Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The question in the title of this post is my first-cut reaction to this news story carrying the headline, "Sugary drinks linked to 25,000 deaths in the U.S. each year." Here is the press account of a notable new public health report:
By contributing to obesity and, through that, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks appears to claim the lives of about 25,000 American adults yearly and is linked worldwide to the deaths of 180,000 each year, new research says.
Low- and middle-income countries are bearing the brunt of the death toll attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks, according to an assessment published Monday in the American Heart Assn.'s journal, Circulation. Each year, more than 3 in 4 of the world's deaths attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages occur in those poor and developing countries.
In Mexico -- a country with one of the world's highest per-capita consumption of sweetened drinks -- about 24,000 adults' deaths in 2010 were attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. That translated into the highest death rate of the world's 20 most populous nations: 405 deaths per million adults in one year. The United States ranked second. In 2010, there were 125 deaths per million adults, or about 25,000 deaths total....
As incomes grow in many developing nations, some are experiencing spurts in obesity that mirror, in compressed form, Americans' four-decade run-up in weight. Many researchers attribute those patterns, at least in part, to increases in their populations' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which add calories without improving nutrition. "This is not complicated," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a senior author of the new research. "There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year."
The comprehensive report on sugary beverages and death does not reflect the effect of such consumption on the health of children. It does find chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages more common in younger adults than in their elders. That fact is likely to have a major effect on future economies because it imperils the long-term productivity of a key group of workers.
If these young people continue to guzzle sugar-sweetened beverages at their current rate, said study coauthor Gitanjali Singh, the consequences could be dire. Compounded by the effects of aging, this generation's high rates of sugary drink consumption may push its rates of death and disability from heart disease and diabetes even higher than those seen in the current study, said Singh, also of Friedman School.
I have long believed that persons truly committed to improving public health in the United States ought to worry a lot less about marijuana reform effort and worry a lot more about reducing consumption of current legal but obviously harmful products like tobacco and alcohol and refined sugar. This latest research reinforces my sense that, from a public health perspective, we ought to be at least as concerned about the harms of Mountain Dew as we are about the harms of a doobie.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Senator Orrin Hatch has this notable new op-ed piece in the Washington Times headlined "The curative side of cannabis: A medical extract offers relief for epileptic children." Here are excerpts:
[Imagine] you hear about a new therapy that has shown remarkable success in treating children just like yours — children with intractable epilepsy. But there’s a problem: The therapy is made from a strain of the cannabis plant. The therapy doesn’t produce any sort of “high.” In fact, it’s made from a strain of cannabis that’s so low in THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — that it has no psychotropic effect even when ingested in large quantities. But because the therapy comes from the cannabis plant, it’s classified as marijuana under federal law and is therefore illegal.
As a devoted, loving parent, you’re faced with an impossible dilemma. Do you break the law to obtain a therapy that could cure or at the very least substantially reduce your child’s devastating seizures? Or do you allow your child to continue to suffer? Remember, the therapy produces no high, and it carries none of the dangerous side effects of traditional marijuana. It simply comes from the same source.
This hypothetical scenario is a reality for tens of thousands of parents. The therapy is called cannabidiol oil, or CBD for short. It’s administered by placing a small amount under the tongue, and has been shown to reduce seizures by more than 90 percent in children with intractable epilepsy. It is not addictive.
But because it’s made from the cannabis plant, CBD is illegal under federal law. To solve this problem, I’ve recently sponsored bipartisan legislation with Sens. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, and others to exempt CBD from the definition of “marijuana” under federal law.
Our bill, S. 1333, will allow parents to obtain a life-changing therapy for their children without threat of federal prosecution. It’s colloquially known as the Charlotte’s Web Act, after Charlotte Figi, an eight-year-old girl who has seen extraordinary improvements from taking CBD. Prior to beginning treatment with CBD, Charlotte suffered as many as 300 grand mal seizures per week — seizures so violent that her parents put a do not resuscitate order in her medical records. After Charlotte started taking CBD, however, her seizures dropped dramatically. She now suffers, on average, less than three seizures per month and is able to engage in normal childhood activities. “Dateline NBC” and National Geographic recently highlighted the medical benefits of CBD for children with severe epilepsy.
CBD is not medical marijuana. It cannot be used to get high. Its only use is for epilepsy and other medical conditions. Nor is it a camel’s nose in the tent for advocates of full marijuana legalization. Fifteen states have now legalized CBD. These include some of the most rock-ribbed conservative states in the country, such as Alabama, South Carolina and Texas. In fact, my home state of Utah — certainly no redoubt of hippie liberalism — was the very first state to legalize CBD.
Throughout my entire Senate career, I’ve taken a strong stand against illegal drugs. The proliferation of cocaine, meth and other addictive, mind-altering substances has had a devastating effect on homes and communities. CBD is not like any of those substances. It is not addictive. To the contrary, it has shown promise in treating addiction. Rather than harming families, it can help make their lives better.
I continue to oppose marijuana and efforts to legalize its use. I remain unconvinced by claims that it is safe and that the side effects it causes are no big deal. Stories of children being rushed to the hospital for accidentally consuming marijuana edibles belie the notion that marijuana is a safe drug. In fact, I am currently working on legislation to help protect children from the dangers of edible marijuana products.
But I also believe that when a drug is safe and can improve people’s lives, Congress should not stand in the way. That CBD is derived from the cannabis plant does not mean we should be scared to have anything to do with it. Legalizing CBD is a compassionate, common-sense move that will bring relief to thousands of suffering children. I am glad to stand with my colleagues in supporting the Charlotte’s Web Act and look forward to helping it move through Congress and to the president’s desk.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Indianapolis Star article headlined "Cops warn of arrests at Church of Cannabis." Here are some excerpts from a lengthy and interesting article:
The city's top law enforcements officials put the new First Church of Cannabis on notice Friday: Anyone who smokes marijuana at the inaugural service next week will face criminal charges.
The warning from Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite "changes nothing," said Bill Levin, the church's founder, who pledged to move forward with plans for a service at noon Wednesday where marijuana will be smoked. "They haven't raised the stakes," Levin said. "These have been the stakes the whole time."
In fact, an arrest — or arrests — will spur the court fight that Levin wants. It is a legal battle that has been expected by nearly everyone, including Curry and Hite, who've watched the story of the controversial church unfold in the weeks since Gov. Pence signed Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Levin contends the use of marijuana in the church service is protected by RFRA, which limits government encroachment on religious freedoms. Curry said he believes the new law is ill-advised and problematic. That said, he also stressed that RFRA is not "a legitimate defense to committing a crime."
Hite said police can't ignore Levin flaunting the law under the guise of religion. That means everyone in attendance next week is subject to criminal charges, he said, even if they do not partake of the church's sacrament.
Curry said observers could be charged with visiting a common nuisance. Those who smoke the drug could be charged with possession of marijuana. Both charges are class B misdemeanors, which carry a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Curry and Hite said Friday they were announcing their plans in an effort to dissuade Levin and his followers from going through with wide-spread marijuana use at the service. Hite said his department would have police on the church property, including possibly inside the sanctuary itself. "I think it's important to know that we're not trying to create a police state," Hite said. "I think reasonably intelligent people will stay away, quite frankly. But as with any other events we happen to have in our city, we're prepared for it."
Curry listed six considerations he said he recently shared with Levin — and wants others who might attend the service to keep in mind. In addition to making arrests for those who possess or are simply in the presence of marijuana that is being used, Curry said, police will also be looking for impaired drivers, those with open warrants and those who are at the service in violation of a probation order. Curry also cautioned that minors should not be present if marijuana is being used, adding that such a violation has "numerous implications."
Curry and Hite said police and prosecutors are duty bound to uphold Indiana's drug laws and cannot ignore the event that has been widely promoted in the news and on social media. They also are disturbed that they have to expend valuable manpower on this event, when there are many other more pressing needs for law enforcement resources.
Curry added Levin's church is a direct result of the state's RFRA law, and renewed an earlier call for legislators to repeal the law which he sees as unneeded and the result of political posturing. "We anticipated that (RFRA) could be asserted as a defense to criminal prosecution," he said. "As with any defense, our office will address the argument within the context of the case in which it is presented."
The prosecutor said he has met twice with Levin to discuss alternatives to making mass arrests at the service next week, such as making his point on a smaller scale involving just one or two people challenging the law. "I understand completely that what (Levin) is doing is using RFRA as a vehicle to essentially advocate for what he's advocated for all along, and that is the legalization of marijuana," Curry said. "But until he and others convince the legislature otherwise, then it's a crime."
Curry also dismissed concerns that the attendees of next week's Church of Cannabis service would be treated differently than others who are cited for marijuana possession – though he added that the city's advance notice of the event did present a change in how they plan on enforcing the law. "Individuals are cited for criminal offenses when they are observed, whether it's at the Indy 500 or rock concerts," Curry said. "What is different here is that we've been given notice that this is going to occur. From our perspective, it would be entirely the wrong message that we would not react to that."
Hite said the church is not right for Indianapolis, adding he and his officers have talked to drug dealers who are "appalled" by the planned service next week. "Those who deal drugs for a living have said to us, 'Listen. We're trying to get out of the game. You're telling us to get out, chief,'" Hite explained. "How can we allow someone to willingly violate the law?"
Levin said he is unfazed by who might show up at the service Wednesday, including law enforcement officials "I don't have a problem with that," he said. "You want to come pray? Come pray. You better be on the guest list to get into the building, though, because we've already got this thing filled."
The church plans to have a tent to accommodate overflow from the relatively small church building. What Levin described as "ushers" — who sound more like security — will screen people entering the building. The church also will have legal representation on site for the inaugural service.
A woman at the church Friday, wearing a shirt with a peace symbol on it, scoffed at Curry's suggestion for Levin to scale down whatever might trigger a legal battle. "Bill doesn't do anything on a small scale," she said. "I've known him for 35 years."...
"I believe in religious freedom and I will never tell my congregants what not to do," Levin said. "I will warn them of what might happen. If you're on probation, they might nail you. If you're there with a kid, they might get CPS on you. … This is civil disobedience in its finest form while we're celebrating a beautiful birth of a new religion."
Levin appears to be doing as much as he can to protect the church legally. He has non-profit religious status certified by the Internal Revenue Service. He made sure the church building conforms to safety codes. He's not allowing anyone under 21 into the sanctuary, where marijuana will be smoked at the end of the ceremony. And he is not selling or distributing the drug; its a bring-your-own event.
While Levin said he would prefer that officials leave him and church members alone, he's not about to back down from a legal fight. "I'd just as soon not do it. Am I afraid of it? No. Not at all. I'm sorry, I'm right," he said. "I will defend my beliefs as long as it takes and as far as it takes."
Any decision the state makes on religious laws — including whether the First Church of Cannabis is a legitimate religion — "they're going to have to be very committed to, and that goes across the board," Levin said. "Because what's good for one religion is good for all."
Friday, June 26, 2015
I am more than a bit biased in reporting the latest notable news from Ohio's marijuana reform arena because I had a hand in making it happen. But especially because my interest in marijuana reform stems largely from my concerns about the criminal justice harms and costs of marijuana prohibition, I am especially pleased and proud that those advocating for marijuana legalization in Ohio are committed also to advocating for related criminal justice reforms. This local article, headlined "ResponsibleOhio proposes legislation to expunge marijuana offense records," provides these basis:
Pro-marijuana group ResponsibleOhio has drafted a law that would allow Ohioans convicted of certain marijuana crimes to expunge their records if the group's marijuana legalization proposal is approved by voters this fall.
The proposed initiated statute would allow Ohioans who were convicted of a marijuana offense to have their records expunged. On Wednesday, the group submitted language to the Ohio attorney general for approval. ResponsibleOhio plans to propose legalizing marijuana for personal and medical use through a constitutional amendment on this November's ballot. The expungement issue would come next year.
"We believe that we should not keep people unfairly shackled to their past when marijuana is legalized," ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said in a news release. The group's "Fresh Start Act" would first go before state lawmakers. If lawmakers vote it down or do not act within four months, Ohio voters would then vote on the law. Even if approved by voters, lawmakers could still change or repeal the language in state law.
In Ohio, expungement typically means the records are sealed unless opened by court order. But in recent years, state lawmakers have allowed records to be expunged, or destroyed, for committing two crimes later made legal: Storing a loaded firearm in a vehicle and soliciting sex as a victim of human trafficking.
The proposed statute mirrors the concealed carry language. ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Faith Oltman said lawmakers should be in favor of extending that opportunity to past marijuana convictions. Oltman said offering the idea as an initiated statute gives lawmakers an opportunity to review and revise the language before voters weigh in. "An amendment meant the legislature couldn't manipulate or alter this piece of good public policy we created," Oltman said. "The Fresh Start Act is more straight forward so not as many guardrails needed to be put in place."
Records would not be automatically destroyed. Individuals would have to file an application in court and prosecutors would have the opportunity to weigh in before the judge makes a final decision....
If the petition language is approved by the attorney general and bipartisan Ohio Ballot Board, the group will then need to collect more than 91,677 signatures of Ohio voters. If lawmakers don't pass the law within four months, petitioners would have to collect another 91,677 signatures to put the proposed law on the statewide ballot.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
It is justifiably hard for me and others to take too seriously Donald Trump's bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Nevertheless, given that some polls indicate some GOP voters are taking "The Donald" seriously and especially given Trump's ability to get more media attention than most other GOP candidates, I think it may be time for serious marijuana reformers to seriously explore candidate Trump's current positions and perspectives on marijuana reform in particular and the broader drug war more generally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a quick Google search reveals that The Donald has through the years had talked about, but not always talked consistently about, drug policies.
As noted in this recent MSNBC piece, way back in 1990 "a thick-haired Donald Trump was telling a crowd in South Florida that 'We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars'." In a similar vein, this unofficial 2012 review of the views of possible Prez candidates sets forth this account of the "Trump position on Marijuana":
• Donald Trump has never smoked marijuana.
• He would legalize it and tax it.
• He thinks that legalization would save a lot of money in our prisons and courts and profit the states.
However, before would-be marijuana reformers get too revved up considering cannabis capitalism under a President Trump Administration, this recent report on comments by Trump at the 2015 CPAC conference suggests that, as I have highlighted below, The Donald's marijuana reform views may still be evolving:
Trump said he has several agenda items should he become president, and his top item is to destroy the Islamic State.... In a lightning round with [Sean] Hannity, Trump also said that he is pro-life, with the exceptions of cases involving the life of the mother, rape, or incest; against legalized marijuana, unless it's medical marijuana, which he supports; and he believes Hillary Clinton botched Benghazi, her husband is a "nice guy" with a lot of problems coming up; and Obama is "an incompetent president."
To the extent Donald Trump could and and will be taken seriously as a GOP presidential candidate, I think we can and should expect him to generally be a voice for more pro-business, free-market domestic policies. Consequently, it will be interesting to watch if and when he is pressed on both his past and current positions on removing government restrictions on marijuana businesses and on recent failed drug war government efforts to eradicate illegal drug markets.
As regular readers surely realize, I tend generally to favor modern marijuana reform efforts. Consequently, I tend generally to notice and feel most inspired to blog about research and press reports that tend generally to favor modern marijuana reform efforts. But I fully recognize, and generally have respect for, the many policy-makers and advocates who strongly oppose modern marijuana reform efforts.
Especially because I think it is critical in this space and elsewhere that competing voices are heard and dynamic perspectives considered in modern marijuana reform debates, I am ever grateful for the efforts of Kevin Sabet and his group SAM: Smart Approaches to Marijuana for covering and promoting reform-opposition research and developments. And, and these recent posts from the SAM blog highlight, SAM has has a lot to say on these topics over just the last 10 days:
- SAM President Kevin Sabet gives testimony before United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control
June 25, 2015 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (2)
Members of the Senate are attempting to finish off where the White House started earlier this week, by calling for the removal of additional barriers still in place that they believe are limiting scientific study on the effects of marijuana.
At a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Wednesday, members challenged representatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse on the current process for approving marijuana studies. "I understand the desire for caution. We're Congress, we act slowly. But these are people who need the help, for who a five- to 10-month delay is a death sentence," said Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah.
The hearing specifically looked at the effects of cannabidiol, a derivative of marijuana, on patients. Many members and witnesses spoke of anecdotal evidence that the drug helped children with chronic epilepsy when nothing else would. However, large-scale studies on the link have been rare, largely in part of heavily controlled federal government approval of marijuana research.
The hearing came on the heels of White House action earlier this week that removed a key government hurdle blocking many scientific marijuana studies from moving forward. The White House action means scientists will no longer have to submit research proposals to the Public Health Service Review (PHS) at the Department of Health and Human Services to get a green light for marijuana research.
But while the move, which was announced Monday, signals a shift in federal policy, many caution that there remain significant barriers to studying the drug’s positive medical effects on humans. Marijuana advocates point out that the PHS was only one of three major hurdles limiting research. The other two -- the fact that researchers can only use marijuana from a single government-owned dispensary at the University of Mississippi and classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug -- endure.
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and Corey Booker, D-NJ, are two key members of Congress who are fighting for more studies on the effects of the drug. Earlier this year they introduced a bill, along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, that in addition to getting rid of the now-defunct PHS review, would downgrade marijuana from a Schedule I drug, up there with heroin, to a Schedule II, in the line with opiates.
Both senators were guests at the caucus hearing and took no time to challenge witnesses from the various government agencies present. A fiery Gillibrand challenged NIDA and the National Institute for Health's strict control of cannabidiol. NIDA representatives said one drug company had a patent on cannabidiol. Many fear this control over the drug will limit future research options. Gillibrand shot back saying, "Let's be clear, we have to change the laws to remove the impediments so that we have research across the country."
Whether it be cannibidiol or marijuana in general, supporters say much still needs to be done to study the drug and get it available on markets where medical marijuana is legal. “Arguably the largest hurdle in this process still remains in place,” Paul Armentano, deputy director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said. “That is that government policy … mandates that all clinical protocols must utilize government grown cannabis provided by NIDA.”...
While attitudes may be changing, led by President Obama himself, and including DEA efforts to expand the availability of marijuana for studies, progress remains slow. As a result, many members of Congress are getting in on efforts to streamline the regulatory process in hopes that it may make the drug available to those who need it.
Just last May, Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Morgan Griffith, R-Va., Jane Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., wrote a letter to the Secretary of HHS asking her to remove the PHS barrier. In a statement Monday, Blumenauer called the White House’s decision “a significant step toward improving an antiquated system that unfairly targets marijuana above and beyond other substances in research.” He said, however, there still remains a lot to be done and said he’s working on legislation to address the remaining blockades.
While more and more lawmakers’ acceptance of marijuana’s role in medicine might be a welcome surprise, some marijuana supporters are skeptical that additional marijuana studies will significantly change federal policy. “Ample scientific research already exists to contradict cannabis’ federal Schedule I status -- as a substance without medical utility, lacking acceptable safety, and possessing a high potential of abuse,” Armentano said. “More research is welcome, but unfortunately science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, we would already have a very different policy in place.”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
As explained in this helpful new Washington Post piece, a "long-standing bureaucratic obstacle to privately-funded medical marijuana research has just been removed, effective immediately." Here are the details
Until today if you wanted to conduct marijuana research, you'd need to do the following:
- Submit your study proposal to the Food and Drug Administration for a thorough review of its "scientific validity and ethical soundness."
- Submit your proposal to a separate Public Health Service (PHS) board, which performs pretty much the exact same review as the FDA.
- Get a marijuana permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Finally, obtain a quantity of medical marijuana via the Drug Supply Program run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains a monopoly on medical marijuana grown for research in the U.S.
As you might imagine, this can be a complicated, time-consuming process. Step 2, the PHS review, has been a subject of particular consternation among researchers and advocates. That step is not required for research into any other drug, including cocaine and heroin.
The PHS review is nearly identical to the one performed by the FDA. Sometimes, it can take months to complete. In recent years, advocates of overhauling marijuana laws, researchers, members of Congress, and even marijuana legalization opponents have called for the PHS review to be eliminated in the name of streamlining research.
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed, determining that the PHS review process is redundant with the FDA review, and that it is "no longer necessary to support the conduct of scientifically-sound studies into the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana."
"The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up," said Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group.
Even those who oppose legalization agreed. "I think it's a sensible change; but people are being delusional if they think this will result in a flood of research on the drug," said Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group. "But it's a step in the right direction as the development of a non smoked cannabis medication goes forward."...
There are still more bureaucratic hurdles to marijuana research than to research in any other drug. NIDA's monopoly on legal marijuana production doesn't exist for any other drug, meaning that heroin and cocaine remain easier for researchers to work with. "The next step should be moving marijuana out of Schedule I to a more appropriate category, which the administration can do without any further Congressional action," said Angell. "Given what the president and surgeon general have already said publicly about marijuana’s relative harms and medical uses, it’s completely inappropriate for it to remain in a schedule that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value."
June 23, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new Time article, which includes these excerpts:
The exact impact of marijuana on driving ability is a controversial subject—and it’s become more important states continue to loosen their drug laws. And, while drunk driving is on the decline in the U.S., driving after having smoked or otherwise consumer marijuana has become more common. According to the most recent national roadside survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of weekend nighttime drivers, 8.3 percent had some alcohol in their system and 12.6 percent tested positive for THC—up from 8.6 percent in 2007....
[In a recent federal study], researchers looked at 250 parameters of driving ability, but this paper focused on three in particular: weaving within the lane, the number of times the car left the lane, and the speed of the weaving. While alcohol had an effect on the number of times the car left the lane and the speed of the weaving, marijuana did not. Marijuana did show an increase in weaving. Drivers with blood concentrations of 13.1 ug/L THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, showed increase weaving that was similar to those with a .08 breath alcohol concentration, the legal limit in most states. For reference, 13.1 ug/L THC is more than twice the 5 ug/L numeric limit in Washington and Colorado....
The study also found that pot and alcohol have more of an impact on driving when used together. Drivers who used both weaved within lanes, even if their blood THC and alcohol concentrations were below the threshold for impairment taken on their own.... Smoking pot while drinking a little alcohol also increased THC’s absorption, making the high more intense. Similarly, THC delayed the peak of alcohol impairment, meaning that it tended to take longer for someone using both to feel drunk. Such data is important to educate the public about pot’s effects before they get on the road.
“I think this has added really good knowledge from a well-designed study to add to the current debate,” on marijuana’s effects on road safety, says Dr. Marilyn Huestis, the principal investigator in the study, which was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The Motley Fool folks have been keeping an eye on the modern marijuana industry, and this recent article highlights why these folks reasonably think the industry is likely to continue to grow. The article is headlined "These 3 Charts Show Why More States Will Soon Legalize Marijuana," and here are excerpts (along with a reprinting of one of the referenced charts):
Want to know why states are legalizing recreational marijuana? Let me give you a hint: It has something to do with the color green. Not the color of the plant, but the color of money.
Because recreational marijuana has now been legal in Colorado and Washington for 18 months and 11 months, respectively, we're finally starting to see just how lucrative the recreational-marijuana business is.... In March alone, consumers in Washington purchased $21.9 million worth of recreational cannabis through legal channels. That was more than twice the amount of the $8.3 million spent on medical marijuana that month.
The rapid ascent of recreational-marijuana sales is nothing short of extraordinary. In July 2014 -- i.e., the inaugural month of recreational sales in Washington -- the handful of stores open at the time sold a mere $2.8 million worth of weed. Over the next eight months, this figure climbed by a factor of 10....
The upshot for the state is a rapidly expanding tax roll. If you add together the taxes that Washington receives from both recreational- and medical-marijuana sales, it's creeping up on $4 million a month. And for the record, it may have eclipsed that mark already, given that the latest available data covers just the month of March.
Colorado is experiencing a similar windfall, as it generates even more tax revenue from legal marijuana sales than Washington does. Last month, taxes from the industry came in at $9.6 million. And if you include the $1.1 million in revenue it received from licensing and other types of fees, you get more than $10.6 million....
In short, say what you will about the legalization of marijuana, particularly for recreational sales, but one thing seems certain: As sales and taxes from the industry continue their sharp ascent, it's going to be hard for other states to stand by idly and watch their neighbors get rich.
June 21, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
This lengthy new local article, headlined "State seeks more medical marijuana doctors," highlights how the modern history (and the federal ferocity) of marijuana prohibition presents distinct challenges for states like Connecticut seeking to establish and administer effective medical marijuana programs. Here are excerpts from an interesting article:
With only a small fraction of the state’s doctors participating in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, the agency that’s running it has begun a public-service blitz to let physicians and patients know the drug is safe and legal. The goal is to break through the stigma and lack of information that seems to be holding doctors back from registering, which they need to do to be able to prescribe the drug.
The state is reaching out to the 7,000 doctors in the Connecticut State Medical Society, with radio and print ads highlighting the medical benefits of marijuana, and showing that edibles and oils are steadily taking the place of smoking the plant’s flowers....
There are 11 ailments for which patients may be certified for use of medical cannabis and six more have been authorized for inclusion and are currently being reviewed for submission to the legislative Regulation Review Committee. Brian Tomasulo, 34, of Newtown, said when his personal physician certified him last year, the only product available at the Bethel facility was traditional marijuana flowers for smoking. “Basically, as they brought out more products, the pharmacist suggested more direction,” he said.
Diagnosed two years ago with testicular cancer that spread to his lymphatic system and lungs, after six months of chemotherapy and remission the cancer spread to his brain, causing seizures. He’s back working part-time as a personal trainer.
Now, he mostly uses oils that he puts under his tongue, sublingually, for headaches, although he occasionally smokes cannabis for faster relief from pain, including joint soreness. He uses strains of oil that have higher CBD levels in the morning and a higher THC percentage at night. “My brain had been so inflamed, I had a hard time speaking,” Tomasulo said. “I’m more clear-headed now.”
With only 222 doctors participating, the program is still double the size it was last October, when the first of the state’s six dispensaries began to supply marijuana from the four producers. It’s a sign of steady progress, says Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.
“It will be interesting to see what our outreach efforts to the physicians are,” Harris said. “It’s a private-sector model and it should be driven by the businesses, patients and doctors on the ground. It’s a unique position as a regulator to clear up the misinformation, tear down some of the barriers and give people some comfort that they’re not going to get into any kind of trouble if they participate.”
The radio spots are appearing on Hartford-area public radio. Harris has been making speaking appearances throughout the state to get the word out on the 2012 law. “We want to make people better-informed when and how to participate.”
Ken Ferrucci, senior vice president of policy and governmental affairs for the Connecticut State Medical Society, admits the organization has been cautious and didn’t have an official reaction to the outreach by the Department of Consumer Protection. “We’ve been consistent in our position,” he said. “We did not support the bill originally and once it passed and became statute we wanted to make certain physicians were free to participate without prosecution. The longer the program is in existence, the more willing physicians will participate providing there is no legal action or enforcement. We have been supportive of education opportunities when we have been asked to provide medical information. We have circulated and do not try to prevent anyone from being educated on whether or not want to certify patients for the program.”
Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not prosecute those who are complying with the laws in their state. Harris said the longer the federal government leaves the medical-marijuana program alone, the more patients and doctors will feel comfortable to join. In the 2012 legislation, when the Connecticut General Assembly agreed to change marijuana’s status from a dangerous Schedule I drug with no medical benefits, to Schedule II, it challenged federal policy.
A regional organization of pro-marijuana physicians, called Canna Care Docs, has opened an office in Hartford, with plans, according to its website, to open clinics in Fairfield County and between New Haven and New London along Interstate-95. “Depending on what the feds ultimately do, then you’ll have the lid totally taken off,” Harris said, who’s optimistic about further growth. “It’s a medical model and we’re hearing more on the ground on the innovations in dose-able forms.”
David Lipton, the founder and CEO of Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, is surprised oils and edibles seem to be taking over the market, but he can understand why pharmacists in the dispensaries find it easier to suggest dosage amounts. “You know that if you eat a cookie with 20 milligrams of THC, it’s easier and more exact, to medicate yourself rather than buying a flower with 25-percent THC and smoking it,” Lipton said, noting a change in the kinds of products the dispensaries are requesting. “I believe that as more and more doctors are made aware that when they’re recommending this, their patients getting something formulated, they’ll feel assured they’re getting the right amount of medicine.”
Friday, June 19, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this new Forbes column by Jacob Sullum. This piece reinforces my belief that family law and family lawyers need to be paying considerable attention to marijuana reform developments and realities. Here is an excerpt:
In Live Free or Die, a 2010 memoir recounting how cannabis oil saved her life, Shona Banda emphasizes the importance of “self-taught knowledge,” acquired by constantly asking questions and “looking at all of the angles of any information given.” Her son may have learned that lesson too well. Had he been less inquisitive, less prone to question authority, he might still be living with his mother, and she might not be facing criminal charges that could send her to prison for decades.
Banda, a 38-year-old massage therapist who appeared in criminal court for the first time on Tuesday, is free on a $50,000 bond while her case is pending. She was able to pay a bail bondsman the $5,000 fee necessary to stay out of jail thanks to donations from supporters across the country who were outraged by her situation. The case has drawn international attention partly because it features draconian penalties and a mother’s forcible separation from her 11-year-old son but also because of the way it started.
During a “drug education” program at his school in Garden City, Kansas, on March 24, Banda’s son heard some things about marijuana that did not jibe with what he had learned about the plant from his mother. So he spoke up, suggesting that cannabis was less dangerous and more beneficial than the counselors running the program were claiming. That outburst of skepticism precipitated a visit to the principal’s office, where the fifth-grader was interrogated about his mother’s cannabis consumption. School officials called Child Protective Services (CPS), which contacted police, who obtained a warrant to search Banda’s house based on what her son had said.
As translated by the Garden City Police Department, Banda’s son “reported to school officials that his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring in his residence.” From Banda’s perspective, what her son had observed was her consumption of a medicine that had “fixed” her Crohn’s disease, alleviated her pain, and restored her energy. “I had an autoimmune disease,” she says in a 2010 YouTube video during which she displays the scars left by multiple surgeries aimed at relieving her crippling gastrointestinal symptoms. “With Crohn’s disease, it’s like having a stomach flu that won’t go away.” But after she started swallowing capsules containing homemade cannabis oil, she says, her life was transformed. “I’m working for the first time in four years,” she says. “I’m hiking. I’m swimming. I’m able to play with my kids [two sons, one of whom is now 18]….Anything beats raising your kids from a couch and lying there in pain all day.” Banda’s personal experience aside, there is scientific evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
As far as the police were concerned, none of that was relevant, since Kansas is not one of the 23 states that allow medical use of cannabis. In the cops’ view, what they found at Banda’s house — “approximately 1 ¼ pounds of suspected marijuana” — was contraband, not medicine. And when CPS caseworkers took Banda’s son away from her, they were protecting him, not kidnapping him. “The most important thing here is the child’s well-being,” Capt. Randy Ralston told the Associated Press. “That is why it is a priority for us, just because of the danger to the child.”
The precise nature of that danger remains mysterious. Ralston says “the items taken from the residence” — the marijuana, plus “a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters, drug paraphernalia and other items related to the packaging and ingestion of marijuana” — were “within easy reach of the child.” But police came to Banda’s house in the middle of the afternoon, so that detail is less alarming than it sounds. “She was producing oil during the day, while her son was in school,” says Sarah Swain, Banda’s criminal defense attorney.
So far Banda has been unsuccessful at regaining custody of her son, who is living for the time being with her husband, from whom she is separated. “He is in state custody and has been since the beginning of the case,” Swain says. “He is placed [temporarily] with the father.” A family court judge ultimately will decide whether it is in the boy’s best interest to be reunited with his mother.
But as Swain notes, that process will be “moot” if “Shona goes to prison.” The charges against her, which Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier announced on June 5, include two misdemeanors—endangering a child and possession of drug paraphernalia—and three felonies: unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of equipment used to manufacture a controlled substance, and distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property. The distribution charge, a “drug severity level 1 felony,” carries the longest maximum sentence: 17 years. Swain says Kansas law allows sentences for different offenses to be imposed consecutively as long as the total term does not exceed twice the longest maximum, which means Banda could be sent to prison for as long as 34 years. Richmeier, apparently based on the assumption that any sentences would be served concurrently, says the maximum term Banda faces is 17 years.
It seems unlikely that Banda, who has no criminal record, would receive a sentence as long as 34 or even 17 years. But a substantial prison sentence is a real possibility given the charges she faces. “When your cure is illegal,” says a caption at the beginning of Banda’s 2010 video, “you are forced to make the choice to live free or die.” If Richmeier has her way, living free will no longer be an option for Banda.
June 19, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
This intriguing new Forbes article, headlined "Israel, Canada Want A Piece Of New York's Medical Marijuana," highlights a number of ways in which marijuana reform in the United States is already changing a number of notable global realities. Here are excerpts:
For years the United States worried about drugs crossing our borders from other countries, now it seems other countries are crossing our border to get into drugs. Namely – cannabis. While most believe that the U.S. is conservative in its approach to marijuana, the recent push for legalization has suddenly thrust America’s marketplace into a cannabis leadership position.
The potential for the U.S. market is so big, that companies from other countries want in. Israel wants in on the action in New York. Marijuana is illegal in the country, but in a twist, the country is a world leader on its research into the medical uses of marijuana. Tikun Olam, which means ‘healing the world’ in Hebrew, is the only large-scale industrial producer of cannabis in Israel and operates under a license from the Israel Ministry of Health. Tikun Olam announced that it was partnering with Compassionate Care Center of New York and applying to be a Registered Organization under New York’s Compassionate Care Act....
MedReleaf, another Canadian manufacturer of medical-grade cannabis announced it entered into an exclusive partnership with New York State Compassionate Care Center of New York. CCCNY has also applied for one of the five licenses to be awarded in New York State and while it hasn’t gotten any approvals, it has established a greenhouse in Newark, NY ready for immediate production. MedReleaf operates a 55,000 square foot facility in Markham, Ontario and is one of the largest suppliers in the Canadian market. Tikun Olam is also partnered with MedReleaf in Canada and grows some of Tikun’s proprietary strains. Canada has been very progressive in setting up its medical marijuana program and the companies there want to expand....
The changes taking place in the US are also affecting Mexico, another long time black market partner. Marijuana seizures at the border are half of what they were five years ago. Mexican farmers are ripping up their cannabis plants and turning to subsidized tomatoes. Mexico decriminalized small amounts of pot, but hasn’t gone as far as the US in legalization. The drug cartels are switching to more expensive products like heroin and luxury strains from Colorado are in demand in Mexico according to Bloomberg and creating a reverse in the trafficking.
The exchange goes both ways. Jamaica may have an established black market business, but its looking to U.S. firms to become legitimate. Jamaica only recently decriminalized marijuana, which is hard to believe that it wasn’t already legal. Any tourist to the country was usually offered ganja on the shuttle bus from the airport to their hotel. Jamaica, the biggest supplier of black market pot to the U.S., kept it illegal to make officials in this country happy. With our laws easing up, they felt like they had the green light to acknowledge that marijuana shouldn’t be punished within its country. United Cannabis Corp based in Colorado has launched a partnership with Jamaican agencies for a marijuana research and development facility. The Cannabinoid Research & Development Company is considering a headquarters in Kingston Jamaica for pharmaceutical research and with the goal to standardize strains.
As the domestic cannabis growers become more established, it isn’t inconceivable they too will want to take their knowledge and experience to other markets. As the medical marijuana market matures, global partnerships will become more frequent blurring those old drug wars.
June 19, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 18, 2015
As reported in this local article, headlined "Oregon launches campaign saying what's legal with marijuana," an important public service campaign has gotten underway in Oregon roughly seven months after Oregoinians voted to legalize marijuana in the state. Here are the details:
As Oregonians prepare to enter the new world of legal marijuana, the state wants folks to know a few things.
With the slogan, "Educate Before You Recreate," The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched a public education campaign to put across the message that although it will be legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana starting July 1, it is not yet legal for anyone but medical marijuana patients to buy it — including bringing it back from across the border in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is already legal. The $350,000 campaign includes paid ads, an official website with a PowerPoint presentation, and posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Under Measure 91, starting July 1, anyone over 21 in Oregon can possess up to 8 ounces of usable marijuana, such as dried buds at home and up to one ounce outside the home. You can consume marijuana at home or on private property. You can grow up to four plants per residence at home out of public view. You can make brownies and other edible products at home and receive them as gifts. And you can give away marijuana and receive it as a gift.
It is illegal to buy or sell recreational marijuana and to transport it across state lines. That includes buying some from a legal retail outlet in Washington state and bringing it home to Oregon. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in public or to drive while stoned. Measure 91 will not protect you if your employer prohibits drug use, especially if there is a federal connection, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And if your landlord prohibits smoking in your apartment, you can be evicted for smoking marijuana, but not for eating it...
The OLCC does not expect to have the chain of retail recreational marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and sales outlets permitted and operating until late in 2016. There has been talk in the Legislature about jumpstarting that by allowing recreational marijuana sales through medical marijuana dispensaries as early as October, but that remains up in the air....
John Bishop, executive director of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, says anyone buying or selling marijuana without a license is still subject to arrest. But he adds that authorities will continue to focus on large amounts of marijuana.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing NPR piece, which somewhat reinforces my belief that the modern marijuana reform movement is going to have to work through a number of notable environmental issues in the years ahead. Here are excerpts:
The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved....
As any farmer will likely say, damage to the crop equals damage to the bottom line. [Colorado grow ownwer Nick] Dice's employees used to spray the crop with mild chemicals. They would switch between multiple pesticides and mildew treatments, treating anywhere from every three to four days. Dice says he's seen other operations crumble as their cannabis succumbs to mildew or bugs. Pest controls ensure a good yield. And when it comes to cannabis, yields really matter.
Dice estimates the grow room is worth as much as $180,000. Protecting that yield is hard work. That's why many growers in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana use chemicals. But it's the federal government that tells farmers which pesticides are safe to use. And so far, the feds wants nothing to do with legalized marijuana. Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw says that's left growers to experiment with little oversight. "In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to just whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate," he says.
Tobacco farmers, for example, have a stable of pesticides the government says are safe to use. But Cranshaw says marijuana growers have none. "Sometimes they've used some things that are inappropriate, sometimes unsafe," he says.
Brett Eaton is a plant expert with American Cannabis Company, a Denver-based consulting group. He's concerned about what the pesticides are doing to the product as well as the consumer. "Anybody can get their hands on harmful chemicals, and they can just spray away all the way up until the last day of harvest," he says.
Safety concerns led Denver officials to place a hold on tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year, pending an investigation. Colorado doesn't require growers to test the crop for traces of pesticides before being sold. But state agriculture officials did recently release a list of pesticides deemed appropriate for use on cannabis. Washington state, Nevada and Illinois have similar lists. Eaton says regulators are only playing catch up. "Other agricultural industries already have policy in place for the safe use of spraying certain pesticides and fungicides," he says. "This being a new industry, it hasn't been addressed yet."
And with more states turning marijuana into a legal commodity crop, it'll take a mix of policy, science and industry self-regulation to figure out what's appropriate, and what's not.
June 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Huge new NIH-funded study concludes "passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana"
I am pleased to see that this huge new NIH-funded study on the impact of medical marijuana reforms on use of marijuana among young folks has just been released. The research, conducted by multiple researchers, is published in The Lancet Psychiatry under the title "Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys." Here is its summary:
Background Adolescent use of marijuana is associated with adverse later effects, so the identification of factors underlying adolescent use is of substantial public health importance. The relationship between US state laws that permit marijuana for medical purposes and adolescent marijuana use has been controversial. Such laws could convey a message about marijuana acceptability that increases its use soon after passage, even if implementation is delayed or the law narrowly restricts its use. We used 24 years of national data from the USA to examine the relationship between state medical marijuana laws and adolescent use of marijuana.
Methods Using a multistage, random-sampling design with replacement, the Monitoring the Future study conducts annual national surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students (modal ages 13–14, 15–16, and 17–18 years, respectively), in around 400 schools per year. Students complete self-administered questionnaires that include questions on marijuana use. We analysed data from 1 098270 adolescents surveyed between 1991 and 2014. The primary outcome of this analysis was any marijuana use in the previous 30 days. We used multilevel regression modelling with adolescents nested within states to examine two questions. The first was whether marijuana use was higher overall in states that ever passed a medical marijuana law up to 2014. The second was whether the risk of marijuana use changed after passage of medical marijuana laws. Control covariates included individual, school, and state-level characteristics.
Findings Marijuana use was more prevalent in states that passed a medical marijuana law any time up to 2014 than in other states (adjusted prevalence 15·87% vs 13·27%; adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·27, 95% CI 1·07–1·51; p=0·0057). However, the risk of marijuana use in states before passing medical marijuana laws did not differ significantly from the risk after medical marijuana laws were passed (adjusted prevalence 16·25% vs 15·45%; adjusted OR 0·92, 95% CI 0·82–1·04; p=0·185). Results were generally robust across sensitivity analyses, including redefining marijuana use as any use in the previous year or frequency of use, and reanalysing medical marijuana laws for delayed effects or for variation in provisions for dispensaries.
Interpretation Our findings, consistent with previous evidence, suggest that passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana. However, overall, adolescent use is higher in states that ever passed such a law than in other states. State-level risk factors other than medical marijuana laws could contribute to both marijuana use and the passage of medical marijuana laws, and such factors warrant investigation.
June 16, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new report showing the results of a statewide study funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As this AP article, reports these basics (with my emphasis added):
Results from the 2014 survey were announced Monday. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that 13.6 percent of adults currently use pot. Of those, more than a third said they use pot every day. Almost half, 48.9 percent, said they’ve ever used pot. Adults with higher incomes and more education were more likely than others to have used marijuana.
To begin any analysis of this data, I think we must start by whether the data conclusively shows whether marijuana use truly has increased in Colorado recently as a result of legalization or whether just more current and former marijuana users feel more comfortable admitting in a government survey that they are marijuana users. In addition, there is reason to suspect a not-insignificant number of marijuana users moved into Colorado in the wake of its 2012 vote to legalize the drug, and such migration to a relatively low-population state could also move the numbers a bit here.
More important that unpacking the basics of this data is to integrating it with other critical public health data. Even if marijuana use has increased in Colorado significantly, I would be eager to know if there has been any corresponding significant change in illegal drug use patters, and well as in patterns of alcohol and tobacco use and abuse. Without such data (and lots more), I think it is nearly impossible to draw any definitive public health and safety conclusions from use survey data in the short term.
The quoted portion of this post comes from the headline of this recent Reason piece by Jacob Sullum, which canvasses at length the comments made by 2016 presidential candidates about whether they would respect state effort to reform their marijuana regimes in the shadow of federal prohibition. Here is how the piece starts and ends:
Last week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reiterated his intention to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it if he is elected president. In an interview on Face the Nation, Christie answered "yes" when asked whether he would "return the federal prosecutions in these states," "yes" when asked if he would "go after" marijuana, and "correct" when asked if legalization would be "turned off."
If he were president, Christie could make a lot of trouble for state-licensed growers and retailers, but he would not actually have the power to make Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon recriminalize marijuana. Furthermore, any attempt to override the decisions made by voters in those states would arouse strong objections — and not just from supporters of legalization. Illustrating that point, another Republican presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, disagreed with Christie. "Colorado voters made a choice," she said in a Fox News interview last Tuesday. "I don't support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice."
As I noted in March, that stance is pretty common among Republicans seeking their party's presidential nomination, and it seems politically smart, since even voters who hate marijuana do not necessarily think the federal government should force prohibition on states that do not want it. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that three-fifths of Americans think the feds should not "enforce federal marijuana laws" in states that have legalized pot. Even more striking: A 2012 CBS News survey found that 65 percent of Republicans thought "laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be…left to each individual state government to decide," even though only 27 percent supported Colorado-style legalization....
In short, Chris Christie's determination to stamp out marijuana legalization puts him in the minority among presidential candidates, among Republicans, and among the general public. "I don't believe that people want to be told just what they want to hear," he said on Face the Nation. "I believe they want to be told the truth as the person who is running sees it." There's a startling proposition: In 2015, it seems, promising to keep marijuana illegal counts as courage.
June 16, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 15, 2015
Colorado Supreme Court affirms statutory interpretation permitting dismissal of medical marijuana user
As reported in this local article, a long awaited Colorado Supreme Court ruling concerning application of the state's employment laws for marijuana user finally was handed today. Here are the basics:
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower courts' rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it's off-duty. The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.
Coats challenged Dish's zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The firing was upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. When the case went to the state Supreme Court, legal observers said the case could have significant implications for employers across Colorado. They also noted that the ruling could be precedent-setting as Colorado and other states wrangle with adapting laws to a nascent industry that is illegal under federal law.
As such, the question at hand is whether the use of medical marijuana — which is in compliance with Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment — is "lawful" under the state's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.
"Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute," Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion. The justices said the court will not make a new law. Current Colorado law allows employers to set their own policies on drug use.
Coats' attorney Michael Evans, of Centennial-based The Evans Group, called the decision "devastating."
"For people like Brandon Coats, there really isn't a 'choice,' as MMJ is the only substance both he and his (Colorado-licensed) physicians know of to control his seizures due to his quadriplegia," Evans said. "He has to have it. " A silver lining of the decision, Evans said, is that it provides clarity in a "scary, gray area" of state law.
"Today's decision means that until someone in the House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world's most powerful MMJ laws will have to choose between using MMJ and work," Evans said in a statement....
Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, said the justices' decision comes as no surprise. "It's easy to make too much of this decision," he said. "It really comes down to interpreting this one word in this one statute." As a matter of statutory interpretation, the court got it right, he said.
But for Coats and medical marijuana advocates, this is a blow, Kamin said. Coats was a "dream plaintiff" in that marijuana served as medicine, he said. Coats was rendered a quadriplegic by a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms.
The cause likely would land in the hands of the state legislature, Kamin said. "I think (Coats') case is very sympathetic, and I think his case would be quite compelling before the legislature," Kamin said.
The full ruling in this notable state Supreme Court can be accessed at this link, and the only thing I find surprising is why it took the Colorado justices a full nine months to resolve this matter.
In addition, though I fully understand the disappointment felt by Coats and his lawyer, I share Sam Kamin's view that this ruling is not that big a deal. This ruling does not mean state employers must dismiss marijuana users, only that they are not required by statute to keep such users who comply with state law employed. Ultimately, this case only would have been a very big deal if it had come out the other way. And, especially as more and more state legalize medical marijuana, I suspect more and more employers will become more eager to make accomodations for medical marijuana patients.
June 15, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)
This new USA Today article, headlined "Patchwork of pot rules hampers marijuana business expansion," highlights why the succeeding in the marijuana industry is not quite as easy as it migth seem. Here is how the article gets started:
Marijuana entrepreneurs rushing into the booming market are running headlong into a patchwork of state-by-state regulations that make it hard to transfer their expertise, brands and staff— and even their profits.
Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana have developed widely divergent rules governing their semi-legal marketplaces.
In Colorado, for instance, retailers until recently had been required to grow the majority of the marijuana they sell to customers. But Washington state bans retailers from growing their own cannabis, forcing them to buy from state-licensed farms.
New York and Minnesota ban the sale of smokeable medical marijuana but their systems will permit very sick people to consume cannabis oil and other extracts, while the District of Columbia allows residents to possess up to two ounces of smoking marijuana for recreational use.
Some states require marijuana growers and sellers to be legal residents of the state they're operating in, which means companies seeking to franchise their brands can't just send in managers from existing operations elsewhere.
Colorado requires a clean criminal record to get a marijuana-growing or retail license, while in Washington a conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify them.
"If you're trying to open a bagel shop in New York and a bagel shop in St. Louis, they're going to end up basically the same," said Kris Krane, the co-founder and managing partner of marijuana consulting firm 4Front Ventures. "The only difference is that the bagels might taste better in New York. (With marijuana), every state we go into we have to tailor the operating model. It's a real challenge."