.

November 16, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Latest Gallup polling highlights "Marijuana Views Linked to Ideology, Religiosity, Age"

Americans-support-for-legal-marijuanaThe quoted portion of the title of this post is the title of this new Gallup report on its latest polling on opinions regarding marijuana.  Here are excerpts:

Americans' support for marijuana legalization remains at the record-high 68% recorded each of the past two years.

When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana in 1969, 12% of Americans were in favor. Support grew from there, reaching 31% in 2000 and surpassing the majority level in 2013. Since 2016, at least six in 10 have been in favor. The latest results are based on an Oct. 3-20 Gallup poll.

Combining data for the past five years, from 2018 through 2022, allows for a more robust analysis of demographic differences in views about marijuana legalization than is possible from a single poll. Using this aggregate, Gallup finds support for legalization averaged 67% among the general population but varied significantly by subgroup. Conservative, religious and older Americans are the least supportive, while liberal, nonreligious and younger Americans are the most supportive.

Specifically, subgroups whose support for legalization exceeds the national average by 10 or more percentage points include those with no religious preference (89%), self-identified liberals (84%), Democrats (81%), young adults (79%) and those who seldom or never attend religious services (78%).

Groups whose support is at least 10 points below the national average include those who attend church weekly (46%), conservatives (49%), Republicans (51%), older adults (53%) and Hispanic adults (56%)....

Given the importance of ideology and age in predicting individuals' support for marijuana legalization, ideological subgroups of different ages show some of the largest intergroup differences in attitudes.

At every age level, conservatives are less likely than moderates or liberals to support making marijuana legal. However, majorities of younger conservatives (those under age 50) favor legalization, compared with 32% of older conservatives.

Age differences among political moderates are more modest, with 20 points separating the oldest (62%) and youngest (82%) moderates. That contrasts with a 33-point gap between the oldest and youngest conservatives. Liberals, on the other hand, show similarly high support -- 81% or higher -- regardless of age.

November 15, 2022 in Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2022

On eve of hearing, House staff releases "joint memo" extolling federal marijuana reform

As reported in this Marijuana Moment piece, "House Democrats and Republicans have co-published a joint memo ahead of a congressional subcommittee meeting on marijuana on Tuesday, laying out key background details on the issue that will likely inform the conversation at the meeting." Here is more:

The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties announced the meeting—titled “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level”—last week. And the witnesses set to testify are broadly pro-legalization.

Several documents have been posted in advance of the meeting, including what’s described a “joint memo” from majority and minority staff that was uploaded on Sunday. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) chairs the panel, with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) serving as the ranking member.

Given that leadership on the subcommittee shares bipartisan interest in advancing cannabis reform, it makes sense that the witnesses are well-known advocates for ending prohibition and that the joint memo generally provides information that makes the case for a comprehensive policy change.

It mentions several pieces of marijuana legalization legislation, including the House-passed Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, Senate leadership’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) and Mace’s States Reform Act (SRA).

“This hearing will be a bipartisan examination of the many benefits of decriminalization at the federal level, including: criminal justice reform, which will largely benefit communities of color, as well as the justice system more broadly; access for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); and the ability for the legal cannabis industry to access financial services,” the memo says.

The full 11-page "Joint Memo" is available at this link.  It makes for an interesting read.

November 14, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 10, 2022

US House subcommittee hearing scheduled on "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level"

-1x-1Interestingly, on the morning of Election Day, the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform released this notice announcing that on "Tuesday, November 15, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will host a hybrid hearing titled 'Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level'.” The next evening, this follow-up memo was released providing a lot more notable details about this notable congressional hearing (including a list of scheduled witnesses).  Here are excerpts:

On October 6, 2022, President Biden announced that he granted a pardon to everyone convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law and called for a review of how marijuana is scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Advocates for cannabis reform welcomed the President’s actions but continue to call for action in the legislative branch to decriminalize cannabis....

This hearing will be a bipartisan examination of the many benefits of decriminalization at the federal level, including: criminal justice reform, which will largely benefit communities of color, as well as the justice system more broadly; access for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs; and the ability for the legal cannabis industry to access financial services.

And this official website provides some more interesting background and also the expected witnesses. Here is a snippet:

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rep. Nancy Mace, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hybrid hearing to examine the many benefits of cannabis decriminalization at the federal level, including addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, improving treatment options for veterans, and allowing marijuana companies to access traditional banking services.

Marijuana arrests account for 43% of all drug arrests, and nine in ten of those marijuana arrests are for simple possession. Although Black and white people use cannabis at roughly the same rates, Black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, which carries life-altering implications for employment, housing, and education. Decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level and expunging criminal convictions for possession would alleviate these burdens and allow for societal advancement.

Marijuana Moment has good coverage of this planned hearing in pieces here and here.

November 10, 2022 in 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, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Mixed results for marijuana reform ballot measures on Election Day 2022

The approval of marijuana legalization in the two biggest states considering ballot initiatives this election cycle — Maryland and Missouri — means that a lot more people voted for than against legalization this Fall. But reform opponents are surely pleased that voters in three other states — Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota — rejected legalization initiatives. This MJBizDaily piece, headlined "US marijuana industry wins in Maryland and likely Missouri but suffers losses elsewhere," reviews the details and starts this way:

Marijuana legalization’s yearslong winning streak finally stopped at a red wall in conservative states in the South and West on Tuesday, but the 2022 election still brought a solid win in Maryland – and legalization advocates declared victory in Missouri early Wednesday, too. Together, the two states could lead to nearly $2 billion in adult-use sales within a few years of their launch.

Voters in Maryland approved the 20th adult-use market, one that is projected to generate as much as $600 million in its first year and up to $1 billion by year four.

Recreational marijuana legalization in Missouri was too close to call for most of election night, but with yes votes ahead by about 6 percentage points with more than 90% of the votes counted, both the statewide campaign and national advocacy groups claimed victory. First-year sales of an adult-use marijuana market in Missouri could reach up to $550 million, according to MJBizDaily estimates, with fourth-year sales projected to be $800 million-$900 million.

Elsewhere, recreational legalization measures in Arkansas as well as in North Dakota and South Dakota were defeated.

November 9, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Rounding up helpful resources on another Election Day full of importance for marijuana reform

I have sensed that marijuana reform ballot meansures and related topics have received more mainstream media attention than usual this election cycle.  Consequently, I will not try to round up here all the mainstream press coverage and instead will just highlight a set of resources I find useful that readers might also find useful.

Of course, I need to start with the "Drugs on the Ballot: 2022" resource put together by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC).  That resource page not only includes a detailed accounting of the measures on the ballot in 2022, but the page also has a set of terrific interactive graphics mapping out both "Marijuana Ballot Measures Over Time" and "Marijuana Legalization Over Time."

Next, I want to flag the great work of the folks at Bolts, a relatively new "digital magazine that covers the nuts and bolts of power and political change, from the local up."  Bolts covers lots and lots of ground extremely well, and it recently has a piece reviewing the ballot measures headlined "Six States Are Voting on Legalizing Weed or Psychedelics."

Moving from an election site to  a marijuiana one, MJBiz Daily already has lots of election coverage and has a lot more promised.  Here are a few of their recent election pieces that caught my eye:

And, staying in the marijuana news space, Marijuana Moment will also be sure to keep delivering great election-related coverage. Here are some of its recent notable postings:

November 8, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Leafly "Harvest Report 2022" declares cannabis as "America’s 6th largest crop"

The folks at Leafly this week have released this interesting "Cannabis Harvest Report 2022" with an accounting of cannabis farming across the US. Here is part of the start of the report's discussion:

Legal cannabis now supports more than 13,200 American farms in 15 adult-use states. With a wholesale value of $5 billion, recreational marijuana is America's 6th most valuable cash crop, worth more than potatoes or rice....

American cannabis farmers are growing an awesome wave of legal green that weighs some 2,834 metric tons, according to the Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report 2022.

There are now 15 states where adults can go into a state-licensed store and buy legal cannabis.  Those 15 states now support 13,297 active legal cannabis farms, which in turn support farm families, communities, and tens of thousands of full-time workers.

Yet this legal crop is missing from USDA reports on agriculture.  That's a significant omission with real implications.  Americans want to end the Drug War and move consumers to a legal, taxed, and tested crop.  Voters and community leaders need production, price, licensing, and crop value data to measure our progress. Regulators in some states cannot supply the most basic fact about their cannabis markets: “How much pot did you grow?”  To find the answer, Leafly estimated it for the second year in a row.

The story in 2022 is all about rising production and falling prices. As the legal harvest continued to ramp up in legal states, the average price of cannabis fell over the past twelve months, yielding an adult-use cannabis crop worth $5 billion in wholesale value.

That makes legal cannabis the sixth most valuable crop in the US. Only corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and cotton bring in more money on a wholesale basis.

Farmers grew 24% more metric tons of adult-use cannabis this year, compared to the year measured in the 2021 Leafly Cannabis Harvest Report. To get a sense of the volume of the past year's cannabis harvest, 2,834 metric tons would fill nearly 15,000 dump trucks lined up end-to-end for up for 45 miles.

We’re only counting the 15 active adult-use states, not the dozens of medical-only states, or crops grown to supply the illicit market.  That total number would be about 3 to 5 times larger.

Leafly’s report is a synthesis of licensing records with state cannabis production totals, sales and tax reports, commercial price trends, field measurements, US Department of Agriculture crop values, and expert interviews.

November 2, 2022 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Germany poised to move forward with full marijuana legalization

Marijuana-leaf-flag-of-germanyAs reported in this Washington Post piece, "Germany moves to legalize recreational cannabis," it appears that the biggest country in the EU is about to go all in on MJ.  Here re the details:

Germany on Wednesday announced plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use. It was a move the country’s health minister said would make Germany Europe’s “most liberal cannabis legalization project” but also its “most tightly regulated market.”

Presenting a detailed cornerstone paper laying out a slate of regulations to Germany’s cabinet Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legalization of cannabis is necessary to end Germany’s “unsuccessful fight against drug-related crime,” and its flourishing black market. The goal of the change is to reduce consumption, especially for young people, he said in a tweet.

Under the government’s new plans, cannabis and THC will no longer be classified as narcotics. The substances will be able to be produced, supplied and distributed to people 18 or older, within a licensed and government-regulated environment — including specialist shops and, “if necessary,” pharmacies. Adults can possess 20 to 30 grams of recreational cannabis, both in private and in public. And Germans will be able to cultivate their own cannabis, to some extent....

Germany also plans to impose a “cannabis tax” and a potential upper limit on THC content for adults under 21. Advertising for cannabis will be completely prohibited, and neutral outside packaging will be required.

There is no set timeline for the plan, and the draft rules still need to be assessed by the European Commission and made into law. Medical marijuana, in limited circumstances, has been legal in Germany since 2017.

October 27, 2022 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

"Foreshadowing an Inevitable Clash: Criminal Probation, Drug Treatment Courts, and Medical Marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Michael Sousa available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

The criminal justice system underwent two revolutionary developments over the past twenty years – the legalization of medical marijuana at the state level, which provides criminal immunity protections for qualifying patients, and the exponential rise of drug treatment courts as alternatives to incarceration.  Traditionally, offenders serving probationary sentences are generally prohibited from using drugs as one condition of probation. But courts are now increasingly confronted with challenges to probationary conditions prohibiting the use of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized.  The trend among courts permits the medicinal use of marijuana during probationary sentences and invalidates conditions prohibiting such use for therapeutic purposes.  Drug treatment courts are a form of probation that offer intensive treatment services for offenders with substance abuse disorders. Most drug treatment courts across the country operate on an abstinence-based model.

While to date there have been no reported challenges to prohibiting the use of medical marijuana by participants in drug treatment court programs, the legal and practical issues are brimming just below the surface, and it is only a matter of time before a clash occurs between criminal immunity provisions under state medical marijuana laws and their consequential applicability in the drug treatment court landscape.  This article takes a forward-looking approach by foreshadowing this seemingly straightforward, but complicated question: how will criminal immunity provisions under state medical marijuana laws and the judicial protections afforded to offenders on regular probation be construed by appellate courts when inevitably challenged by drug treatment court participants?  This is the first scholarly article to address the knotty legal and practical issues underlying this inquiry.  The purpose of this contribution then is to provide future scholars, appellate courts, drug treatment courts, legal actors, and drug treatment court professionals with a robust foundation to draw upon in thinking about the adaptability of medical marijuana use in the drug treatment court domain.

October 20, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

An (aggravating) accounting of post-legalization marijuana arrest data in Virginia

Marijuana-Arrests-US-1990-2020.jpg-e1633019074986-1536x710I just saw this notable (and annoying) new Washington Post piece discussing arrest data for marijuana offenses in Virginia in the wake of the state's legalization reforms.  The piece is headlined "After Virginia legalized pot, majority of defendants are still Black," and here are its first two paragraphs:

A year after Virginia lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana with hopes of lessening racial disparities in enforcement, police in the state are still more likely to arrest Black people than White people for marijuana-related offenses, a Washington Post analysis found.

While marijuana arrests overall dropped in the year since Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize, Black adults accounted for nearly 60 percent of marijuana-related cases before the state’s general district and circuit courts, an analysis of marijuana-related code citations in the state’s court system concluded, despite Black people accounting for about 20 percent of the state population.

Then, only after nine more paragraphs discussing Virginia's reform, policing practices and structural enforcement dynamics, we get this further accounting (my emphasis added):

While overall marijuana-related citations dropped by about 90 percent in Virginia from 2019, those bearing the brunt of enforcement still face compounding repercussions, said Ashley Shapiro, a public defender in Richmond and criminal justice reform advocate with Justice Forward Virginia.  “Anytime there’s a criminal consequence it has foreseen and unforeseen consequences with getting a job, with applying for housing,” Shapiro said. “So there are a lot of collateral consequences, even in this time when it’s technically legalized.”

And then, starting with paragraph 21, we get some actual state-wide numbers:

The commonwealth decriminalized marijuana possession in 2020, leading to the first major dip in enforcement. In 2019, the state reported more than 26,000 marijuana-related adult arrests.  That figure dropped to more than 13,000 in 2020.  And for all of 2021 — which included the six months after legalization went into effect on July 1 — there were just over 2,000 marijuana-related arrests.

If I had any hair, this piece would lead me to want to tear it out.  For starters, the piece nowhere indicates what percentage of marijuana arrests involved Black adults before Virginia's recent legalization reform.  This ACLU accounting of pre-reform arrests in Virginia suggest that perhaps 70% or more involved Black persons.  So, even on a percentage basis, Virginia reforms seem to be helping with racial inequities in marijuana enforcement (and why the Post would not mention at least that bit of good news is a mystery).

But, much more important, the true and significant story is the 90%+ drop in overall arrests that the Post discovered.  So, if we want to focus just on the impact on Black people in Virginia, the real story is that in 2019 before reforms there were likely at least 18,000 marijuana-related arrests of Black adults in Virginia, whereas in 2021 after reforms there were only about 1,200 marijuana-related arrests of Black adults in Virginia.  Put other way, the real racial justice headline should be that well over 15,000 fewer Black people in Virginia were subject to marijuana arrests and all the collateral consequences thanks to state reforms (and that's just from a single year of data).

The Post's report here is frustrating in part because it would be foolish for anyone to believe that any and all racial disparities in enforcement would instantly evaporate with legalization reforms.  But it is even more frustrating because any and all sensible reform advocates are rightly focused on reducing overall criminalization of marijuana use in part because racial disparities have been so profound and so entrenched.  Sigh.

October 18, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2022

DEPC event: "Cannabis on the Ballot: Lessons Learned from the Marijuana Reform Movement"

I am pleased to spotlight a great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event taking place later this month focused on ballot initiatives as marijuana reform.  Here is how this event is described on this event page (where you can find this registration link):

Ever since California voters legalized medical marijuana via ballot initiative in 1996, many advocates in the U.S. have embraced direct democracy as a means to bypass reluctant legislatures to advance marijuana legalization and broader drug policy reforms.  But reforms advanced through ballot initiatives can raise distinct political and policy challenges, and recent initiatives have sometimes produced legal uncertainty about regulatory regimes and even new limits on the availability of direct democracy.

On the eve of another major election, please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and our panel of experts as they discuss the pros and cons of efforts to enact and implement drug policy reforms via the ballot box and these efforts’ impact on direct democracy more generally.

Panelists:

Burrel Vann Jr., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs, San Diego State University
Daniel Orenstein, Independent Researcher
Tamar Todd, Legal Director at New Approach PAC; Lecturer at Berkeley Law

Moderator:

Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law; Executive Director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

October 13, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Prez Biden asking to start "administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law"

DownloadIn this post at my other blog, I focused on the interesting (but not really big) news, set forth in a this official statement from the White House, that Prez Biden today announce that his is "pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession" and that he is "calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses."  I will likely blog more over there about the criminal justice echoes of this interesting mass pardon announcement and exhortation to governors to follow suit.

But here, where we focus on "Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform," I want to focus on the interesting (and perhaps really) news that Prez Biden has also leaned into rescheduling of marijuana via this part of his statement:

Third, I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.  Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.   This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic. 
 
Finally, even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.

I have been asked a few questions already about how long it will take to conduct an "administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law." My sense is that it will take years, not months, and that there is sure to be lots of debate over the science and politics of rescheduling even if there is a broad consensus that marijuana should no longer be on schedule I.  This Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "DOJ To ‘Expeditiously’ Act On Biden’s Marijuana Pardon Directive, While HHS ‘Looking Forward’ To Scheduling Review," covers a bit of the process and the politics:

The Justice Department and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) say they will quickly act to follow President Joe Biden’s new directive to review marijuana’s federal scheduling status and process mass cannabis possession pardons.

Within an hour after the president made the surprise announcement, a DOJ spokesperson released a statement saying the department would abide by the cannabis directive in an expedited fashion.... “Also, in accordance with the President’s directive, Justice Department officials will work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services as they launch a scientific review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” the agency said.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra separately said in a tweet — posted as precisely 4:20 PM ET — that he’s “looking forward to working with Attorney General Garland to answer [Biden’s] call to action to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”...

Biden’s scheduling review—which would be conducted by DOJ and HHS—could reshape federal marijuana policy depending on the final recommendation. Biden has faced numerous calls from advocates to use his executive authority to unilaterally initiate that process.

The agencies could ultimately recommend moving marijuana from the strictest classification of Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to a lower schedule or no schedule at all.

Biden has said he supports rescheduling to Schedule II, but advocates have pushed for complete descheduling, which would effectively end prohibition.

October 6, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

"The Changing Landscape of Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Charging in Columbus, Ohio: 2011–2021"

I am pleased to be able spotlight yet another recent research paper from the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University.  This new paper, which shares the title of this post, is authored by Alex Fraga, Jana Hrdinova and Dexter Ridgway.  Here is its abstract:

In July 2019 Columbus City Council passed ordinances which significantly reduced punishment for possession of marijuana.  Shortly after, at the beginning of August 2019, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.  Using a dataset of all misdemeanor cases from January 2011 through August 2021, we sought to review and assess changes in misdemeanor marijuana possession cases before and after the Columbus City Council reduced punishment for marijuana possession cases and City Attorney Klein’s announcement of the “no prosecution” policy.  The data reveal a significant drop in the number of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases filed in the Franklin County Municipal Court, and that the adoption of the new policies had different impacts on the various law enforcement agencies that operate within the Franklin County boundaries.  The data also suggests that the simultaneous implementation of a no-prosecute policy and adoption of lower penalties for marijuana possession might have reduced racial disparities in marijuana possession charges in Franklin County overall.  This was mostly likely driven by the near complete cessation of marijuana possession charges originating from the Columbus Division of Police.

October 4, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Notable new report explores "The Pros and Cons of Cannabis Taxes"

Cannabis-taxes-1030x386The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center this past week released this notable extended report titled "The Pros and Cons of Cannabis Taxes" authored by Richard Auxier and Nikhita Airi.  Here is the report's abstract:

While 19 states have enacted a tax on recreational marijuana, there is no standard cannabis tax in the US the way there is an alcohol tax, cigarette tax, and gas tax.  Instead, governments use three different types of cannabis taxes: a percentage-of-price tax, a weight-based tax, and a potency-based tax.  Different states use different taxes and some states levy multiple taxes.  Additionally, some state and local governments levy their general sales tax on the purchase of marijuana.  This report is a guide for policymakers, journalists, and engaged community members hoping to better understand cannabis tax debates.  It details each state’s cannabis tax system, provides data on cannabis tax revenue, explains the pros and cons of different cannabis taxes, and discusses the various goals of those taxes.

And here is part of the report's conclusion:

After nearly a decade of legal and taxable sales, it is clear that cannabis taxes can generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for state and local governments.  However, recent revenue declines in five states, each with a distinct cannabis tax system, underscore that revenue growth is not limitless and that various factors can affect what governments collect from year to year.

We know that overly complex and burdensome tax systems, like the pre-reform taxes in California, can depress the evolution of legal marijuana markets.  However, we also know that some states, like Washington, can create highly effective markets even with relatively high tax rates.

We know that taxes based on weight and potency could possibly help policymakers achieve important goals like producing more consistent tax revenue and discouraging the use of possibly dangerously potent products. However, we also know that these taxes can drive up costs and create significant burdens for legal sellers....

Ultimately, as new states enact taxes on marijuana and states with existing tax systems consider reforms, policymakers should use existing evidence to make informed choices that align their goals with their taxes.  But state and local cannabis tax policy remains anything but simple and predictable.  Policymakers across the country should also prepare to monitor, study, and reform these taxes as events develop and we learn more.

October 1, 2022 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

DEPC releases "Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program at Four Years: Evaluating Satisfaction and Perception"

2022-OMMCP-Report_for-webI am happy to highligth the release of a terrific new report, titled ""Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program at Four Years: Evaluating Satisfaction and Perception," authored by Jana Hrdinova of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This DEPC webpage provides this overview:

This report, a fourth in the annual series from the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC), traces the evolution of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) over the last four years in terms of its growth and OMMCP patients’ and prospective patients’ satisfaction levels with the functioning and design of the program. For the first time, our survey finds respondents reporting being more satisfied with OMMCP than dissatisfied, an important milestone in OMMCP’s development. Nevertheless, the survey respondents continue to report dissatisfaction with some elements of the program, with the price of marijuana product being the most pressing concern, followed by lack of legal protections for patients and the cost and difficulty of obtaining OMMCP patient card. The final section of this report includes recommendations for policy and regulatory changes that could have a positive impact on patients’ satisfaction with OMMCP.

Here are a few of many notable findings from the report:

  • 56.1% of respondents reported some level of satisfaction with OMMCP, with 15.3 % reporting being “extremely satisfied” and 40.8% being “somewhat satisfied.” Only 35.5% of respondents expressed some degree of dissatisfaction with OMMCP, a significant change from last year when 55.1% of people reported being dissatisfied.
  • If averaged over the 13 months, an Ohio patient paid $4.08 more per gram of plant product in an Ohio dispensary than a Michigan resident in a Michigan dispensary, and $3.57 less per gram than a marijuana medical patient in Pennsylvania.
  • The OMMCP recorded a 44% increase in the number of patients with active recommendation and active registration growing over the past 12 months. But the number of physicians with a certificate to recommend has declined over the same time period to 641 from 651 a year earlier. The patient to doctor ratio in Ohio now represents the lowest among states with a similarly aged program.
  • The top three policy changes that would most positively affect patients’ satisfaction with OMMCP would be the adoption of legal protections for patients, followed by state allowance for self-cultivation, and provision of home delivery under OMMCP.
  • Since January 2019, the state of Ohio collected over $132 million in revenue, with the state tax and local tax accounting for approximately $64 million, medical marijuana businesses application and licensing fees accounting for another $46 million and patient and caregiver fees making up the remaining $22 million.
  • 84% of respondents reported having trust in the safety of products sold in Ohio dispensaries. Only 7.2% reported not trusting the safety of dispensary products.

September 29, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Interesting accounting of the disinclination of congressional candidates to talk about cannabis

-1x-1John Hudak has this interesting new piece over at Brookings discussing the continued failure of marijuana reform becoming a significant campaign issues in this year's congressional races.  The piece is titled "Congressional candidates’ silence on cannabis reform," and is worth a full read.  Here is how the piece starts and concludes:

Cannabis reform has grown in popularity with voters, activists, and state legislators; cannabis is now legal for medical use in 38 states and DC and for adult-use in 19 states and DC.  Despite those advances in state level reforms and in the broader conversation nationwide, Congress has failed to pass a major piece of legislation addressing the issue, and many voters and activists wonder why.

One argument is that federal level officials — in the executive branch and in Congress — simply don’t care enough about the issue to address it.  To consider this question, I included a coding about cannabis reform in Brookings Primaries Project in 2022.  The Brookings Primaries Project examines the publicly stated views—via the websites and social media presence — of all candidates running in U.S. congressional primary races.  We coded each candidate on a four-point scale: whether they supported legalization or decriminalization of cannabis, whether they supported medical legalization only, whether their position was complex or indecipherable, and whether they failed to mention the issue at all.

The results provide three general takeaways.  First, primary candidates for Congress do not consider the issue important enough to elevate to be included on their website or on social media.  Second, on average, candidates who do engage on the issue are at least not harmed by staking out a public position.  Third, stark differences exist between Democratic primary candidates for Congress and Republican primary candidates for Congress....

It is clear that among all candidates, all Democrats, and all Republicans, taking no public position on cannabis was the most popular strategy during the 2022 congressional primaries.  However, among candidates who chose to take a clear position on cannabis, Republicans were more likely to oppose legalization than support it, and the reverse is true for Democratic primary candidates who took a position on cannabis.

In sum, cannabis as a political issue has risen in importance over the past 25 years.  As state legislatures and voters via referenda have enacted changes to cannabis laws, the issue has become more popular even in the halls of Congress.  However, cannabis reform advocates’ frequent stupefaction at the lack of progress at the federal level bumps up against a stark reality.  Most candidates for federal office do not see cannabis as an issue prominent enough to discuss, and deep partisan differences still remain among elected officials, even as support for cannabis in the general public has exploded in recent years.  And the true motivator for a member of Congress to take or change a position — whether voters hold their feet to the fire over an issue — has not yet become a reality in the vast majority of Congressional races across the United States.

September 28, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)