Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Atlantic piece. Here is how it gets started:
In this mountain town, which began allowing the recreational sale of marijuana in 2014, businesswomen and female entrepreneurs say they are launching marijuana-centric companies with the hope that they can avoid the glass ceiling some say prevented them from reaching board rooms and corner offices in other industries.
In the past several years, women have become a driving force in the growth of the cannabis industry here and across the United States. As one magazine cover proclaimed recently, “Legal marijuana could be the first billion-dollar industry not dominated by men.”
Numbers would seem to bear those sentiments out. According to Marijuana Business Daily, women make up about 36 percent of executives in the legal-marijuana industry, compared to about 22 percent of senior managers in other industries. Women hold just 4.2 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. At tech companies like Google and Twitter, disproportionately few executives and engineers are women.
“It’s a new chance for many women who have been in the corporate world who couldn’t get to the next level,” said Becca Foster, an independent consultant with Healthy Headie, an in-home cannabis shop co-founded by Holly Alberti-Evans that goes by the tagline “the Mary Kay of Mary J.” A young mother of four, Foster worked as a senior implementation manager at Bank of America before going the cannabis consulting route. “It stalled out,” she said of her finance care; there was no clear way to balance both family and work.
June 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 27, 2016
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Politico article and its full headline: "Congress mellows on pot crackdowns: Following the lead of the states, it's moving in the general direction of legalization, advocates say." Here is how the article begins:
Don’t break out the bong just yet, but Congress is quietly chipping away at the federal ban on marijuana. It’s not happening with a sweeping national law, but through modest provisions slipped into spending bills in recent weeks.
For example: Bills funding the Veterans Affairs Department have a line that lifts a prohibition on medical marijuana. The Senate Appropriations Committee has adopted provisions barring the federal government from interfering on pot enforcement where medical marijuana is already legal. And there’s movement in both chambers to make sure banks don’t get penalized for handling money from legal pot businesses.
None of these will bring overnight change on the federal level. But each little measure shows that Congress, following the lead of the states, is moving in the general direction of legalization, advocates say. “We can kind of look at this as the end of prohibition, or at least the beginning of the end of prohibition,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat who backed his state’s 2014 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana and is helping lead efforts to soften federal restrictions.
Attitudes around the country and on Capitol Hill have changed so quickly that even advocates of rolling back pot restrictions have been surprised. It was only a few years ago that even the most modest reform proposals were rejected in the House and Senate, said Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Now? “We just win all the time,” he said, sounding not unlike a certain presidential candidate.
Most of the winning has taken place during the humdrum, but hugely consequential annual appropriations process, and this year is no different. A series of bipartisan provisions to loosen marijuana laws have been attached to government funding bills and are making their way through the House and Senate. In particular, lawmakers are making it easier for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana and are nudging banks to provide services to the nascent recreational marijuana industry, a key step toward legitimizing sales of the drug and paving the way for easy access at stores where pot is legal.
Democrats have typically been the strongest backers of reforming marijuana laws, but Republicans are increasingly lending their support as opinion shifts in red states, speeding up momentum in Congress. “The missing component was the constitutionalists and the libertarian conservatives,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican from California, who has rallied GOP support to loosen restrictions.
I do not think it is accurate to even suggest that many members of Congress are moving toward full legalization, but I do strongly believe that most members have now come to see that, these days, there is likely more to lose than to gain politically by being a forcefully supporter of blanket prohibition at the federal level. And this reality makes the coming 2016 initiative votes in various states on full legalization so interesting and important. If full legalization wins in most states, I think Congress will see the political writing on the wall. But if it loses in a few states, I suspect the future of major legal reforms in Congress and elsewhere will be a bit slower and less certain.
June 27, 2016 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)
The District of Columbia is a unique locale with unique laws and practices in many arenas. But, as highilighted by a big new report issued by the DC's Deprtment of Health, the District's relationship with marijuana law, policy and reform has much in common with a number of other jurisdictions. This big new report, available here, is titled "Marijuana in the District of Columbia," and here is the report's executive summary:
In recent years, marijuana related policies have gone through many transformations throughout the United States, with the District of Columbia being no exception. This report provides insight through current research and data that outlines the disadvantage, benefits and societal ramifications that accompany decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia. Factors that have been analyzed include short-term and long-term health consequences, public safety issues like driving while under the influence of the substance, marijuana’s co-use relationship with other drugs, and effects on fetal, infant, and adolescent development.
• 53.8% of adults in the District have ever tried marijuana and 17.8% currently use it.
• Marijuana was the second most commonly detected drug in traffic accidents that resulted in fatalities, District of Columbia in 2012.
• Medical marijuana has demonstrated promising results for various ailments, including neuropathic pain, nausea due to chemotherapy, and muscle spasms.
• Short term marijuana-related effects can include cyclic vomiting, disorientation, impaired body movement, increased heart rate, and difficulty thinking or problem-solving.
• There is some evidence that marijuana use may increase cancer risk.
• Among individuals at risk for mental illness, marijuana use may worsen symptoms.
• 8.9% of marijuana users will transition from casual use to dependence.
• Cigarette use and binge drinking are significantly higher among marijuana users than nonusers.
• Marijuana use among expecting mothers has demonstrated various adverse effects, including low birth weight and pre-term delivery.
• Marijuana use has been associated with a decline in IQ when regularly used among individuals under the age of 18.
• Throughout the U.S., marijuana possession arrests tend to occur significantly more among African Americans than any other race/ ethnicity despite rates of use are fairly similar across all categories.
June 27, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
One of many reasons I enjoy following marijuana law, policy and reform is because I keep learning and discovering and wondering and getting surprised by news and developments in this space. The latest example, which also promptes the question that is the title of this post, come from this New York Times article headlined "Marijuana Use Rises in Iran, With Little Interference." Here are some excerpts:
Iran is notorious for its harsh code of conduct enforced by an extensive intelligence apparatus, and it has waged a long and painful war on heroin and opium trafficking, with security forces dying by the thousands over the past two decades in fights with Afghan cartels. But the same government that executes hundreds of drug dealers every year — and cracks down periodically on alcohol, which is also illegal — seems curiously oblivious to the growing popularity of marijuana. The government opened 150 alcohol treatment centers in 2015, and the Health Ministry is deeply involved in combating hard drugs like heroin. But marijuana is mentioned only vaguely in the Islamic penal code, and the police pay it little heed.
While the penalty for alcohol consumption is theoretically 99 lashes — most people get off with a fine — there are no prison sentences or lashings prescribed for people found carrying small amounts of pot.
As a result, marijuana use has skyrocketed. Gol, or flower, as marijuana is called here, can be found everywhere in and around the capital. The skunky smell of marijuana smoke wafts through restaurants in the ski resorts of Dizin and Shemshak. In the winter months, young skiers and snowboarders can be seen casually rolling joints while riding the chairlift up the mountain. The aroma is routinely detected in Tehran’s public spaces. “When you stroll through one of Tehran’s parks, you can sometimes smell it, even on streets and squares,” said Taba Fajrak, 27, who works as a choreographer. “Once, I even smelled it in a cafe.”
In college dormitories, students use it to relax or concentrate, and during parties in private houses joints are passed around as comfortably as they might be in Boulder, Colo., or Amsterdam. Dealers are just a phone call away, and as common as the people who sell illicit DVDs or alcoholic drinks.
Iran does not keep official statistics on marijuana use. But anecdotal evidence and figures from rehabilitation clinics indicate that pot smoking is widespread in Iranian cities. Hossein Katbaei, the director of one such clinic, Camp Jordan, said the number of patients his staff was treating for marijuana abuse had quadrupled over the last five years.
The question in the title of this post is prompted in part by the fact that it might be especially interesting and valuable for researchers and others to look at marijuana policies and practicies in middle-eastern countries where alcohol is also prohibited.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Wall Street Journal piece. Here are excerpts:
A group of Democratic lawmakers is renewing pressure on the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove marijuana from its current position on a list of the most dangerous drugs, a category that includes heroin and ecstasy. Marijuana’s classification as a “Schedule I” drug is “a main barrier” to research on its potential health benefits and conflicts with a decision by half of the states to approve medical marijuana laws, eight Democratic senators wrote this week in a letter to the DEA and the Department of Justice, its parent agency.
DEA spokesman Russ Baer said in an interview that the agency is in the “final stages” of its deliberation on the issue, and he said a decision on whether to reschedule marijuana is expected “sometime soon.” Mr. Baer said he did not expect an answer by June 30, however, despite previous guidance from DEA officials that they hoped to make a decision in the first half of the year.
An increasing number of states now allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes, but the drug remains strictly illegal according to U.S. law. The federal government has adopted a practice of not prosecuting those who use marijuana according to their home-state laws. The senators argued that this “dissonance” between state and federal laws has “wide-ranging implications for legitimate marijuana businesses, including access to banking services, the ability to deduct business expenses from taxes, and access for veterans.”
Signers of the letters are Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
After the Food and Drug Administration determines whether a substance has a medical use, the DEA performs its own analysis and classifies a drug under one of five categories that also take into account their abuse potential. The DEA received a binding assessment from the FDA about whether marijuana should be considered to have a medical use nine to 12 months ago, Mr. Baer said.
That decision, which neither the DEA nor the FDA would discuss, is the controlling factor in whether the DEA will remove marijuana from Schedule I, said Mr. Baer. But regardless of the FDA’s decision, the DEA is required by law to do its own analysis, he said.
The full (and relatively short) letter from the Senators to the DEA is available here
Friday, June 24, 2016
Lots of notable marijuana politics and reform news from the states and Congress ... UPDATE: And from the DNC
Over at Marijuana.com, Tom Angell does a great job covering news on the marijuana reform law and politics front. These posts from this past week highlight why serious marijuana reform students should be following his work:
UPDATE: Here is another new item of note from the same source, with its starting text:
Democrats Approve Marijuana Platform Plank
Members of a Democratic National Committee panel responsible for drafting the party’s 2016 platform have approved a plank calling for broad marijuana law reform.
It reads: “We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”
June 24, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, June 23, 2016
These two recent newspaper article raise two good and challenging questions concerning the policies and practicalities soon now to become reality when Ohio's medical marijuana reforms formally become law in the coming months:
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Joel Warner has penned these two interesting and important new lengthy pieces about homelessness in Colorado and its intersection with marijuana reform:
Here are brief excerpts from both articles (which ought to be read in full):
While much has been made of the tourists, entrepreneurs and investors lured to Colorado’s blossoming marijuana industry, very little attention has been paid to another population drawn to the state’s cannabis experiment: marijuana migrants moving to the state who wind up on the streets. Interviews with people at homeless shelters in Denver and other Colorado cities like Pueblo suggest that since Colorado launched its legalized cannabis system in 2014, the percentage of newcomers to the facilities who are there in part because of the lure of marijuana has swollen to 20 to 30 percent.
All told, several hundred marijuana migrants struggling with poverty appear to be arriving in Colorado each month. Some of them, like Butts, come to use cannabis recreationally or medically without the fear of arrest. Others are hoping to get jobs in the new industry. But many arrive to find homeless services stretched to the breaking point, local housing costs increasingly prohibitive and cannabis use laws that penalize those without private residences....
Homelessness experts point out that there’s no proof that marijuana leads to homelessness, or that cannabis is the main culprit behind the growing numbers. Study after study has concluded that the major factors leading to homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, inability to find work and family crises. “There is very little safety when you are homeless,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter in Aurora, near Denver. “How many people want to trade their safety for access to something like marijuana or any other substance?”
But there is evidence that people who were already struggling to get by in other states are relocating to Colorado in part because of marijuana. So far, however, research on the phenomenon has been limited. A survey of Denver shelter workers by Metropolitan State University in the fall of 2014 found that eight of the 11 shelters said they were seeing client increases due in part to marijuana, said lead researcher Rebecca Trammell, but the study did not examine what, exactly those increases looked like. Plus some shelters actively avoid asking about marijuana use....
Marty Otañez, a University of Colorado Denver anthropology professor who’s been studying the state’s marijuana industry, said he’s met multiple cannabis workers who are on their way to becoming homeless. It’s left him convinced that it’s time for people in charge of the industry to address the problem. “The flow of ‘trimmigrants’ and other cannabis workers into Colorado and the added pressure on homeless shelters and social services for unemployed or poorly paid cannabis workers is a symptom of the broader problem of cannabis capitalism gone awry,” said Otañez. “Nominal efforts to fund corporate social responsibility schemes demonstrate the lack of seriousness on the part of cannabis business people to address in any genuine way the social ills associated with green gold.”
With nearly a billion dollars in revenue and more than $135 million in statewide taxes and fees generated by Colorado marijuana sales last year, some shelter managers would like to see a portion of the proceeds devoted to homeless services. “If some of those dollars can go to serving those folks, it could really help people,” said Tom Luehrs, executive director of Denver’s St. Francis Center day shelter. “We are not saying we want to become rich; we just want to help these people because Colorado is doing something good and it’s bringing people here.”
So far, none of Colorado’s marijuana tax revenues have gone to homeless programs. That will soon change. In Aurora, the city council recently voted to earmark $1.5 million of marijuana tax proceeds for homeless services annually for the next three years. According to Nancy Sheffield, project manager for Aurora’s neighborhood services department, the decision wasn’t based on concerns that marijuana was increasing local homeless numbers; it’s simply a matter of allocating resources to high-priority issues.
Whatever the reason, homeless advocates celebrated the move. “It’s a brilliant move by Aurora,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the city's Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter. “It’s not every day that a municipality gets a new funding stream. To reinvest that to meet the needs of struggling families is a good moral imperative stand.”
June 22, 2016 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new press report on a new Colorado government report about marijuana usage in the Centennial State. Here are the details:
Marijuana consumption by Colorado high school students has dipped slightly since the state first permitted recreational cannabis use by adults, a new survey showed on Monday, contrary to concerns that legalization would increase pot use by teens.
The biannual poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also showed the percentage of high school students indulging in marijuana in Colorado was smaller than the national average among teens. According to the department, 21.2 percent of Colorado high school students surveyed in 2015 had used marijuana during the preceding 30 days, down from 22 percent in 2011, the year before voters statewide approved recreational cannabis use by adults 21 and older. The first state-licensed retail outlets for legalized pot actually opened in 2014.
Nationwide, the rate of pot use by teens is slightly higher at 21.7 percent, the study found. “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don't use marijuana, even occasionally,” the department said in a statement.
The department conducts the voluntary survey every two years in conjunction with the University of Colorado and a citizens advisory committee. About 17,000 students responded to the poll....
A pro-legalization advocacy group said the findings show fears of widespread pot use by minors in states with legalized cannabis are unfounded. "These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
But Diane Carlson, of SMART Colorado, an organization that pushes for tighter regulations to keep cannabis away from children, said data from a 2015 survey by the federal Department of Health and Human Services showed that Colorado ranks first in the nation for marijuana use by youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
Carlson said it was “deeply concerning” that the Colorado survey showed that just 48 percent of the students polled viewed regular marijuana use as a risky behavior. "Youth marijuana use can have lifelong implications. The risks, which include psychosis, suicide, drug addiction and lower IQs, have been reported based on research on much lower THC potencies than are typically sold on Colorado's commercial market,” she said.
The survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and related materials can be accessed at this link, and this news release from the Department is sub-titled "Youth marijuana use unchanged, alcohol, tobacco use down in Colorado." I found especially interesteing this infographic headed "Marijuana Use Among Youth in Colorado."
Monday, June 20, 2016
Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 gets support from most vocal opponents and supporters of reform
As reported in this WonkBlog posting via the Washington Post, two members of Congress known to marijuana reformers for different reasons are now teaming up to support new federal laws to advance marijuana research. The piece is headlined "Marijuana’s biggest adversary on Capitol Hill is sponsoring a bill to research … marijuana," and here are excerpts:
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is Congress's most vocal opponent of legal marijuana, having single-handedly spearheaded a provision blocking legal pot shops in the District of Columbia in 2014. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), on the other hand, was recently named Congress's "top legal pot advocate" by Rolling Stone.
The two lawmakers couldn't be farther apart on marijuana policy, but they're teaming up this week to introduce a significant overhaul of federal marijuana policy that would make it much easier for scientists to conduct research into the medical uses of marijuana.
As Harris described it in an interview, the bipartisan Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 would "cut through the red tape" that currently makes it exceedingly difficult for researchers to obtain and use marijuana in clinical trials. As federal law currently stands, only one facility in Mississippi is allowed to produce marijuana used for research. "Because of this monopoly, research-grade drugs that meet researchers’ specifications often take years to acquire, if they are produced at all," Brookings Institution researchers wrote last year.
Beyond those difficulties, researchers wanting to work with the drug need to have their work approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and, in some cases, the National Institutes on Health. Those hurdles, and the amount of time it takes to jump over all of them, deter many researchers from doing work on marijuana. In one typical case, it took a team of scientists seven years to get full approval to conduct research into using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.
But the bill sponsored by Harris, Blumenauer, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) would allow many more growers to produce marijuana for research. It would also remove levels of federal review for marijuana research projects and specify shorter windows for federal approval of the projects.
Crucially, it would also change the criteria by which the federal government allows marijuana research to proceed. "The federal government must grant an application for [approval] unless it's not in the public interest, rather than assuming it's not," Blumenauer said in an interview. "Reversing that presumption is huge."
Marijuana is currently listed under Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act, the most stringent category of regulation. This bill would not change the schedule status of marijuana, but it would essentially create a "carve-out" within Schedule 1 for marijuana research, according to Harris. "Marijuana's actually different from other things in Schedule 1, which are all discrete chemicals," he said in an interview. "The plant is a combination of hundreds of compounds, so it needs to be treated separately from the other drugs in Schedule 1."
In a separate action, the DEA is currently considering whether to keep marijuana in Schedule 1, move it to a lower schedule, or de-schedule it entirely. But Harris says that process doesn't affect his thinking on this bill. "I'm not going to wait for the DEA to figure out what's going on," he said.
John Hudak, who studies marijuana policy at the Brookings Institution, calls the bill "a really creative approach by Congressman Blumenauer and his colleagues to effectively reschedule marijuana without having to reschedule it." He added, "It forces the government to make it easier for qualified legitimate researchers to get access to product and conduct that research."
Marijuana advocates used to tussling with Harris over his opposition to legal weed may be surprised to see him coming out forcefully in support of improved research. But as a doctor himself, Harris says researchers tell him that they can't do their jobs on account of federal red tape. "It's a Catch-22 that the research is difficult because of the strict rules, and the rules are strict because of the lack of research," he said. His thinking on the drug hasn't changed, he says: "I think medical marijuana should be much more strictly controlled than it is now." But, he adds, "as a physician I would never want to deny a medicine to a patient that has been shown, with scientific rigor, to help them."
June 20, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Regular readers perhaps growing bored of hearing me sing the praises of the work being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform. But two great new Brookings papers (along with this live event about the papers) ensures that I will be continuing to talk about the must-read materials the folks there are continuing to produce. Here are links to the two papers and the summaries provided by Brookings:
Worry about bad marijuana — not Big Marijuana by John Hudak and Jonathan Rauch
Many critics and proponents of marijuana legalization alike have voiced concerns about the potential emergence of Big Marijuana, a corporate lobby akin to Big Tobacco that recklessly pursues profits and wields sufficient clout to shape regulation to its liking.
Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, medical and/or recreational marijuana is now legal in more than two dozen states. As the federal government has largely tolerated state legalization, corporate capital and muscle have begun moving in on these new state markets. Such commercialization raises a new set of concerns about how industry dynamics may impact consumer behavior and potentially incur social costs.
In their new paper, “Worry about bad marijuana—not Big Marijuana,” John Hudak and Jonathan Rauch argue against alarmism. In analyzing the likely implications of the corporatization of marijuana, they conclude the following:
The marijuana industry will remain a diverse one even as large corporations emerge. The Big Marijuana rubric is more misleading than helpful as a guide to policy because it oversimplifies and stereotypes what is in reality a continuum of business scales and structures.
The marijuana industry is very unlikely to transform into something that looks like Big Tobacco during its notorious heyday. It is more likely that a commercial and regulatory model would look like the one governing alcohol, which is regulated primarily at the state level, combines mandatory with voluntary measures to police industry conduct, does a credible job of preventing antisocial and abusive commercial behavior, and has proven stable over time and broadly acceptable to the public and the industry.
Intelligently regulated and managed, Big Marijuana can be part of the solution. Corporatization, though not without its hazards, has considerable upsides. It brings advantages in terms of public accountability and regulatory compliance, product safety and reliability, market stability, and business professionalism.
Policy should concern itself with harmful practices, not with industry structure, and it should begin with a presumption of neutrality on issues of corporate size and market structure. Attempts to block corporatization are likely to backfire or fail. For policymakers, the concern should be bad marijuana, not big marijuana.
Bootleggers, Baptists, bureaucrats, and bongs: How special interests will shape marijuana legalization by Jonathan Rauch and Philip Wallach
Where there are markets, regulations, and money, special interests and self-serving behavior will not be far away. So argue Philip Wallach and Jonathan Rauch in this new paper that examines how special interests are likely to shape marijuana legalization and regulation in the United States.
Why did legalization of marijuana break through in the face of what had long been overwhelming interest-group resistance? In a post-disruption world, how might key social and bureaucratic actors reorganize and reassert themselves? As legalization ushers in a “new normal” of marijuana-related regulation and lobbying, what kinds of pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead? In this paper, Wallach and Rauch address those questions through the prism of what political economists often call the theory of public choice—the study of how interest groups and bureaucratic incentives influence policy outcomes. Their conclusions include:
For many years, the marijuana-policy debate was dominated by an “iron triangle” of anti-legalization interests: moralists and public-health advocates who believe marijuana use is wrong or harmful; commercial and gray-market interests with stakes in drug treatment and medical marijuana; and law-enforcement and quasi-governmental entities whose budgets and missions are sustained by the war on drugs. Those interests’ combined firepower stunted change even as public support for marijuana prohibition softened.
To make possible the wholesale disruption that has happened with marijuana legalization, public opinion change was necessary, but it was not sufficient. Also required was the disruption of the iron triangle. That was accomplished in the late 2000s through a shrewdly crafted campaign of “asymmetric warfare” that aimed money and argumentation at the incumbent coalition’s weakest points. In particular, reformers shifted the public’s focus from harms of marijuana use to harms of marijuana criminalization.
The rise of commercial marijuana interests and a potentially controversial “marijuana lobby” may impede legalization’s momentum as its opponents change the subject once again, from harms of criminalization to harms of corporate predation.
The present disrupted regulatory environment is unlikely to last. Old prohibitionist interests are discombobulated and new commercial-marijuana interests are still getting organized, giving legalizing states a degree of regulatory freedom which is exceptional but probably not durable. Over time, multiple interests will coalesce and colonize the regulatory process.
Despite widely touted concern that one or more disproportionately powerful players will dominate the regulatory system, regulatory incoherence should be a greater concern than regulatory capture. As policymakers increasingly need to navigate complex and conflicting interest-group politics, the result is at least as likely to be overregulation and misregulation as it is to be systematic underregulation.
June 19, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Regular readers know that one aspect of the burgeoning marijuana industry that I find especially interesting is the role that women can and will play within a new modern industry that has little legitimate business history and thus has little history of traditional gender discrimination in its businesses. Against this backdrop, this lengthy new article from the Baltimore Sun caught my attention this weekend. The piece is headlined "Women see no ceiling in Maryland medical marijuana industry," and here are excerpts:
Maryland's long-promised medical marijuana industry doesn't exist yet, and that's precisely why more than 60 women, mostly dressed like a PTA crowd, banded together there — to rise to the top before anyone gets in their way. "How vital are women to the success of the cannabis business in Maryland? If you're asking, I probably don't want to talk to you," said Megan Rogers, a co-founder of the Baltimore chapter of Women Grow and an applicant to open a dispensary. "We're here to ensure that the cannabis industry has no glass ceiling."
As the state considers hundreds of pending medical marijuana licenses, the women gathered to network, celebrating the opportunity to create an industry from scratch. Dozens of the organization's members have applied to grow marijuana or open dispensaries or processing businesses. Others plan to sell specialized marijuana containers, offer legal services, do product testing or provide event planning for women who secure a coveted license.
There is more collaboration than competition, the women say. There's no snatching of ideas or secretive cloaking of business plans, no assumptions that they need to get in line behind men to get ahead. "We have an opportunity to take an industry, from the ground up, and insert women in the upper echelons," said Carissa Cartalemi, a co-founder of the group and a holistic therapist who applied for a dispensary license with Rogers. "I do think there's something very feminine to that spirit of collaboration."
Women's marijuana business groups have grown by leaps and bounds as 25 states across the country have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and four states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational cannabis.
Women Grow began in Denver two years ago and now includes more than 45 chapters in the United States and Canada. Its conference in February attracted 1,300 people and was headlined by singer and marijuana activist Melissa Etheridge.
Women are much less likely to become entrepreneurs than men. In Maryland, women are half as likely as men to own their own businesses, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, which tracks business activity across the country. A survey released this month showed women hold 91 of the 630 board seats of Maryland companies that trade on one of the three stock exchanges — less than 14 percent of board seats and well under the national average. Other new industries — including the booming tech field — have largely been dominated by men, who worked disproportionately in the academic fields that fed those industries.
But women in Maryland and across the country see a different landscape in the emerging cannabis industry, which was born out of the advocacy community that persuaded legislatures to legalize it. "This is an industry that was led by a movement, by both women and men," said Giadha Aguirre DeCarcer, a former venture capitalist who launched a Washington-based cannabis market research company. DeCarcer is familiar with Women Grow but not active in the Baltimore chapter.
"There are no barriers to entry, but also no glass ceiling," said DeCarcer, CEO and founder of New Frontier Financials. "There hasn't been time for a good-ol'-boys club to develop. … The culture is very different because it stems from a movement."
Jessica White, 48, runs a holistic health center in White Marsh and applied for four dispensary licenses and a kosher processing license — she can hold only one, but was trying to increase her chances of being selected from among the 811 applications for just 94 licenses. "My market is 65-plus, chronic pain, not candidates for surgeries," White said. "We're talking little old church ladies."
White attends meetings of several other medical cannabis organizations, too, but said the vibe is different with the Women Grow crowd. "In a lot of the other groups I'm friendly with, it's a bunch of old white guys," White said. "A lot of the men in the industry keep things to themselves. Here, it's 'I'm Jessica. I want to open a dispensary. What about you?'"...
Elkridge-based Cannaline sponsored a season's worth of Women Grow events, which allows its saleswoman, Carrie Kirk, to hand out free samples of the company's marijuana packaging options as attendees clink glasses of house wine. Kirk worked for 17 years in pharmaceutical sales and management but now works up and down the East Coast selling Cannaline's marketing products, custom odor-proof bags and child-resistant packaging.
Even though more states east of the Mississippi are launching medical marijuana markets, she said, it's very tightly regulated and the industry here feels very different than that on the West Coast. "We have to do things more conservatively here," she said. A Women Grow event allows her to reach a lot of potential customers in an industry that lacks access to traditional advertising.
In a back corner of the Women Grow event, former regulatory lawyer Leah Heise was holding court at the center of a ring two people deep, enthusiastically connecting people. An illness that would have been more easily treated with medical marijuana than opioids took her out of the workforce for more than a decade, she said. Now that a surgery alleviated the underlying cause of her debilitating pain from chronic pancreatitis, she's rejoined the working world and fashioned a new career as a mentor and attorney for companies trying to navigate Maryland's newest industry.
She's president of Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute, and says Women Grow offers not only camaraderie but also a resource she can't find elsewhere. "This is the only place where someone can come to learn anything. Anything!" she said. She turned her attention to a woman who spent her career working at spas but was looking for a way into the medical marijuana industry. Heise enthusiastically took her card. "Someone like her would be incredible as a dispensary manager," she said. "It's a whole new era, and the industry will be huge."
Some prior related posts:
- Women & Weed: Blazing A Trail Toward Nationwide Legalization
- Could (and will) women executives become dominant leaders in the marijuana industry?
- "Whoopi Goldberg Launches Medical-Marijuana Products Targeted at Menstrual Cramps"
Friday, June 17, 2016
I noted in this prior post a couple of weeks ago the legal battle shaping up over whether the ballot initiative effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan would actually get to the voters. This new local article, headlined "Marijuana group sues Michigan for ballot access," reports that this legal battle is now officially before a court. Here are the details:
A Michigan group seeking to put a marijuana legalization question on the November ballot is taking its fight to court. MI Legalize on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the state in the Michigan Court of Claims, challenging a law and policy that effectively invalidated its petition signatures collected outside of a customary 180-day window.
Attorneys Jeff Hank, Thomas Lavigne and Matthew Abel, members of the MI Legalize board, argue the law and policy are inconsistent with the Michigan Constitution, which allows for initiated petitions but does not specify a time limit for signature collection. The six-count complaint also contends rejecting older signatures denies voters their free speech and political expression rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We’re just asking for our petitions to be treated like all the others so that anyone who signed as a registered voter has their voice heard,” Hank told The Detroit News. “The state doesn’t really have an argument for why they wouldn’t count someone’s signature if it’s legitimate.”
The suit has broad implications for MI Legalize and other ballot proposal committees in Michigan, where successful “citizen-initiated” petition drives typically rely on the financial and organizational backing of interest groups. “It’s going to be a historic Michigan elections law case that effects not just us but everybody else,” Hank said. “If we’re successful in this, other campaigns will have a longer time to petition. This isn’t just a marijuana issue anymore, it’s a voting rights and ballot access issue.”
MI Legalize, an activist-led group that used a combination of volunteer and paid petition circulators, submitted an estimated 354,000 signatures to the state on June 1, topping the 252,523 needed to qualify for the ballot. But 146,413 of the signatures were collected within 180 days of the filing, according to an initial Bureau of Elections staff review, prompting the Board of State Canvassers to vote against certifying the proposal for the November ballot.
MI Legalize is asking for expedited review by the Court of Claims, including a restraining order against the 180-day collection law and an order for the Bureau of Elections to move forward with a full canvass of the group’s submitted petitions....
Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a new law strengthening the 180-day window requirement for petition drives to initiate legislation or amend the state constitution. The law had allowed petitioners to “rebut” the presumption that older signatures were “stale and void,” but the process for proving their validity was laborious and had never been successfully completed. The 1986 Board of State Canvassers policy required petitioners to secure affidavits from local elections clerks across the state confirming that signers were still registered to vote in their respective counties.
MI Legalize had asked the state to update by the policy by allowing registration verification through the Qualified Voter File database, but the Board of State Canvassers did not approve a Bureau of Elections recommendation. The Michigan Supreme Court in 1986 upheld the 180-day signature window for petitions to amend the state constitution, but the MI Legalize complaint focuses on petition drives for initiated legislation. The lawsuit filed Thursday challenges the old law as well as the new version signed this month by Snyder that eliminated the signature rehabilitation option, requesting a declaration that both are unconstitutional.
MI Legalize is also seeking monetary damages of up to $1.1 million plus other costs and punitive relief if its signatures are not fully canvassed. The group had reported raising $849,000 through April 20.
I am not sure when and how we will know for sure that the marijuana industry has gone entirely mainstream, but this new article appearing on the front-page of the New York Times seems like a tipping point moment. The lengthy article, as appearing on-line, is headlined "The First Big Company to Say It’s Serving the Legal Marijuana Trade? Microsoft." (Apparently in the printed paper the headline was "Microsoft Dips Toe Into Trade on Marijuana.") Here are excerpts from the lengthy piece:
As state after state has legalized marijuana in one way or another, big names in corporate America have stayed away entirely. Marijuana, after all, is still illegal, according to the federal government.
But Microsoft is breaking the corporate taboo on pot this week by announcing a partnership to begin offering software that tracks marijuana plants from “seed to sale,” as the pot industry puts it.
The software — a new product in Microsoft’s cloud computing business — is meant to help states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of marijuana keep tabs on sales and commerce, ensuring that they remain in the daylight of legality.
But until now, even that boring part of the pot world was too controversial for mainstream companies. It is apparent now, though, that the legalization train is not slowing down: This fall, at least five states, including the biggest of them all — California — will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
So far, only a handful of smaller banks are willing to offer accounts to companies that grow or sell marijuana, and Microsoft will not be touching that part of the business. But the company’s entry into the government compliance side of the business suggests the beginning of a legitimate infrastructure for an industry that has been growing fast and attracting lots of attention, both good and bad.
“We do think there will be significant growth,” said Kimberly Nelson, the executive director of state and local government solutions at Microsoft. “As the industry is regulated, there will be more transactions, and we believe there will be more sophisticated requirements and tools down the road.”
Microsoft’s baby step into the business came through an announcement on Thursday that it was teaming up with a Los Angeles startup, Kind, that built the software the tech giant will begin marketing. Kind — one of many small companies trying to take the marijuana business mainstream — offers a range of products, including A.T.M.style kiosks that facilitate marijuana sales, working through some of the state-chartered banks that are comfortable with such customers.
Microsoft will not be getting anywhere near these kiosks or the actual plants. Rather, it will be working with Kind’s “government solutions” division, offering software only to state and local governments that are trying to build compliance systems.
But for the young and eager legalized weed industry, Microsoft’s willingness to attach its name to any part of the business is a big step forward. “Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will,” said Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of Green Wave Advisors, which provides data and analysis of the marijuana business. “It’s very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business.”...
It’s hard to know if other corporate giants have provided their services in more quiet ways to cannabis purveyors. New York State, for instance, has said it is working with Oracle to track medicinal marijuana patients. But there appears to be little precedent for a big company advertising its work in the space. It is still possible — though considered unlikely — that the federal government could decide to crack down on the legalization movement in the states.
The partnership with Kind is yet another bold step for Microsoft as its looks to replace the revenue from its fading desktop software business. On Monday, it announced that it was buying LinkedIn. Microsoft has put a lot of emphasis on its cloud business, Azure. The Kind software will be one of eight pieces of preferred software that Microsoft will offer to users of Azure Government — and the only one related to marijuana.
The conflict between state and federal laws on marijuana has given a somewhat improvisational nature to the cannabis industry. Stores that sell pot have been particularly hobbled by the unwillingness of banks to deal with the money flowing through the industry. Many dispensaries have been forced to rely on cash for all transactions, or looked to startups like Kind, with its kiosks that take payments inside dispensaries.
Governments, too, have generally been relying on smaller startups to help develop technology that can track marijuana plants and sales. A Florida software company, BioTrackTHC, is helping Washington State, New Mexico and Illinois monitor the marijuana trade inside their states....
The opening up of the market in California is already leading to a scramble for the big money that is likely to follow, and Microsoft will now be well placed to get in on the action. Ms. Nelson of Microsoft said that initially her company would be marketing the Kind software at conferences for government employees, but it could eventually also be attending the cannabis events where Kind is already a regular presence. “This is an entirely new field for us,” she said. “We would have to figure out which conference might be the premier conference in this space. That’s not outside the realm of possibility.”
June 17, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 16, 2016
New Drug Policy Alliance report highlights problems with access and data in New York medical marijuana program
Earlier this week the Drug Policy Alliance this notable new report detailing and lamenting that New York's medical marijuana program is too restrictive and that information about the program is not readily available. This DPA press release reports on some of the report's findings, and here are excerpts from the press release:
The Drug Policy Alliance issued a report assessing the first four months on the state’s medical marijuana program. The report is in response to demand for information in the face of the absence of all but the most limited public information from the New York State Department of Health. The report, the first systematic assessment of the program so far and its impact on patient access, found patients and caregivers face significant barriers to accessing medical marijuana.
On January 7th 2016, New York became the 23rd state to rollout its medical marijuana program. The law, which was passed in June of 2014, took eighteen months to implement and has been criticized as being one of the most restrictive and burdensome programs in the country. Since the program was launched, patients and advocates have been frustrated by numerous barriers to accessing the program, including difficulty finding participating physicians, trouble accessing dispensaries and medication, and affordability.
The Department of Health has released only limited data about how the program is performing, offering little more than updates on the number of patients and doctors who have completed registration applications. Working with Compassionate Care NY, the state’s largest grassroots organization of patients and caregivers, the Drug Policy Alliance surveyed 255 people who had sought to access the state’s medical marijuana program.
According to the report, one of most pressing problems is that patients are struggling to find health care providers who are participating in the program. According to DOH, as of June 9th, only 593 physicians New York physicians registered to certify patients for medical marijuana – less than 1% of all physicians in New York. Because there is no publicly available list of participating physicians, patients are forced to cold-call doctors in hopes of finding one or go through social media or other potentially unreliable sources.
More than half of patients and caregivers surveyed in the DPA report had not yet found a doctor to certify them, and among those, 3 out of 5 have been trying for 3 to 4 months to locate a registered physician.
Geographic inaccessibility is another barrier compounding problems of patient access to medicine. Under the law, only five producers are licensed to grow medical marijuana in New York, and each can only operate 4 dispensaries. This means that for a state of almost 20 million people and 54,000 square miles, there are only 20 dispensaries allowed (of which only 17 dispensaries have opened, to date). Patients, many of whom are very sick and disabled, must travel hours in some cases to get to a dispensary. According to findings from the survey, 27% of registered patients/caregivers travelled for 1 to 5 hours to access a dispensary, while nearly 2 out of 5 reported that the dispensary they visited did not carry the specific kind of medical marijuana that was recommended to them by their physician.
Another major finding of the report is the unaffordability of medicine. For respondents who had obtained medicine, 70% indicated that their monthly cost would be $300 and above, and more than 3 in 4 patients and caregivers who purchased medicine from a dispensary, stated that they would not be able to afford the monthly cost of medicine.
DPA’s report calls on the New York State legislature to pass bills currently pending in Albany that would amend the Compassionate Care Act, New York’s medical marijuana law, and improve access to medicine for those in need.... “New Yorkers deserve more transparency and information about how the state’s medical marijuana program is performing,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, of the Drug Policy Alliance and Compassionate Care NY. “Our data confirms what we have heard from patients and caregivers for months – New York’s program is not easily accessible, and even for patients who manage access the program, most cannot afford the medication. We urge the legislature to act quickly and pass these bills to improve the program so patients in need can get relief.”
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, has this notable new MSNBC commentary headlined "If pot is legal, we don’t need these absurd restrictions." The commentary complains not only about marijuana prohibution, but also all the limitation on marijuana legalization in both medical and recreational states. Here are excerpts from the piece:
Today, there are a couple dozen states (+D.C.) that have legalized medical marijuana in some way. Ohio just joined that list last month. And on election day (which is Tuesday, Nov. 8), medical marijuana and recreational marijuana will be on the ballot in several states. However, even if your state has legalized medical and recreational marijuana, there are still huge restrictions on every aspect of "legalization."
Take Colorado for instance. If you're a Colorado resident, you can buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana at one time, but if you're visiting from another state, you can only purchase up to ¼ ounce at a time. Name one other legal substance that is regulated in this manner. If I can buy as many cigarettes as I want, then why, in a state like Colorado where marijuana is legal, can I not empty my bank account in a retail marijuana shop if that's what I want to do?
Think about alcohol for a minute. It's completely legal to buy as much of it as you want. If you drink too much, it can cause liver damage, addiction, even death. According to the CDC, in 2014 alone, more Americans died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647). So, there were more alcohol related deaths in 2014 than heroin related deaths (and we keep hearing that there's a national heroin epidemic in this country), yet I am not limited to the amount of alcohol I can purchase.
If it's such a deadly substance, then shouldn't it be regulated more? Could you imagine if the government did such a thing? Let's limit the amount of beer to a six-pack per person per day and see how much rioting there'd be in the streets! Look, if a substance is legal to purchase, then I should be allowed to purchase as much of it as I so desire. To me, that's the definition of a legal substance....
I'd like to know what lawmakers are so afraid of when it comes to actually legalizing marijuana. What are the side effects of this medication? Patients feel better. It helps people manage chronic pain without addiction or death. We just lost Prince, one of the greatest musical icons of my home state of Minnesota, due to prescription pill overdose. If his doctor prescribed him marijuana, I believe he would still be with us today. And as a "recreational" substance, name me one person who smokes weed and then wakes up the next day not remembering committing violent or aggressive acts, which is so typically associated with alcohol use.
I'm a purist. If a substance is legal, it should be legal. Yes, let's tax it, let's make money off of it, but let's not regulate it to the point where people live in fear of having too much of this "legal" substance on them at a given moment. When people buy cigarettes, they don't worry if they have too many packs in the trunk of their car, yet there is not one medical benefit of smoking cigarettes. It's common knowledge that cigarettes slowly kill you. So addictive substances that kill people: perfectly legal. A medical substance that has proven time and time again to have practically zero side effects and can actually help people: not fully legalized, and many Americans risk going to jail if they use it.
On Election Day, I'm voting for people who will actually legalize this incredible plant. We don't know what's in our future or what's in our children's futures. Our loved ones could be diagnosed with cancer, Huntington's, ALS, epilepsy, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, PTSD, Parkinson's, fibromyalgia or any number of illnesses that cannabis treats. It's in all of our best interests to make cannabis legal for every American.
Notable CDC survey data showing no changes in youth marijuana use despite massive state changes in marijuana law and policy
Via Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority, I just saw this interesting data report from the Center For Desease Control under the heading "Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Other Illegal Drug Use, National YRBS: 1991—2015." For those who do not know, the YRBS refers to the nation Youth Risk Behavior Survey which "monitors priority health risk behaviors and "is conducted every two years during the spring semester and provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools throughout the United States."
The first three lines of data from this link will be of greatest interest to marijuana reform advocate, as it reports from the last 25 years the survey results on the issues of how many high-schoolers have "Ever used marijuana (one or more times during their life)" and have "Tried marijuana before age 13 years (for the first time)" and "Currently used marijuana (one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)." Though I am simplifying the particulars, for all these survey questions, it appears that teen use of marijuana as reported via these surveys generally increased some in the 1990s and generally decreased over the last 15 years. And, of particular note, the CDC report that from 2013 to 2015, these was essentially and statistically speaking "No change." (Also, encouragingly, it appears that use of harder drugs by teens is also either not changing or even "decreasing" in recent years.)
Long story short, while adult use of marijuana is being legalize recreationally in a few states and medically in many more, it appears that so far we are seeing no obvious impact on teen use of marijuana. I am not confident that these trends will persist over a long period of time if marijuana is legalized for recreational use by adults nationwide, but for now there is preliminary data to contradict assertions by opponents that marijuana reform that reform will be leading to significant increases in use by underage populations.
As reported in this AP article, headlined "Ohio Becomes Latest State to Legalize Medical Marijuana," the Buckeye State is now officially a medical marijuana state. Here are the basics:
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Wednesday legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio, though patients shouldn't expect to get it from dispensaries here anytime soon. The bill lays out a number of steps that must happen first to set up the state's medical marijuana program, which is expected to be fully operational in about two years. The law would allow patients to use marijuana in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions, but bar them from smoking it or growing it at home.
Kasich's signature made Ohio the 25th state to legalize a comprehensivemedical marijuana program, according to a count by the National Conference of State Legislatures. [Editor's Note: I think this is really the 26th state, because after recent reforms Louisiana's should be part of this count.] ...When the law takes effect in 90 days, cities and towns could move to ban dispensaries or limit the number of them. Licensed cultivators, processors, dispensaries and testing laboratories could not be within 500-feet of schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds or parks. Employers could continue to enforce drug-testing policies and maintain drug-free workplaces. Banks that provide services to marijuana-related entities would be protected from criminal prosecution....
A newly created Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee will help develop regulations and make recommendations. The governor and legislative leaders must appoint people to the 14-member panel no later than 30 days after the bill's effective date. Its members will represent employers, labor, local law enforcement, caregivers, patients, agriculture, people involved in mental health treatment and people involved in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. Others include a nurse, academic researcher, two practicing pharmacists and two practicing physicians. No more than six members can be of the same political party. The bill dissolves the committee after five years and 30 days....
The legislation specifies that the medical marijuana program is to be fully operational within two years of the bill.... The Ohio Department of Commerce, State Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy will all play a role. The Commerce Department will oversee licensing of marijuana cultivators, processors and testing labs. The Pharmacy Board will license dispensaries and register patients and their caregivers, and set up a hotline to take questions from patients and caregivers. The Medical Board would issue certificates to physicians seeking to recommend treatment with medical marijuana.
Some prior related posts about Ohio's recent legislative and regulatory medical marijuana activity:
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Minnesota Dept of Health survey shows patients and health-care providers report benefits from medical marijauna including reduced opioid use
This local article, headlined "Most Minnesota medical marijuana patients, and their practitioners, find treatment beneficial," reports on some positive results from early surveys of participants in Minnesota's medical marijuana program. Here are basics from the press report (with links from the original, and my emphasis added):
Almost all patients participating in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program say they are benefiting from the treatment, according to the results of a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) survey released Monday. Most of the patients’ health-care providers agree, although they tend to be more modest with their assessment of the treatment’s therapeutic benefits, the survey also found.
“This was certainly not a clinical trial. It can’t answer questions about effectiveness,” said Dr. Thomas Arneson, research manager for the MDH’s Office of Medical Cannabis, in a phone interview with MinnPost. “But I was impressed by the high level of benefit reported,” he added. “We heard from 55 percent of the patients, which is pretty good. So even if it was a lower presumption of benefit among the others who didn’t respond, it was still pretty substantial.”
MDH sent the survey to the 435 patients who purchased medical marijuana during the first three months of the state’s program (July 1 to Sept. 30, 2015) and to the 345 health-care practitioners, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who certified them as being eligible for the treatment. The survey asked the patients and the practitioners to rate the level of benefit received from the use of medical marijuana on a scale of 1 (no benefit) to 7 (a great deal of benefit).
Surveys were completed by 241 (55 percent) of the patients and by 94 (27 percent) of the health-care practitioners. The perception of benefit was high in both groups. Almost 88 percent of the patients and 68 percent of the health-care practitioners reported at least some benefit to the patient (a score of 4 or higher) from the treatment. A “significant” level of benefit (a score of 6 or 7) was reported by 66 percent of the patients and 46 percent of the practitioners.
The top three conditions for which the patients surveyed had been prescribed medical marijuana were severe muscle spasms, seizures and cancer. Although benefits were reported for all of those conditions, patients with cancer reported the highest scores, while the practitioners indicated that they had observed the greatest benefit from the treatments among their patients with muscle spasms.
The practitioners’ reports of benefit for all the conditions were generally more conservative than those of the patients. “The patients were a little bit higher on the more subjective quality-of-life benefits than the healthcare practitioners were,” said Arneson. “The clinicians tended to respond more with things that were measurable, that were objective,” he added.
One interesting benefit reported by the practitioners was a reduction in the need for other pain medications. Twelve said their patients were able to reduce their pain medication dosage as a result of the marijuana, including at least six who were able to decrease their use of prescription opioids.
About 20 percent of the surveyed patients and 16 percent of the surveyed practitioners reported patient side effects from the marijuana treatment — a finding that mirrors what has been observed in research conducted elsewhere, said Arneson. In the MDH survey, the side effects included hives, stomach pains, dizziness, fatigue, a burning sensation in the mouth and paranoia. None of the side effects were life-threatening, although four patients (2 percent) reported an increase in seizures.
Despite the survey's overall positive results, not everybody who receives medical marijuana treatment for one of the qualifying conditions is going to benefit from it, Arneson emphasized. “How much of this is the placebo factor, we don’t know, although it’s probably quite a bit of it,” he said. “Cannabis is not a miracle drug,” he added.
Still, the survey suggests that whether or not the placebo effect is in play, many patients believe medical marijuana is helping to ease their symptoms. “These are individual persons, individual lives, many of whom are having great difficulties in their lives because of their medical conditions,” said Arneson. ...
FMI: The MDH’s report on the survey was published online in the June issue of Minnesota Medicine magazine, where it can be read in full. The complete survey results — including specific comments from patients about the effects of the treatment on their medical condition — can be found on MDH’s Office of Medical Cannabis website.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Are any criminal justice researchers or marijuana reform groups taking a very close look at marijuana arrests in recent years?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by seeing today these two notable headlines about marijuana arrests in two notable cities:
UPDATE: Here are three more recent press piece on this topic that I just came across: