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)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Legalization ballot initiative sidelined by state Supreme Court in Oklahoma, while initiative cleared to go forward in neighboring Missouri

Kansas-missouri-oklahoma-arkansas-map-vector-23600096As students in my marijuana seminar know (too) well, I find the modern history of marijuana reform throughout the United States to be a fascinating legal and political story.  And sometimes I view some of the regional variations in these stories to be especially remarkable, and one such recent example comes from the center of our great nation.  Specifically, I am referencing here the notably different outcomes of legal challenges to state ballot legalization initiatives in neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri.  Though these states share a (small) border, they are not sharing the same outcomes in lawsuits challenging efforts to put marijuana legalization before votes, as reported in this Marijuana Moment articles:

"Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Will Appear On November Ballot After State Supreme Court Rejects Prohibitionists’ Challenge"

An initiative to legalize marijuana in Missouri is officially cleared for ballot placement following a month-long legal back-and-forth between the campaign and prohibitionists.  A lawsuit filed last month sought to keep the Legal Missouri 2022 reform proposal off the ballot after it was certified by the secretary of state.  But after two lower courts dismissed the challenge, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered the final word that the legal battle is over.

"Oklahoma Supreme Court Says Marijuana Legalization Won’t Be On November Ballot, But Will Be Voted On In Future Election"

Oklahoma voters will not get the chance to vote on a marijuana legalization initiative in November, with the state Supreme Court on Wednesday rejecting the campaign’s lawsuit that sought to secure ballot placement this year.  However, justices also dismissed two separate legal challenges to the ballot title, clearing the initiative’s path for a vote during the state’s next general or special election.

Legal battles over initiatives are never unusual, and a range of legal tripwires can often attend efforts to bring ballot measures directly to voters on any topic.  But I surmise that these kinds of challenges to marijuana reform measure have found growing success, perhaps unsurprisingly, as initiative move from bluer to redder states. Judges and other legal actors in bluer states can often seem more welcoming of ballot initiatives in this arena (and we have seen politicians in Maryland and New Jersey place marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot), whereas these actors in redder states sometime seem far more keen to keep voters from having a chance to directly weigh in on these issues.

September 22, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

DEPC's 2022–23 Marijuana and Drug Policy Research Grant Call for Proposals

I am very excited that Ohio State's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) is continuing its regular research grant program to fund work specifically in the marijuana and drug policy research/policy space. Here is the link to the DEPC grants page along with an overview of the call for proposals this year:  

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) invites researchers and policy experts from universities, government agencies and independent research centers in the United States to submit proposals for funded research or policy analysis focused on implementation and policy impacts of marijuana legalization and other emerging topics in drug enforcement and policy.  We are specifically interested in research addressing questions related to criminal justice administration, public health, and public safety, as well as their various intersections.

This year’s call for proposals encompasses two different tracks: traditional research projects (maximum award of $25,000) and policy analysis/model policy creation (maximum award of $10,000).  In selection for funding, we are likely to prioritize shorter-term research projects (e.g., completed before end of 2023) that can help inform the work of lawmakers, regulators and advocates eager to promote evidence-based best practices and policies in emerging and future reforms efforts.  Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Impacts of marijuana reform and other drug decriminalization efforts on criminal case processing and law enforcement work including resource allocation, changes to existing arrest/charging/sentencing practices, use of fines and fees for enforcement, and broader effects on crime, clearance rates and community relations.
  • Study and evaluation of present expungement and record relief efforts focusing particularly on marijuana offenses and other drug crimes and the impact of new laws and practices on affected populations.
  • Impacts and attitudes toward various drug reform efforts in specific neighborhoods/communities defined by geography, political affiliation, social-economic status, and/or other demographics.
  • Cost-benefit analyses of marijuana legalization/decriminalization policies, with a focus on economic development and budgetary impacts resulting from reforms such as tax revenues, law enforcement expenditures, treatment costs and regulatory expenses.

A fuller overview is available in this detailed document and the deadline for submissions is January 15, 2023, but proposals will be considered on a rolling basis.  Submit complete proposals to Jana Hrdinová at hrdinova.1  @  osu.edu.

September 13, 2022 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Some federal and state marijuana headlines and stories worth noticing

Some days it seems there is now way too much marijuana news and commentary.  Despite the lack of any federal legislative reforms at all, and relatively little major change at the state level, each day seems to bring dozens of headlines and stories in the cannabis space vying for my attention.  And yet, even during busy times and lots of noise, a few headlines and stories break out to garner my attention.  Today seems to be such a day via these stories and commentaries breaking through (to me, at least):

From The Hill, "Liberals push Biden on marijuana reform ahead of midterm momentum"

From The Hill, "America needs to get real about high-potency marijuana"

From the Los Angeles Times, "The reality of legal weed in California: Huge illegal grows, violence, worker exploitation and deaths"

From Marijuana Moment, "Senate Marijuana Banking Sponsor Gives Details About Forthcoming ‘SAFE Plus’ Reform Package"

From Marijuana Moment, "Illinois Adult-Use Marijuana Sales Top $3 Billion Since Market Launched, With $1 Billion Sold So Far This Year Alone"

From the Minnesota Reformer, "Minnesota’s Black marijuana users far more likely to face arrest than white ones"

From MJBiz, "Marijuana companies lay off hundreds, retrench amid economic woes"

From Politico, "Arrests in New Jersey for small-time cannabis dealing plummet post-legalization"

September 8, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Pennsylvania Gov announces mass pardon project for "select minor, non-violent marijuana criminal convictions"

Governor-Wolf-and-Lieutenant-Governor-FettermanAs reported in this CBS News piece, "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced a joint effort Thursday to pardon many people convicted with non-violent marijuana offenses. The large-scale project, called the Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project, will allow people with select convictions to submit an application online for an official pardon from the state." Here is more:  

The website will allow Pennsylvanians to submit applications between Sept. 1, 2022 and Sept. 30, 2022. The reason for the expedited timeline is the expiration of Wolf's term, which will end when the new gubernatorial candidate is sworn into office on Jan. 17, 2023.

According to a press release on the project, Wolf has granted 2,098 pardons since taking office, 326 of which were part of an "expedited review for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses." This is in contrast to the 1,805 total pardons that were granted in the 15 years prior to Gov. Wolf's time in office, the release said.

"I have repeatedly called on our Republican-led General Assembly to support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, but they've yet to meet this call for action from myself and Pennsylvanians," Wolf said in the release. "Until they do, I am committed to doing everything in my power to support Pennsylvanians who have been adversely affected by a minor marijuana offense on their record."

Those eligible must have been convicted on either "Possession of Marijuana" or "Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use" charges for an amount under 30 grams, CBS Pittsburgh reported. The conviction has to have taken place in the state of Pennsylvania, and while there is no age limit on the conviction, only those without additional convictions on their record are eligible to apply. The release estimates that thousands of people will be eligible.

After Pennsylvanians submit their online application, the Board of Pardons will conduct a merit review, after which those granted approval will have a public hearing were the Board will vote on which applications to send for a pardon, the release said. Those selected will be sent to Wolf for pardons after Dec. 16. If the Governor grants those pardons, those selected will still need to petition the court to get the convictions expunged from their records.

"Nobody should be turned down for a job, housing, or volunteering at your child's school because of some old, nonviolent weed charge - especially given that most of us don't even think this should be illegal," Fetterman — who is currently running against Dr. Mehmet Oz for a Senate seat — said in the release.

However, some are concerned that the criteria for the pardon is too narrow. Former prosecutor and marijuana defense attorney Patrick Nightingale told CBS Pittsburgh that he's concerned the eligible convictions do not include the use of paraphernalia, which can include grinders, rolling papers, smoking devices, and even plastic baggies....

Studies have shown that marijuana charges disproportionally impact communities of color. Black people are 3.6 times more likely than White people to be arrested on cannabis-related charges, though both used marijuana in similar quantities, according to the American Medical Association.

While more than 20 states have passed laws to expunge or seal marijuana-related records, according to the AMA, that's only a fraction of the 38 US states, two territories, and Washington, DC that have legalized medical marijuana use. Nineteen have legalized recreational use as well, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This official press release discusses the program and provides this instruction and link for applicants: "Individuals can apply for an accelerated pardon through this one-time project at pa.gov/mjpardon. Once a person submits their application, they will be contacted if any necessary follow-up is needed."

September 3, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

"The Prevalence of Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Records in Columbus, Ohio"

I am pleased to spotlight 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 and Jana Hrdinova.  Here is its abstract:

In the United States, an estimated 1 in 3 adult Americans have some sort of a criminal record.  Yet, there is a dearth of research that examines the prevalence of particular types of criminal history.  Identifying the prevalence of particular types of criminal history is necessary not only for the design of efficacious rights restoration mechanisms, but also to facilitate the review and assessment of the functioning of these mechanisms once in place. 

Efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana in many jurisdictions have often included discussion of the importance of providing enhanced relief mechanisms for those with records for low-level marijuana offenses.  But these discussions often lack details on how many individuals, and the composition of individuals, who might benefit from such record relief.  In this report, we estimate the prevalence of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges and conviction records among adult residents of Columbus, Ohio based on data drawn from the Franklin County Municipal Court and provide policy recommendations for implementing localized government-initiated record sealing initiatives.

August 30, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Reviewing just some of the dynamic marijuana reform stories from the states

The stories of marijuana reform in the United States are still mostly dynamic state stories, and here is just a handful of state stories from big states making headlines in just the last few days:

From California, "The casualties of California legalizing pot: Growers who went legal"

From Florida, "Florida Gov. DeSantis wants pot companies to pay more"

From Michigan, "Marijuana growing moratorium?: Supply and demand could lead to changes in Michigan"

From New York, "New Yorkers with pot convictions will now be the first to get to sell it"

From Virginia, "Inside the ‘wild, wild west’ of Virginia’s marijuana market"

And, of course, there are at least a half-dozen additional states with marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot this fall.  This Hill article provides an overview of these state stories under this full headline: "Voters in these states may soon decide whether to legalize marijuana: Six states could have ballot measures up for vote in the November midterm elections, and should they pass, will join 19 others in legalizing recreational marijuana."

August 28, 2022 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (9)

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Highlighting all we do not know about marijuana-infused drinks

Cannabis-drinksThis lengthy New York Times article, headlined "Weed Drinks Are a Buzzy Alcohol Substitute. But Are They Safe?", provides a useful overview of "weed drinks" with an emphasis what we do not know about a growing consumer product sector.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are a few excerpts:

According to BDSA, a market research firm in Colorado that specializes in legal cannabis, dollar sales of marijuana beverages are up by around 65 percent from 2020 to 2021 in the 12 states they track. In California, the state with the largest market for weed drinks, the number of cannabis beverages available nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, growing to 747 distinct products, according to Headset, a company that collects and analyzes data on cannabis....

Cannabis-infused beverages are often branded as a healthier alternative to alcohol — “No painful days after drinking or regrets,” a tagline on Cann’s site reads. These kinds of drinks carry a connotation of health, said Emily Moquin, a food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult. They tout themselves as “hangover-free” and without the high calories of alcohol; they claim to help you feel “focused,” balanced, relaxed. One cannabis beverage company even suggests pairing their drinks with a spa day.

But experts worry that products like weed drinks are becoming more popular than health research can keep up with, leaving big questions about how best to consume them and what impacts they may have on the brain and body....

“It’s really a Wild West of products out there,” Dr. MacKillop said. Some drinks contain just THC, or CBD or both, and drinks on the market vary vastly in how many milligrams of these compounds they contain.

While there is no standard unit for THC product potency, Dr. MacKillop said, most experts in the field consider five milligrams of THC to be a typical single dose, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse sets it as standard unit of research.

According to Headset, over half of cannabis beverage units sold in the U.S. in 2021 contained 100 milligrams of THC, an amount that could significantly intoxicate or impair the average person....

Because weed drinks are so new, they are “an incredibly understudied class of cannabis products,” Dr. MacKillop said. There aren’t yet robust studies on how drinkable cannabis products affect the body long term, Dr. Vandrey added, and it’s unclear how the health effects — positive or negative — of marijuana translate into a drinkable beverage.

“The cannabis industry has evolved much faster than the data,” he said. “This is just another great example of that.”

August 21, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Food and Drink, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Split First Circuit panel holds dormant Commerce Clause applies to federally illegal marijuana businesses

In a notable ruling today in Northeast Patients Group v. United Cannabis Patients and Caregivers of Maine, No. 21-1719 (1st Cir. Aug. 17, 2022) (available here), a split First Circuit panel applied the dormant Commerce Clause to a provision of Maine's Medical Marijuana Act. Here is how the majority opinion gets started:

This appeal concerns whether the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, 22 M.R.S. §§ 2421-2430 (2009) ("Maine Medical Marijuana Act"), violates what is known as the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by requiring "officers" and "directors" of medical marijuana "dispensar[ies]," id. § 2428(6)(H), operating in Maine to be Maine residents.  The United States District Court for the District of Maine held that Maine Medical Marijuana Act's residency requirement does violate the dormant Commerce Clause, notwithstanding that Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA"), 21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., to "eradicate the market" in marijuana, see Gonzalez v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 19 n.29 (2005).  The District Court concluded that is so, because the residency requirement is a facially protectionist state regulation of an interstate market in medical marijuana that continues to operate even in the face of the CSA.  We affirm.

Here is how the dissent by Judge Gelpi starts:

I respectfully dissent from the affirmation of the district court's opinion. I agree that Maine's residency requirement, that "[a]ll officers or directors of a dispensary must be residents of this State" set forth at 22 M.R.S. § 2428(6)(H), incontestably constitutes protectionist legislation. Indeed, at oral argument, counsel for Defendant-Appellant Kristen Figueroa conceded as much. Moreover, Figueroa does not assert that the measure could meet the strict scrutiny standard to which protectionist legislation is ordinarily subject. Indeed, the Supreme Court and this court have routinely invalidated similar protectionist legislation in markets ranging from liquor store licensing to egg products. See, e.g., Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2457 (2019); United Egg Producers v. Dep't of Agric., 77 F.3d 567, 57172 (1st Cir. 1996). Following this caselaw, the majority affirms the district court by concluding that Maine's measure fails under the dormant Commerce Clause, because defendants have not satisfactorily demonstrated Congress's "unmistakably clear intent to allow otherwise discriminatory regulations," United Egg Producers, 77 F.3d at 570 (citing Wyoming v. Oklahoma, 502 U.S. 437, 458 (1992)), or demonstrated that Congress has otherwise consented to such protectionist legislation.  In the ordinary course, in an ordinary market, I would agree that such a measure is unconstitutional under well-trodden dormant Commerce Clause principles and caselaw.

But the national market for marijuana is unlike the markets for liquor licenses or egg products in one crucial regard: it is illegal. Congress in 1971 enacted the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) pursuant to its Commerce Clause powers, designating marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance. See 21 U.S.C. § 841; id. § 812(c)(Schedule I)(c)(10); Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 22 (2005). Under the CSA, it is a crime "to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance." 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). It is here that I part ways with the majority, because I disagree that the test we have developed for the mine-run of dormant Commerce Clause cases apply automatically or with equal vigor when the market in question is illegal as a matter of federal law. As such, I do not believe that the United Egg Producers test -- which, prior to today, we have only ever applied in cases involving legal markets -- extends to national markets that Congress has expressly made illegal.  Instead, I start from the premise that we should vindicate the principles that animate the dormant Commerce Clause -- and I conclude that the same constitutional precepts that led us to articulate the United Egg Producers test counsel against its application here.

August 17, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Notable new Gallup polling on marijuana attitudes and use

Americans-marijuana-useThe folks at Gallup are reporting here some intriguing new polling data under the headline "Americans Not Convinced Marijuana Benefits Society." Here is part of the write up of the results of new Gallup polling:

Americans are evenly split in their views about marijuana's effect on society, with 49% considering it positive and 50% negative. They are slightly more positive about the drug's effect on people who use it, with 53% saying it's positive and 45% negative.

People's own experience with marijuana is highly related to their views on both questions. Large majorities of adults who say they have ever tried marijuana -- which is nearly half of Americans -- think marijuana's effects on users (70%) and society at large (66%) are positive.  Conversely, the majority of those who have never tried marijuana think its effects are negative: 72% say this about its effect on society and 62% about its effect on users....

Also, although Americans have not reached a consensus on whether marijuana benefits people or society, they see it far more positively than they do alcohol. As Gallup reported previously, the same poll finds three in four adults believing alcohol negatively affects society, and 71% think it is harmful to drinkers.  These results are from Gallup's July 5-26 Consumption survey, conducted annually each July....

Here are the current demographic patterns for all three marijuana-related behaviors.

Gender: Men are more likely than women to say they have ever tried marijuana, but the two genders are similar in their self-reports of smoking marijuana and consuming marijuana edibles.

Age: The highest usage rates are reported by adults 18 to 34, with 30% of this group saying they smoke marijuana and 22% consuming edibles. These figures drop to 16% each for adults 35 to 54 and 7% each for those 55 and older.

Education: Unlike the strong educational relationship seen with tobacco, education is not a great discriminator in people's use of marijuana. Those with a college degree are about as likely as those with no college education to have ever tried it or to use it currently.

Party: Democrats and independents report similar levels of marijuana use, while Republicans are less likely to smoke or eat it. They are also less likely to have ever tried it.

August 16, 2022 in Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

How can we best answer this question: "Does marijuana legalization bring crime?"

Audacy News has this notable new piece headlined "Does marijuana legalization bring crime?  The data may surprise you."  Unfortunately, the piece does not provide a lot of new or sophisticated data on this important question, but the article still is a useful review of the debate over marijuana reform and public safety.  Here are short excerpts from the lengthy piece:

Looking back on a decade of data, did any of the dire predictions come true about weed mania? The short answer appears to be 'no.' If anything, states with legal weed have had declining rates of overall crime.

For the purposes of this study, Audacy used the numbers publicly available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Data Explorer website. Then we honed in on the year of legalization for all 17 states (and D.C.) and looked at the year prior and the year following legalization.

What we found: There wasn’t much change. Certainly not enough change was evident to warrant making it a key talking-point either for or against legalization.... It seems the definitive answer to this continuing question is that there isn’t one.

For a host of reasons, research on the relationships between marijuana reform and crime presents a host of challenges.  But, as highlighted in this post at my other blog, I am helping with an event that looks to explore and tackle some of these challenges.

Related posting:

Call for Papers: "Drugs and Public Safety: Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing, and Prosecutorial Reforms" 

August 16, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Nevada Supreme Court rejects claim that state's "lawful use" statute protects casino worker from discharge for off-duty marijuana use

DownloadNearly a decade ago, a fascinating employment law case began working its way through the Colorado state court system following the termination of Brandon Coats by the Dish Network. Coats, who used medical marijuana following a car accident that left him a quadriplegic, claimed that Colorado state law protected him from discharge simply for having tested positive for marijuana since he used the drug only off-duty and lawfully under state law. The case involved sympathetic facts early in the modern marijuana reform era, and the case generated lots of amicus briefs and media attention when it reached the state's Supreme Court. In the end, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in Coats v. Dish Network, 350 P.3d 849 (Colo. 2015) that "an activity such as medical marijuana use that is unlawful under federal law is not a "lawful" activity under" the applicable state employment law.

I was reminded of Coats and all the attention it generated when I tripped across this morning a very similar ruling handed down late last week by the Nevada Supreme Court.  In Ceballos v. NC Palace, No. 82797 (Nev. Aug 11, 2022) (available here), the underlying facts are a bit different: employee's termination comes after state-lawful recreational marijuana use and the language of the applicable state-law statutory employment protections are a bit different.  But the result is the same, as the start and end of the unanimous ruling reveals:

NRS 613.333 creates a private right of action in favor of an employee who is discharged from employment for engaging in "the lawful use in this state of any product outside the premises of the employer during the employee's nonworking hours."  The question presented is whether adult recreational marijuana use qualifies for protection under this statute.  We agree with the district court that it does not.  Although Nevada has decriminalized adult recreational marijuana use, the drug continues to be illegal under federal law.  Because federal law criminalizes the possession of marijuana in Nevada, its use is not "lawful ... in this state" and does not support a private right of action under NRS 613.333.  Further, because NRS 678D.510(1)(a) authorizes employers to prohibit or restrict recreational marijuana use by employees, an employee discharged after testing positive at work based on recreational marijuana use does not have a common-law tortious discharge claim.  We therefore affirm....

The interplay between adult recreational marijuana use and employment law, moreover, is one the Legislature has addressed in NRS 678D.510(1)(a) and, to a lesser extent, in NRS 613.132.  Palace Station terminated Ceballos for failing a workplace drug test after engaging in adult recreational marijuana use before his shift.  NRS 678D.510(1)(a) specifically authorizes employers to adopt and enforce workplace policies prohibiting or restricting such use.  If the Legislature meant to require employers to accommodate employees using recreational marijuana outside the workplace but who thereafter test positive at work, it would have done so.  Cf. NRS 678C.850(3) (requiring employers to accommodate the medical needs of employees who use medical marijuana unless certain exceptions exist).  It did not.  It also did not extend the protections afforded by NRS 613.333 and NRS 613.132 to reach the circumstances giving rise to Ceballos's termination.  See supra Section II.A. (discussing the limits the Legislature has set on the protections NRS 613.333 and NRS 613.132 afford).  This court declined to allow the employees in Chavez and Sands Regent to pursue common-law tortious discharge claims to redress the discrimination they alleged, because doing so would intrude on the prerogative of the Legislature, which had enacted statutes addressing the same subject matter.  See Chavez, 118 Nev. at 294, 43 P.3d at 1026; Sands Regent, 105 Nev. at 440, 777 P.2d at 900.  Doing so would be even less appropriate here.

August 15, 2022 in Court Rulings, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Effective coverage of federal government's efforts to defend federal gun prohibition for medical marijuana users

Images (5)The folks at Marijuana Moment now have two lengthy posts discussing the recent filings in a lawsuit challenging the federal gun prohibitions applicable to medical marijuana users.  Here are links to the stories and excerpts:

"Biden DOJ Says Medical Marijuana Patients Are Too ‘Dangerous To Trust’ In Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit On Gun Rights"

The Department of Justice asked a federal court on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a policy blocking medical marijuana patients from buying or owning guns. The filling is partly premised on the government’s position that it would be too “dangerous to trust regular marijuana users to exercise sound judgment” with firearms.

In making its case for dismissal, DOJ also drew eyebrow-raising historical parallels to past gun bans for groups like Native Americans, Catholics, panhandlers, those who refuse to take an oath of allegiance to the government and people who shoot firearms while drunk....

At a top level, the Justice Department said the gun rights are generally reserved for “law-abiding” people. Florida might have legalized medical cannabis, but the department said that doesn’t matter as long as it remains federally prohibited.

"Florida Ag Commissioner Blasts ‘Insulting’ Biden DOJ Response To Medical Marijuana Patients’ Gun Rights Lawsuit"

The Justice Department’s characterization of medical marijuana patients as uniquely dangerous and unfit to possess firearms in its new response to a lawsuit exposed an “insulting” and antiquated perspective, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday....

The Biden administration’s Justice Department didn’t just hold the line by denying the therapeutic benefits of marijuana, it also made the case that people who use cannabis would be too “dangerous to trust” to possess firearms. The memo’s reefer madness-era rhetoric has dismayed advocates and amplified frustrations over the president’s unfulfilled promises to enact modest cannabis reforms.

“I find it very insulting,” Fried said of the DOJ’s response. “You’re calling patients that have cancer that are using medical marijuana dangerous. You’re telling veterans who are using medical marijuana [that they’re] dangerous. I think that they missed the ball here — and it’s very disconcerting that this is the direction that they took.”

“There’s so many of us for years — for decades — who have been fighting against this stereotype of marijuana users,” the commissioner, who is running in a Democratic gubernatorial primary for a chance to challenge incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in November, said. “To see the Department of Justice put it down in a 40-page memo defending their motion to dismiss is very disappointing.”

August 10, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

"Synthetic cannabinoid poisonings and access to the legal cannabis market: findings from US national poison centre data 2016–2019"

The title of this this post is the title of this notable new research just published in the journal Clinical Toxicology.  Here is its abstract:

Aim

To investigate trends in synthetic cannabinoid exposures reported to United States (US) poison control centres, and their association with status of state cannabis legalisation.

Methods

A retrospective study of National Poison Data System (NPDS) data from 2016 to 2019 identified and associated synthetic poisoning reports with annual state cannabis law and market status. State status was categorised as restrictive (cannabis illegal or limited medical legalisation), medical (allowing THC-containing medical cannabis use) and permissive (allowing non-medical use of THC-containing cannabis by adults).  We categorised a subset of states with permissive policies by their implementation of legal adult possession/use and opening retail markets, on a quarterly basis.  Mixed-effects Poisson regression models assessed synthetic exposures associated with legal status, first among all states using annual counts, and then among states that implemented permissive law alone using quarterly counts.

Results

A total of 7600 exposures were reported during the study period.  Overall, reported synthetic exposures declined over time.  Most reported exposures (64.8%) required medical attention, and 61 deaths were documented.  State implementation of medical cannabis law was associated with 13% fewer reported annual exposures.  Adoption of permissive state cannabis policy was independently and significantly associated with 37% lower reported annual synthetic exposures, relative to restrictive policies (IRR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.50–0.79).  Among states with permissive law during the period, implementation of legal adult possession/use was associated with 22% fewer reported quarterly exposures.  Opening of retail markets was associated with 36% fewer reported exposures, relative to states with medical cannabis only.

Conclusions

Adoption of permissive cannabis law was associated with significant reductions in reported synthetic cannabinoid exposures.  More permissive cannabis law may have the unintended benefit of reducing both motivation and harms associated with use of synthetic cannabis products.

August 9, 2022 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Effective review of the state of new state marijuana reforms in 2022

With lots of bills being introduced and debated at the federal level, it is dangerously easy to overlook the fact that marijuana reform in the US has been almost exclusively a state story for a quarter century and is likely to remain mostly a state story even if some federal bills actually become law in coming months and years.  Thus, it is especially useful that Politico recently produced this effective round up of some recent state developments under the full headline "Where cannabis legalization efforts stand across the country: Gains in state legislatures slowed down in 2022, but advocates still have the ballot."  I recommend the full piece, and here is how it gets started:

With most legislative sessions across the country already wrapped up for the year, the results are clear: “Elected officials remain far behind the times,” said Karen O’Keefe, state policy director for Marijuana Policy Project. If it were left up to voters, O’Keefe believes, every state would have some form of legal cannabis by now.

As it stands, 19 states have embraced full legalization, while 19 others have enacted medical marijuana programs. But many of the remaining holdouts are staunchly conservative states where legalization skepticism runs deep among lawmakers.

Perhaps the biggest setback for industry advocates this year was Delaware, where a bill to remove penalties for possession passed with supermajorities in both chambers, only to be vetoed by the Democratic governor, John Carney. Recreational legalization efforts also came up short in Ohio, Hawaii and New Hampshire, while medical bills failed in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Some legislative efforts were doomed from the outset, particularly Democratic-sponsored adult-use bills introduced in GOP-dominated state legislatures such as Louisiana, Wisconsin and Indiana.

But not all hope is lost for pro-legalization advocates. At least a half dozen states could have legalization questions on their November ballots. If all of those campaigns succeed, half of the states in the country would allow adults to possess — and eventually purchase — weed legally.

August 6, 2022 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Notable new report urges notable new messaging about marijuana use and driving

GHSALOGOAs reported in this press release, "the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Responsibility.org and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving [last week] released a new report that provides guidance on how State Highway Safety Offices can better communicate with cannabis consumers about safe driving and offers recommendations about the types of messages that do and don’t work."  Here is more from the release about the report:

The report, Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving: Responsible Use Messaging, comes as SHSOs face a rapidly changing cannabis landscape that includes the legality, prevalence and social norms about its use. In 2011, no state had legalized recreational cannabis. Just 10 years later, 18 states have done so, and more states will have legalization on the ballot this November. Cannabis use has increased alongside the spread of state legalization....

“As legal cannabis use becomes more widespread in the U.S., motorists need to know the dangers of driving under the influence,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “But that message won’t be heard if it’s outdated, irrelevant or insulting to cannabis consumers. This new report offers a playbook to help states develop messaging that resonates with cannabis users and prompts them to refrain from driving for their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.”

The report highlights lessons learned from outreach efforts in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize cannabis, as well as more recent efforts in Connecticut and Wyoming. It also discusses promising practices that all SHSOs should consider utilizing to create the most effective messages and offers the following recommendations:

  • Encourage dedicated funding for traffic safety programs derived from a portion of cannabis sales tax revenue so that states and their partners can deliver timely and relevant information to the public.
  • Form partnerships with the cannabis industry, which can help states gain insights on consumer motivations and behaviors, develop and deliver impactful messaging, and legitimize safety efforts.
  • Enlist trusted advisors to serve as messengers. Have people and institutions that cannabis users trust – rather than government representatives – convey factual safe driving messages. Diverse and non-traditional messengers can improve message reception with cannabis consumers.
  • Use language that resonates with cannabis consumers, so they hear the safe driving message instead of tuning it out because it has outdated terminology. Avoid using unflattering or alienating stereotypes of cannabis consumers.

August 2, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)