Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Future is hazy for marijuana and the workplace"

1102351_172516-MarijuanaByNumbers10The title of this post is the punny, but spot-on, headline of this local article from Maine. Here are excerpts:

The difficulty of testing for marijuana intoxication and the complexity of Maine’s drug-testing laws are creating uncertainty among state officials and employers about the workplace impacts of a legal marijuana market. “It’s uncharted territory to a great extent,” said Julie Rabinowitz, director of policy, operations and communications for the Maine Department of Labor.

As Maine residents prepare to vote on marijuana legalization Nov. 8, state labor officials are meeting with their counterparts in Colorado and preparing to answer questions from employers about how passage of Question 1 would affect their drug-testing policies and efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace.  State labor officials plan to offer courses on how to spot impairment in the workplace, and they say it’s unclear whether employers will be able to continue screening prospective workers for marijuana use.

However, backers of the legalization measure say the proposed law leaves in place protections for employers, who would still be able to implement drug-screening requirements, maintain drug-free workplace policies and fire employees who show up for work intoxicated.

No state east of the Rockies has legalized marijuana, but Maine and Massachusetts – as well as Arizona, California and Nevada – will vote Nov. 8 on proposals to establish recreational cannabis markets.  Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all legalized marijuana for adult use.  While Maine already has higher marijuana use rates than most other states and is home to a burgeoning medical marijuana program, the potential increase in access to the drug raises questions for employers about how it would affect workplaces.

Although Maine employers will still have the right to prohibit employees from working while impaired – whether it’s by alcohol, marijuana or other drugs – there is no agreed-upon testing standard for marijuana impairment. Unlike a positive test for alcohol in the bloodstream, a positive test for marijuana doesn’t prove impairment because it could be the result of cannabis use weeks before the test.

And the referendum raises doubts about whether employers will continue to be able to reject job applicants who test positive for marijuana use that is no longer against the law, according to the Department of Labor.  The department has sought guidance from Colorado about how a recreational market could affect employers that drug-test employees or maintain drug-free workplace policies, and labor officials are still sorting through the Maine initiative and how it interacts with existing state law related to drug testing.  Employers, meanwhile, say they are taking a wait-and-see approach as they look for guidance from state officials on how to deal with employees who show up for work stoned....

The ballot initiative does not require employers to allow the use of marijuana in the workplace or prohibit them from disciplining employees who are under the influence, said Alysia Melnick, policy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

“Question 1 doesn’t change Maine employers’ rights to keep and maintain a drug-free workplace,” Melnick said. “Maine is and will continue to be an at-will state, meaning employers can terminate employees for just about any reason. If an employer had concerns about an employee’s performance or an employee was impaired on the job, they would continue to be within their rights to terminate that employee.”

Melnick said the initiative says that employers cannot discriminate against employees who use marijuana, but that doesn’t mean they have to hire them if they can’t pass a drug test.  “If someone is not performing their job well or seems impaired or is doing anything else that would cause an employer to fire them, they’d still be allowed to let them go,” she said. “What they can’t do is fire someone solely on their use of marijuana outside of the workplace.”

Even if passage of the referendum would not prohibit pre-employment drug screening, employers may find themselves walking a fine line between respecting employees’ rights to do what they want on their own time and a desire to maintain a work environment free of people using marijuana, according to labor experts.  That could leave employers in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide between tightening policies on positive test results to keep users out of the workplace or loosening them to avoid losing qualified employees.

That becomes tricky, according to labor officials and employers, because it can be more difficult to assess impairment from marijuana use than from the use of other substances, such as alcohol or opiates.  A positive marijuana test indicates only that someone has consumed in recent weeks, not whether he or she is actually impaired in the workplace.

With alcohol, a breath test can be used to determine if someone is above the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content that is considered the threshold for impairment. But there is no agreed-upon blood-content level for tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – that would determine impairment. THC can stay in a person’s system for weeks after consumption, and regular marijuana users could have high THC levels but not be impaired.

Given that state law now prohibits recreational marijuana use, some employers have considered any positive test a reason not to hire a job candidate. But if recreational marijuana use becomes legal, drug screening gets complicated. “Human resources officials are still in two modes: catch-up and reaction,” said Jim Reidy, a New Hampshire attorney who specializes in labor and employment law and is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management. “We’re in an interesting time when there’s a culture clash between individual rights and the rights of an employer to govern its rules of conduct and its expectation with regards to employees. We’re in a culture war between individual rights and the rights of the employers.”...

Maine labor laws allow employers to drug-test employees with approval from the state Department of Labor, but the regulations around testing are complex and exclude most Maine employers from implementing random testing policies. The number of Maine companies that drug-test employees is surprisingly low, even though the numbers have increased over the past decade, Rabinowitz said.

Of the state’s roughly 40,000 employers, about 500 do some form of drug testing, including pre- and post-hiring tests. There are fewer than 200 companies that do random drug tests of employees. That number is especially low because companies with fewer than 50 employees are not allowed to randomly test employees. Some companies – particularly those that employ commercial truck drivers or federal contractors – are required by federal law to drug-test employees.

In 2015, the state recorded the highest percentage of positive drug tests since regulated testing began in 1989. Last year, a total of 26,258 tests were administered, with 5 percent – or 1,308 tests – coming back positive. A total of 1,093 of those tests, or 84.1 percent, were positive for cannabinoids, according to the Department of Labor. While more than 500 companies do some form of drug testing, that doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to determining if an employee is impaired by marijuana while on the job, Rabinowitz said. “If you are smoking marijuana and test positive, but you smoked it recreationally on the weekend, how do I differentiate that from someone who smoked that morning and came to work high? It becomes a critical issue if marijuana is legalized recreationally,” Rabinowitz said. “It becomes a real difficult standard for an employer to enforce.”...

Colorado’s experience with marijuana in the workplace appears to indicate Maine has little reason for concern. After Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012 and commercial sales began in 2014, nothing changed in terms of employer rights with drug testing, said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for the state. Employers can still drug-test employees and put in place drug-free workplace policies.

In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that businesses can fire employees for the use of marijuana, even if it’s while they’re off duty. Freedman said he is not aware of any widespread concerns about drug testing in Colorado. He said about 13 percent of adults use marijuana, which is roughly the same as before legalization, suggesting there is no greater risk of workers being high while on the job. At the same time, however, he also has heard comments from employers that it is now harder to hire people around the age of 25 because they can’t pass a drug test....

Maine labor officials said they have looked to Colorado’s experience and contacted officials there for advice. But, they said, there are important differences between labor and employment laws in the two states and that Maine could run into problems not experienced out West.  Colorado doesn’t have the same limitations around drug testing that exist in Maine, for example, and it does not require employers to report to the state if they drug-test employees or job applicants.

October 30, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Customers flock to official opening of first recreational marijuana store in Alaska

As reported in this AP article, headlined "Alaska's First Pot Shop Opens to a Long Line of Customers," the first retail store opened almost exactly two years after voters in the Last Frontier legalized marijuana for all adults. Here are the details:

Alaska's first marijuana retail outlet opened to a throng of customers Saturday, two years after voters approved allowing people 21 and older to recreationally use pot.

More than 250 people lined up outside Herbal Outfitters in Valdez, store owner Richard Ballow said. Customers came from as far away as Anchorage and Fairbanks, more than 350 miles to the north.

The opening Saturday at "high noon" marks the first time it's legal to buy pot under a voter initiative approved in November 2014. Voter approval made it legal under state law to possess up to an ounce of marijuana outside of a home....

The state's first testing lab, CannTest, opened in Anchorage Monday after clearing regulatory hurdles. It will test cannabis flowers, edibles and concentrates.

Herbal Outfitters' general manager, Derek Morris, said the store will initially carry only dried cannabis flowers. He said manufacturers of edibles and concentrates are still in various stages of the permitting process.

In Fairbanks, two marijuana retail stores are planning to open next week after final inspections are completed, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. A third Fairbanks store plans to open in about one month.

October 29, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"'The Mellow Pot-Smoker': White Individualism in Marijuana Legalization Campaigns"

The title of this post is the title of this provocative article authored by David Schlussel now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This Note suggests that "white individualism" has characterized many campaigns for the legalization of recreational marijuana, including in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.  "White individualism" implicitly suggests that white, hard-working, middle-class, marijuana consumers are deserving beneficiaries of legalized marijuana. The white-washed framing of legal marijuana omits and implicitly reinforces marijuana prohibition’s racist legacy.

Marijuana criminalization was originally justified through racist propaganda; the war on drugs has been enacted through coded racial appeals; and marijuana enforcement has disproportionately fallen upon black and brown people.  White individualism in marijuana legalization campaigns has tended to correlate with policies that favor white entrepreneurs rather than policies that redress past harms of prohibition, such as the expungement of criminal records.

October 29, 2016 in Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New study details huge economic opportunities from marijuana legalization in Canada

Images (1)This new Toronto Star article reports on a notable new report about the economic potential presented by marijuana reform in Canada. The piece is headlined "Recreational weed could be a $22.6B industry: study; Sales of legalized recreational marijuana would surpass combined sales of beer, wine, and spirits, it says." Here are excerpts:

Legalized recreational marijuana promises to spark a $22.6-billion industry in Canada, eclipsing combined sales of beer, wine, and spirits, a new study suggests. The Deloitte report — titled Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities — being released soon concludes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s legalization of cannabis next year could jolt the economy.

“There hasn’t been anything like this — and granted it wasn’t legislated — but you think of the dot-com … flurry,” Mark Whitmore, vice-chair of Deloitte, said in an interview Wednesday. “It has that kind of feel to it. There’s a lot of froth, a lot of interest in this space and a lot of people think there’s going to be an opportunity,” said Whitmore.

Deloitte estimates that satisfying the recreational weed market will mean producing 600,000 kilograms of marijuana annually — far more than the existing 36 licensed producers grow for medicinal purposes.

The consulting firm warns there will be challenges as recreational pot is legalized. “Of course, there will be a practical consideration to take into account when setting marijuana prices that goes beyond what the market will pay,” the 11-page study says. “The challenge will be to set a price point that balances the goal of creating and sustaining a legitimate market (while eliminating ancillary criminal enterprise) with that of not promoting excess consumption.”

In partnership with RIWI Corp., Deloitte surveyed 5,000 Canadians this past summer — including 1,000 identified as recreational marijuana users — and calculated that the base retail market alone would be worth $4.9 billion to $8.7 billion annually. The ancillary market — growers, infused product makers, testing labs, and security — would increase that to between $12.7 billion to $22.6 billion. With tourism revenue, business taxes, licence fees and paraphernalia, Deloitte estimates the market will be even greater than $22.6 billion....

Federally, Trudeau has former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan leading a task force to examine how his government should proceed. McLellan’s panel of experts will report back before Nov. 30 with a blueprint for federal legislation to be introduced next spring. The Deloitte study said regardless of what the new law looks like, it “presents a bold new landscape for Canadian businesses and governments alike.” “What this new landscape might look like remains unclear,” the report says.

The RIWI-Deloitte survey found 40 per cent favour legalization, with 36 per cent opposing it, and 24 per cent undecided. “This will make it challenging to create a broadly accepted regulatory environment,” the report says.

October 27, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Arkansas Supreme Court confuses (or clarifies?) voting on marijuana reform initiatives in state

41352980-arkansas-marijuana-leafAs reported in this new AP piece, headlined "Arkansas Court Disqualifies 2nd Medical Marijuana Proposal," a significant state Supreme Court ruling today seems likely to have a significant impact on marijuana reform voting in The Natural State. Here are the details:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has disqualified a medical marijuana proposal from the November ballot less than two weeks before the election and with thousands of votes already cast, but voters will still be able to consider a competing plan.

In a 5-2 ruling Thursday, the court sided with opponents of the proposed initiated act — known as Issue 7 — that would have allowed patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. The proposal was one of two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot, and justices earlier this month rejected a challenge to a competing measure.

The ruling comes after nearly 142,000 people have already cast ballots through early voting, which began Monday in Arkansas for the general election.

Justices tossed out more than 12,000 signatures that were approved by election officials for the proposal, saying supporters didn't comply with laws regarding registration and reporting of paid canvassers. The decision left the group nearly 2,500 signatures shy of what was needed to qualify for the ballot.

The head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the measure, didn't immediately comment. Two justices disagreed with the opinion, noting that a retired judge assigned by the court to review the petitions had said more than enough valid signatures were submitted. "The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted," Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote in the dissenting opinion.

Both measures called for allowing patients with certain medical conditions to buy the drug, but they differed in their restrictions and regulations. For example, the proposal struck down Thursday would have allowed patients to grow their own marijuana if they didn't live near a dispensary. Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana last week began airing TV ads statewide in favor of its proposal, Issue 6.

The head of that group said he believed the ruling would help his proposal. "It eliminates some of the confusion on which one to vote for," David Couch said. "If you want to help sick and dying patients in Arkansas, then you have to vote for (Issue 6)."

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a medical marijuana proposal four years ago despite national groups spending big in favor of legalization. National support for medical marijuana has grown since then, and half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug in some fashion.

But the medical marijuana push faces more obstacles this year in Arkansas. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who headed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, has spoken out against the measures. A coalition of the state's most powerful lobbying groups — including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau — have been campaigning against them. A Republican lawmaker has said he'll propose legislation next year legalizing a limited strain of the drug for some patients if voters reject legalizing medical marijuana next month.

The opinion in this case is available at this link.

October 27, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

What needs to happen before Garden Staters can get legal weed?

Reports last week revealed that several New Jersey state lawmakers planned to introduce marijuana legalization legislation as soon as anti-legalization Gov. Chris Christie’s current term ends. They even travelled to Colorado to see how legalization has worked out there. But, aside from the support of several sanguine lawmakers, what would it actually take for the Garden State to embrace legalized recreational marijuana? NJ.com’s Susan Livio takes a look:

Introduce a new legalization bill that borrows from Colorado's best ideas and learns from its mistakes.

 

Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) said he is redrafting his earlier bill based on what he learned from his two visits this year and his conversations with business leaders and activists. He said he hasn't decided how home-grown cannabis should be regulated, and how the mass-produced crop ought to be sold.

 

Enlist more public support.

 

A Rutgers University-Eagleton Institute poll in June 2015 said 58 percent of New Jerseyans favor legalization. That helps, but in order to change the law, community leaders must campaign for it — or at least not work against it. Supporters cite a social justice rationale: black people and Latinos are just as likely as white people to be arrested, but minorities are more likely to get convicted on marijuana offenses. Individual law enforcement officers have expressed both scorn and support for the idea. With Gov. Chris Christie so vehemently opposed, objectors have not needed to make waves. But there is no telling if there will be an organized effort against legalization once its prospects for passage become more real.

 

Recruit support from the top leaders in the legislature.

 

Sweeney is all in. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) did not go on the trip, and his previous comments suggest he is willing to learn more but is not ready to endorse legalization.

 

Elect a new governor. 

 

Christie could not be any clearer than he already has: He will not legalize marijuana. He will not decriminalize marijuana possession. He is even leery of attempts to expand the medical marijuana program,  calling it "a front for legalization." He leaves office in January 2018.

 

Hope the President and U.S. Justice Department do not interfere.

 

President Barack Obama did not intervene when Alaska,  Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia legalized marijuana. It remains a "schedule 1" drug, which means in the eyes of federal law enforcement, marijuana is dangerous, holds no medicinal value and is illegal. There are bills pending in Congress to reschedule marijuana, which would change the entire conversation,  but Obama has not signaled this is a priority before he leaves office.

 

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has said she supports states that legalize, and looks favorably upon rescheduling the drug so more research could be done. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, said he, too, agrees states should decide for themselves whether to legalize weed.

October 27, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest poll shows likely voters still support California's marijuana legalization initiative

The new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll shows likely voters in California continue to support Proposition 64, the state’s ballot Downloadinitiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use for persons 21-years-old or older. PPIC summarizes its findings this way:

55 percent favor Proposition 64. A majority of likely voters would vote yes on this measure to legalize marijuana use under state law by adults 21 and older and tax sales and cultivation (38% no, 6% undecided). Most Democratic (66%) and independent (56%) likely voters support the proposition, but a majority of Republicans (60%) would vote no. Majorities in all regions would vote yes. Just under half of Latino likely voters (47%) would vote yes, while majorities of other racial/ethnic groups (65%) and whites (55%) would do so. Across age groups, support is highest among those 18 to 34 (78%). About half of likely voters (51%) say the out come of Proposition 64 is very important. Opponents are more likely than proponents to hold this view (60% to 50%). Responses to our tracking question indicate that support for Proposition (55%) is similar to the level of general support for legalizing the use of marijuana (57%).

In September, PPIC found that 60% of likely voters planned to vote ‘yes’ on Prop. 64, compared to just 36% committed to voting ‘no’—a margin of 24%. The most recent numbers show the margin of support for Prop. 64 at a slightly narrower 17%. Still, the poll offers little hope for a dramatic shift away from support for Prop. 64 before Election Day. California love for legalized weed is quite steady. PPIC’s poll in May showed 60% of likely voters supported legalized marijuana in general, compared to 57% now; and, very few people generally supportive of legalization are willing to pass on Prop. 64. As noted above by PPIC, the difference between general support for marijuana legalization and support for Prop. 64 is negligible. Thus, in the final weeks, opponents must find a way to convince Californians generally supportive of legalization that Prop. 64 is an inappropriate way of achieving that end--a task they've struggled with so far. 

The poll of 1,704 Californians was conducted from October 14-23 and has a margin of error of ±3.4.

October 27, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Medical marijuana legal in Ohio, but patients still can’t get it"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article from my own Columbus Dispatch.  Here are excerpts:

Can you legally buy medical marijuana in Ohio?  If so, can you get it from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, family member or friend, drug dealer or grow it yourself?

You would think the answers to these questions would be simple and straightforward under the letter of the law.  Not so much.

Technically, medical marijuana has been legal in Ohio since a new law, House Bill 523, took effect Sept. 8.  But as of yet — and probably not until 2018 — patients in Ohio cannot legally buy marijuana for medical purposes.

Before that happens, the complicated, time-consuming job of drafting rules, policies, certifications, licenses and many other things must be completed.  Rules don’t have to be in place, by law, until next year.  Only after rules go through two state oversight agencies can cultivators begin growing marijuana crops, with processing, lab testing and sales through licensed dispensaries to follow.  Advocates have pressed the board to allow physicians to utilize an “affirmative defense” clause in the statue, essentially offering legal protection against prosecution if physicians recommend medical marijuana for a patient prior to it being available here.

Robert Giacalone, a medical board member, said the agency “is in no way prohibiting the recommendation of medical marijuana now that HB523 is effective.”  But he added there is “ conflicting language” in the law because of a provision prohibiting physicians from recommending marijuana until Ohio rules are written and the product is grown and sold in the state.  “If any physician wishes to recommend medical marijuana before the rules are in place, we strongly recommend that they contact a private attorney,” Giaclone said at a board meeting last Wednesday.

Rob Ryan, head of Ohio Patient Network, an advocacy group, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that people with qualifying conditions should be able to get medical marijuana in Ohio.”  Ryan said he knows some physicians are recommending marijuana but, like patients, they are being very cautious.  Asked where patients can get marijuana if they have a physician’s recommendation, Ryan said, “it might be growing in your backyard or basement, from a family member or friend, or a dealer as a last resort. I’d be very careful going out of state.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which advises the medical board, concludes it would be “very difficult” to legally obtain marijuana in Ohio at this time. “Everybody knows there’s significant lead time built into this statute,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said. “We don’t have the specific rules in place at the medical board or the pharmacy board.”...

The delays and moratoriums are seen as chipping away at the law by Savannah Smith of the Ohio Rights Group, an advocacy organization. “It’s extremely frustrating,” Smith said. “The sick, dying and disabled of Ohio are our most vulnerable. They are medical refugees. “We had hoped this law would provide some real relief for the population that we’ve been fighting for for years.”

October 26, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learn in Italy about Comparative Drug Policy from the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy

As noted in this post last May, that Professor Sam Kamin of the University of Denver Sturm College had the unique honor to become, thanks to a law firm's endowment, the first Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy. And from Sam I have learned now that law students nationwide now have a unique opportunity to take a unique course from this unique profession in a special setting. Specifically, as this website details, on the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy will be teaching a special Comparative Drug Policy course as part of the 2017 Denver Law Italy Program in Sorrento, Italy. Here is the official course description:

Comparative Drug Policy (Professor Sam Kamin, 2 credits)

This course will be an investigation of international drug prohibition and the emerging alternatives to it.  We will discuss the international agreements that govern the production and distribution of illicit drugs and the role the US played in creating these agreements.  We will then examine the growing international consensus that prohibition has not worked and look comparatively at the various alternatives to prohibition being adopted around the world.  We will also discuss various metrics for evaluating and assessing the growing number of alternatives to the status quo currently being developed.

October 25, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Election May Be a Turning Point for Legal Marijuana"

While The New York Times's editorial board maintains its current silence on marijuana policy reform, its reporters continue give its readers necessary information and perspectives on the marijuana reform movement from across the country. In today's Times, Thomas Fuller reports on the legalization debate in California. The article begins:

To the red-and-blue map of American politics, it may be time to add green. The movement to legalize marijuana, the country’s most popular illicit drug, will take a giant leap on Election Day if California and four other states vote to allow recreational cannabis, as polls suggest they may.

 

The map of where pot is legal could include the entire West Coast of the United States and a string of states reaching from the Pacific Ocean to Colorado, raising a stronger challenge to the federal government’s ban on the drug.

 

In addition to California, Massachusetts and Maine both have legalization initiatives on the ballot next month that seem likely to pass. Arizona and Nevada are also voting on recreational marijuana, with polls showing Nevada voters evenly split.

 

The passage of recreational marijuana laws in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington over the last four years partly unlocked the door toward eventual federal legalization. But a yes vote in California, which has an economy the size of a large industrial country’s, could blow the door open, experts say.

 

“If we’re successful, it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana,” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and a former mayor of San Francisco. “If California moves, it will put more pressure on Mexico and Latin America writ large to reignite a debate on legalization there.”

 

The market for both recreational and medicinal marijuana is projected to grow to $22 billion in four years from $7 billion this year if California says yes, according to projections by the Arcview Group, a company that links investors with cannabis companies.

 

“This is the vote heard round the world,” said Arcview’s chief executive, Troy Dayton. “What we’ve seen before has been tiny compared to what we are going to see in California.”

 

And yet scholars who have studied these legalization measures say that to a large extent they are very much a shot in the dark, a vast public health experiment that could involve states that hold 23 percent of the United States population — and generate a quarter of the country’s economic output — carried out with relatively little scientific research on the risks. In addition, there are 25 states that already permit medical marijuana.

October 24, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (605)

Friday, October 21, 2016

New poll finds majority of Arizonans support state's marijuana legalization initiative

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Arizonans are poised to approve the state's ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use for anyone 21 years old or older. According to the most recent poll by The Arizona Republic et al., 50 percent of registered voters continue to support the legalization measure. The Republic reports:

Despite a barrage of TV ads warning Arizona voters of the potential consequences of legalizing marijuana, about half of those surveyed in a new poll support creation of a system to tax and regulate sales of the drug.

 

The Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll found 50 percent of the registered voters surveyed favor Proposition 205, which would legalize the drug for adults. Nearly 42 percent oppose it. And another 8 percent were undecided. The statewide telephone poll surveyed 779 registered voters between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

 

With early voting underway, public attitudes about the measure remain largely unchanged since the organizations' August poll. This despite millions of dollars in spending by both sides. The August survey found 50 percent of registered voters favored legalization, 40 percent opposed it, and 10 percent were undecided...

 

Public opinion pollster Mike O'Neil, who reviewed the poll, said the survey offers "substantial evidence" Prop 205 will pass.

 

"It seems that they've dug in on this one," O'Neil said of voters. "People have had time to think about it, they've had time to digest it, they've gotten the (campaign) messages they're going to get and the campaigns have made their best shots with advertising messages.

 

"This suggests to me a strong probability that people have tended to make up their minds on this," he added. "For the 8 percent who say they don’t know — a lot of those won’t vote and a lot of them that do may pass on this question."

October 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal weed coming soon to the Garden State?

The question in the title of this post comes from this local article reporting that state lawmakers in New Jersey plan to push to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2018. Current Gov. Chris Chris Christie has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, but term limits prevent him from retaining the office. Preparing for a more marijuana-friendly environment in Trenton after Christie's gone, several state lawmakers to a trip to Colorado to see how legalization has been working out; and, according to the article, they were impressed: 

ImagesLegalized marijuana could be "a game-changer" for New Jersey's economy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday, declaring his intent to help change the law as soon as the next governor takes office in 2018.

 

Fresh off their trip to Colorado to see how the legal marijuana industry works, Sweeney and a group of state lawmakers told reporters Thursday they were impressed with how regulated, safe and profitable this new cash crop has been for the Rocky Mountain state.

 

The law won't change while Gov. Chris Christie remains in office. The Republican governor has vowed to veto a legalization bill, and has said he suspects that medical marijuana, legal since the day before he took office in 2010, is a back-door path to recreational pot. Christie's term expires in January 2018.

 

Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who led the delegation to Denver and Boulder from Saturday to Wednesday, said recreational marijuana has created nearly 29,000 jobs, revitalized the economy of some struggling blue-collar towns and reduced the number of drug possession arrests by about 80 percent. 

 

Colorado state officials have reported that $135 million in tax revenue was generated by the medical and recreational marijuana programs combined in 2015...

 

"And, the sky hasn't fallen," added Scutari, the sponsor of a bill legalizing cannabis sales and possession. "These are neighborhoods you would be proud to say you represented or lived in."

 

Sweeney, (D-Gloucester) may have been even more enthused about the trip, which included meetings with public health officials and lawmakers business owners, and visits to dispensaries and manufacturers.

 

"I was on board before we went, but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It's safe, it's well managed. Colorado has done an amazing job," Sweeney said.

 

"This is a game changer for the state," he continued. "I'm committed to it. We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it."

 

Phil Murphy, the only Democrat who has announced he is running for governor next year, has publicly said he support marijuana legalization.

 

Scutari said when he introduces the marijuana legalization bill, he will look to merge the regulation of the recreation and existing medicinal program, which serves about 9,500 people, according to the state Health Department.

 

He would eliminate the sales tax on medicinal sales, noting that no other medicine is taxed. Scutari predicted once recreational marijuana is available, the exorbitant cost of an ounce of cannabis – about $500 – would drop. An ounce in Denver cost about $250, the lawmakers said.

Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada have legalization initiatives on the ballot this November, and polls show each of those initiatives is likely to pass. If that happens, more than a quarter of the country will live where it is legal to use marijuana recreationally, which experts expect will increase the pressure on the federal government to end marijuana prohibition. Still, after California, New Jersey would be the second most populous state to legalize recreational marijuana use, which would be a nice feather in the cap for legalization advocates at a time when interest in marijuana policy and politics is peaking nationally.

October 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Why marijuana opposition is so effective in liberal Mass."

On November 8, five states will consider legalizing recreational marijuana use--Arizona, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. While polls show majorities favor legalization in each state, the opposition has perhaps had the most success in a surprising place--Massachusetts. Joel Warner examines the battle over legalization there in this lengthy piece in The Boston Globe, writing in part: 

DownloadMassachusetts may have seemed like a legalization shoo-in, but that’s not how things have been working out. After several early 2016 polls showed the pro side with a considerable lead, polls in May and July suggested a majority of voters opposed legalization and, until recently, online betting markets gave Question 4 less chance of winning than nearly all marijuana measures being tracked nationwide. While surveys over the past two months have given Question 4 a better shot at victory, don’t count out the opposition just yet. Massachusetts-born casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunch marijuana opponent, recently donated $1 million to fight passage of Question 4...

 

Around the United States, dozens of efforts to pass pro-marijuana initiatives have faced opposition from elected officials. But only in Massachusetts has a group of a state’s top brass joined together, across party lines, to formally oppose a legalization campaign.

 

The broadside began in March, when Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey co-authored a joint Boston Globe op-ed opposing legalization. A month later, Baker and Walsh launched their anti-Question 4 Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Eventually, Healey and more than 120 elected officials and 15 statewide organizations joined with the group.

 

The legalization campaign, which had until then enjoyed a year of favorable polling, took a big hit almost immediately. In April, one poll had voters supporting legalization by a 57 to 35 percent margin. But a month later, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll reported respondents opposing it 46 to 43 percent. Two months later, the opposition’s lead grew even wider: 51 to 41 percent.

 

Question 4’s sizable and unprecedented opposition could be in part happenstance, says Kris Krane, president of the Boston cannabis consulting and operations firm 4Front Ventures. “You have a governor who has very strong ties to the treatment community from his ties to health care,” he says. “And you have the mayor of Boston who is a recovering alcoholic and very anti-drug.” (4Front Ventures donates office space to the Yes on 4 campaign and has given it more than $35,000.)

 

Then there’s the state’s opioid crisis, which claimed more than 1,500 lives in 2015. Baker pledged to make combating addiction a top priority, working closely with Walsh and Healey last year to craft an opioid-control law — with a coalition in place to stop one kind of drug, the three then also opposed the legalization of another. “As we are addressing the opiate crisis, now is not the time to introduce an entirely new drug market,” says Corey Welford, spokesman for the campaign...

 

The Yes on 4 campaign argues that marijuana reform could actually help address the opioid epidemic. They point to studies that suggest that physicians prescribe fewer pain pills in states with legalized medical marijuana and that opioid overdose deaths are 25 percent lower in those locales. But when the state’s top officials and health experts link marijuana and opiate deaths, folks are bound to listen.

 

The legalization movement’s first response to its formidable opposition didn’t help. In Colorado, marijuana advocates made hay from the fact that Governor John Hickenlooper had once cofounded a brewery. The day after Walsh and Baker launched their campaign, the MPP-backed Yes on 4 team tried a similar approach, unveiling a sign depicting the two officials — who had supported additional Boston liquor licenses and longer bar operating hours — saying, “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!” In the face of widespread criticism, particularly in light of  Walsh’s status as a recovering alcoholic, Luzier and Borghesani quickly apologized and scrapped the sign.

 

It was a hint that the MPP’s top-down approach to legalization campaigns might not work amid the deeply personal politics of Massachusetts...

 

Along the way, Massachusetts legalizers might have lost their ability to fully leverage one of their big arguments: that cannabis should be treated like booze. Originally, their initiative was titled the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, as similar MPP-backed efforts are called in Maine, Nevada, and Arizona. But by August, the Massachusetts campaign was known simply as Yes on 4.

 

Daunting adversaries aren’t the legalization campaign’s only problem. There’s also the lack of unified support from those who are supposedly on its side...

 

Even medical-marijuana advocates are struggling with Question 4. The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which supports the 36,000-plus medical-marijuana patients statewide, is remaining neutral. That’s partly because the organization doesn’t want to jeopardize its relationships with public health officials, says the Alliance’s executive director Nichole Snow. But it’s also because in other states recreational marijuana has had a way of eclipsing patient needs. “The marijuana industry has great potential for crowding out advocacy groups,” Snow says. “Business interests are going to outnumber the patients. I have already seen it happen.”

 

Earlier this year, Washington state shut down nearly all its roughly 1,500 medical dispensaries, forcing most medical marijuana patients to buy their cannabis, at a slightly discounted price, from recreational shops. Even if Massachusetts didn’t go the same route after legalization, market forces could have the same effect. Legalization “slows the growth of medical markets,” a recent analysis by a cannabis investor network concluded. But though that’s bad for medical marijuana investors, it can be good for consumers, who benefit from falling prices and broader selection amid the competition.

Despite these obstacles to legalization, the likelihood that Bay Staters will be free to legally light up in the near future is good. Recent polls show a majority of likely voters support legalization in the state; according to one poll, support for legalization has grown from 50 percent in September to 55 percent this month, increasing the polling advantage for the question's supporters from 5 to 15 percent.  

October 21, 2016 in Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Disappointingly, New York Times editorial board tepidly notes how "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots"

Detail_of_a_new_york_times_advertisement_1895More than two years ago, as first reported here, this seemingly historic new New York Times editorial called for the legalization of marijuana under the bold headline "Repeal Prohibition, Again." At the time, I had thought this action by the Gray Lady's editorial board would mean that the marijuana reform movement would have a high-profile and powerful media champion and advocate.

Disappointingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), while the NY Times editorial board has been a a high-profile and powerful media voice on a number of other modern criminal justice reform issues, the Times editorial pages has been anything but bold (and has often just been silent) in the last two years on a wide range of notable state and federal marijuana reform issues. In 2016, for example, which has arguably been the most significant year (and after this election will be surely the most consequential year) in the modern history of the reform of state and federal marijuana laws (and which the New York Times has covered extensively as news), the NY Times editorial board until this week had put forward only one single editorial advocating for marijuana reforms.  (In telling contrast, the NY Times editorial board has had at least a dozen editorials advocating against forcefully capital punishment in 2016. )

 I would think that if the editorial board was still truly committed to its advocacy in 2014 that the US should "Repeal Prohibition, Again," that it would be saying a whole lot more on this topic during this critical year.  Against that backdrop, I am disappointed (but I suppose not too surprised) that this new New York Times editorial headlined "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots" is marked more by reporting than by advocacy. Here are excerpts:

People in nine states, including California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana. These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the next president and Congress to overhaul the country’s failed drug laws. This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969.

The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative consequences predicted by opponents. For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from schools have gone down in recent years. There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and fatalities in Colorado or Washington.

On Election Day, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will consider proposals to allow recreational use. In California, which approved medical use in 1996, polls show that the measure is likely to win. In Massachusetts, a recent poll showed 55 percent of likely voters supporting legalization. In Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, residents will vote on medical marijuana. If Florida voters say yes, other Southern states that have been resistant to liberalizing drug laws could reconsider their prohibitions, too.

Passage of these proposals should increase pressure on the federal government to change how it treats marijuana. The Obama administration has chosen not to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington. But this bizarre situation can’t last — even as more states legalize the drug, state-licensed marijuana businesses remain criminal operations under federal law. Even if they are not prosecuted by the federal government, this conflict in their legal status creates immense problems....

States are driving the change in marijuana policy because they see the damage created by draconian drug laws on communities, families and state budgets. It’s time the federal government acknowledged these costs and got out of the way of states adopting more rational laws.

When I saw the headline for this editorial --- which, as I suggested before, seems to be mostly a report of reality and fails to do much editorializing --- I at least expected it to mention and link to the New York Times' prior 2014 editorial calling for the US to "Repeal Prohibition, Again." I do not believe that the New York Times has changed its editorial stance on this front, but they seem now almost intent to make sure nobody remembers their bold advocacy two years ago.

Moreover, this "editorial," while seemingly eager to note that "negative consequences predicted by opponents" of reform have not materialized, entirely fails to note or highlights that all of the positive consequences predicted by supporters of marijuana reform have come to pass: huge new tax revenues are being collected, economic development has been considerable, arrest rates have gone down dramatically, and adults have safe and legal access to their preferred medicine or recreational drug. Simply saying at the end here that the federal government should get "out of the way of states adopting more rational laws" (which the Obama Administration has largely done, though Congress could and should do it more formally) is about the weakest tea support for reform I could imagine.

I suppose that when a paper's nickname is the "Gray Lady," I was foolish to expect or hope it would act or advocate like even a young smart conservative advocate (whom polls show support medical marijuana reform 10 to 1 and full marijuana reform 3 to 1). Still, I feel now as though the 2014 editorial headline really should have been "Repeal Prohibition, Again.... but do not expect the Gray Lady to really try to help make that happen anytime soon."

October 20, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Gallup poll finds record high support for marijuana legalization

Uu5e1ycj_kqf1dim_mvmewThis new Gallup item, headlined "Support for Legal Marijuana Use Up to 60% in U.S," details the results of its latest annual poll on marijuana opinion.  Here are the highlights:

With voters in several states deciding this fall whether to legalize the use of marijuana, public support for making it legal has reached 60% -- its highest level in Gallup's 47-year trend....

When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, 12% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana use.  In the late 1970s, support rose to 28% but began to retreat in the 1980s during the era of the "Just Say No" to drugs campaign.  Support stayed in the 25% range through 1995, but increased to 31% in 2000 and has continued climbing since then.

In 2013, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  Since then, a majority of Americans have continued to say they think the use of marijuana should be made legal.  Today's 60% is statistically similar to the previous high of 58% reached in 2013 and 2015, so it is unclear whether support has stabilized or is continuing to inch higher.

Support for legalizing marijuana use has increased among most subgroups in the past decade, but more so among certain groups than others.  For example, support is up 33 percentage points to 77% among adults aged 18 to 34, while it is up 16 points among adults aged 55 and older to 45%....

Additionally, support is up more among independents and Democrats than it is among Republicans, partly because of the older age skew of the last group.  Seventy percent of independents and 67% of Democrats support legal pot use, a major increase since the combined survey of 2003 and 2005 when 46% of independents and 38% of Democrats supported the idea.  While less than a majority of members in any political party backed legalizing marijuana in 2003 and 2005, Democrats and independents have fueled the recent nationwide surge in support. Republicans' support has doubled from more than a decade ago, yet only 42% of GOP members now support legal marijuana use.

If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the "Golden State" often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S. As more states legalize marijuana, the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal.  The transformation in public attitudes about marijuana over the past half-century has mirrored the liberalization of public attitudes about gay rights and the same-sex-marriage movement, the latter of which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal last year. It is possible that it might take a Supreme Court case to settle this matter, too.

October 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest polling in Massachusetts shows notable uptick in support for full marijuana legalization ballot initiative

Ballot-question-shift-1000x579In part because all prominent political leaders throughout Massachusetts, both Democrats and Republicans, have come out strongly opposed to the state's marijuana reform initiative, I had come to expect that the state's ballot initiative would end up going down to defeat this fall.  But this new article, headlined "WBUR Poll: Support Increases For Legalizing Marijuana In Mass," suggests that politicians opposition to the initiative might be driving the public to support it more. Here are the details (with links from the original):

A new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) finds support for the legalization of marijuana is up among likely Massachusetts voters.  Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, which is the subject of Question 4 on the November ballot.

When WBUR last polled on legalizing marijuana, last month, the gap was narrower, with 50 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. That 5-point gap has now grown to 15 points, with 55 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.  "This one follows a long string of polls which shows the marijuana question with the 'yes' side leading by somewhere between the mid-single digits and the mid-double digits," said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

James Carroll, of Hopkinton, is among those who favor legalizing marijuana.  "People should have a choice in what they do and don't do," he said. "Liquor's legal. It didn't use to be legal."

Koczela says there's particularly broad support for letting people use marijuana at home.  "We found that almost everybody would be OK with the idea of people using marijuana in their homes — 84 percent said no, that that would not bother them," Koczela said. "When you ask, though, about using marijuana in public, only a third said that that would be OK with them."  And 64 percent say it would bother them.

"I do have a concern about people taking it and then driving," said Carol Yankauskas, of Falmouth.

Most oppose advertising for marijuana in their community. Fifty-one percent of likely voters say it would bother them if marijuana businesses advertised in public places in their community.  Susan Brownstein, of Westhampton, on the other hand, said it's fine.  "We advertise alcohol," she pointed out. "We don't want our children to drink. We advertise Cialis, for goodness's sake, during prime-time, when little kids are watching television. This is way more benign."

There is, however, support for stores selling marijuana.  Fifty-nine percent of respondents say it would not bother them if a store selling recreational marijuana opened in their community.

Nearly half the respondents (49 percent) say they have tried marijuana.  Of those who have tried it, an overwhelming majority, 72 percent, support legalization.

October 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Highlighting why innovation can (and will?) be the face of the marijuana industry

This new C/Net article, headlined "​Innovation is the budding theme at marijuana summit: Everything from high-tech advancements in edible weed to big-data analysis can be seen at this year's New West Summit in San Francisco," highlights why so many interesting folks find the futue of the marijuana industry so interesting.  Here are excerpts: 

The New West Summit at the Hyatt hotel in downtown San Francisco looked similar to other business conferences held there throughout the year. Men and women in business suits hurried around, people huddled in corners talking shop, and unembellished booths showed off varied graphs and charts.

But every once in a while, conference goers got hit with a strong waft of marijuana. That's because this summit was all about weed. At their booths, companies displayed glass urns filled with buds, cannabis-laced chocolate bars and different kinds of vape pens and bongs. Yet among the firms touting this typical pot paraphernalia, there were other kinds of businesses dealing in marijuana: tech startups.

"This plant has been illegal and underground since the invention of technology," said Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside, one of the world's largest medical cannabis dispensaries. "This conference represents the intersection of Bay Area startup culture and cannabis."...

By 2020, New Frontier forecasts, the industry will be worth $20.5 billion (and some estimates put that figure a lot higher). That type of escalation makes the weed business one of the fasting-growing industries in the US. It's no wonder startups are getting into the game.

A meander around the New West Summit gives a sense of where the business side of the industry is heading. There's Grownetics, for instance, which uses a machine-learning algorithm to help farmers grow bigger buds more sustainably. There's Fleurish Farms, which has invented a contraption that it says captures 99.7 percent of the sun spectrum to let people grow pot plants indoors at a higher efficiency than they could in a greenhouse. "It captures the sunlight from all angles," said Fleurish Farms CEO Jonathan Cachat. "This reduces the environmental imprint of indoor cannabis production."

Even edible marijuana is seeing innovation. Besides gummies, lozenges and chocolates, some companies showed off marijuana-infused dissolvable breath strips, while others had topical sprays with exact dosing per pump. "We're coming to a point where we're starting to see edibles that are lower dosed," said Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva Confections. "It's that person that's looking for a glass of wine in the evening, that person that isn't looking to get blasted."

As the weed industry becomes more professionalized, it's caught the eye of more investors. In 2015, investors dropped $360 million into marijuana-focused startups, and so far this year they've invested $137 million, according to PitchBook, a research firm specializing in venture capital. That's a lot compared with just four years ago; in 2012 investors put only $7 million toward funding weed companies.

UPDATE:  This new Business Insider article also speaks to emerging realities in a growing legal marijuana industry, and it includes these interesting points:

The marijuana industry is growing up in front of our eyes. As drug transactions move from back alleys and clubs to legal dispensaries, the culture around pot changes. In an effort to be taken more seriously, industry insiders find more sophisticated language to describe their trade. Slang no longer has a place in the industry vernacular. Entrepreneurs tell me they much prefer the scientific name for the plant, cannabis.

In the exhibit hall, purveyors showed their wares: high-tech vaporizers from companies like Firefly and Pax Labs, a marijuana-infused health products line from Fleurish Farms, and reports from business intelligence platform Headset. I spotted few companies with names that reveal the industry they operate in, and plenty advertising health and wellbeing.

A recent investigation by the Marijuana Business Daily underlines this trend. In an analysis of over 3,000 state-licensed marijuana companies, the publication found that companies use wellness-oriented words, such as "organic" and "herbal," in their names far more often than slang. The Marijuana Business Daily did not include businesses in California and Michigan, which do not issue licenses at the state level. "Farm," "green," "leaf," "bud," "garden," and "organic" are among the most popular words used in company names.

As Marijuana Business Daily writer Eli McVey points out, this hasn't always been the case. In the mid-2000s, before Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational weed in 2012, words like "ganja" and "dank" popped up more frequently. But as the national conversation around marijuana turned to issues around public health, rather than criminalization, the industry adopted a new vernacular around wellness and healing people.

October 17, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"The Hazy Rollout of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program"

LogoThe title of this post is the title of this astute and useful review of early medicial marijuana regulatory developments in the great state of Ohio authored by two attorneys in the Benesch law firm’s Health Care & Life Sciences Practice Group.  Here is how this "client bulletin" gets started:

When Ohio House Bill 523 (HB 523) became effective on September 8, 2016, Ohio joined the company of 25 other states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. Modeled after highly restrictive regimes adopted by state legislatures in Illinois, Maryland, and New York, the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) envisioned by HB 523 has the potential to be one of the most complex and heavily regulated medical cannabis programs in the country. HB 523 relies on a tightly controlled ‘Schedule II’ pharmaceuticalstyle regulatory framework, but the Ohio legislature left some room for flexibility in the MMCP by punting to the rulemaking process several of the toughest issues it faced, such as determining the number of licenses available under the MMCP, the cost of licenses, the geographical distribution of medical cannabis businesses, and the hurdles doctors will face in order to recommend medical cannabis to patients with qualifying medical conditions.

The ultimate functionality of the MMCP – both in terms of the opportunity for seriously ill patients to access medicine, and the opportunity for market participants to create a sustainable program to serve those patients – will be determined by the extensive rulemaking and licensure process to be carried out by the Department of Commerce, the state Pharmacy Board, and the state Medical Board over the next two years. Several early indicators, however, have begun to cast doubt on the program’s viability as written. This article recaps several recent developments in the MMCP and addresses specifically the Medical Board’s recent guidance on the “affirmative defense” provision of HB 523, the only part of the law that is currently operational.

October 16, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Exploring that as goes Massachusetts so goes New England on marijuana reform

NewEnglandThis Hartford Courant article, headlined "Massachusetts Marijuana Vote Could Mean Legalization Across New England," highlights reasons why I expect the recreational marijuana legalization initiative vote in the Bay State to have important ripple effects well beyond the state's borders. Here are excerpts from the piece:

As a multimillion dollar fight over recreational marijuana in Massachusetts races toward the finish line, both sides of the debate in Connecticut are keeping a close eye on a vote that could open the door to legalization across New England.

Massachusetts is one of five states where measures to legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana will be on the ballot. Voters in Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada will also vote on the issue. An affirmative vote in Maine or Massachusetts would bring legal recreational marijuana to the region for the first time, putting new pressure on those in the state that oppose expanded marijuana use.

Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor's Prevention Partnership, said her group wasn't yet willing to shift the dialogue from opposing recreational marijuana use to figuring out the best way to regulate it. At the same time she acknowledged how legal cannabis across the border would complicate that fight. "We're staying focused on opposition," Spineti said. "But I do believe that if Massachusetts approves it, it will be much harder to oppose it here."

There's also the question of people crossing the border to buy marijuana. Something Spineti said some Connecticut employers have raised concerns about.

It's been almost two years since a public opinion poll asked Connecticut voters about marijuana legalization. In that March 2015 Quinnipiac Poll, 63 percent of voters said they supported allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.... A legalization and taxation bill was introduced last year [in Connecticut] and had about a dozen Democratic co-sponsors. An informal informational hearing was held with experts on both sides offering testimony before interested legislators.

Proponents of the bill said Connecticut would be losing out on valuable tax dollars if it wasn't the first state in New England to move forward with recreational marijuana legalization. State Rep. Vin Candelora, a Republican from North Branford who opposed the bill, said lawmakers shouldn't see tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana as a solution to the state's budget problems. He called it "blood money."...

Rep. Edwin Vargas, a Hartford Democrat who supported the marijuana legalization bill, said money that is funding criminal enterprises would instead be directed toward state government. Drug dealers would see their business undercut, he said, and fewer youths would be arrested for dealing.

"I knew all along this was going to sweep the states after the success in Colorado," Vargas said. Colorado, the first state to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use, brought in $130 million in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. "The only thing I feel bad about is we could have been first in the area and established the industry here. The one that establishes the industry first has a huge advantage."

At the University of Massachusetts last week, Rick Steves, an author and travel host who helped with the marijuana legalization effort in his home state of Washington, talked about the tax benefit. But he also made a civil liberties and criminal justice argument. "I'm a hardworking, kid-raising, church-going, taxpaying American citizen," he told the crowd of about 100 students and residents. "If I work hard all day long, want to go home, smoke a joint and just stare at the fireplace for three hours, that's my civil liberty."

Steves said marijuana could be regulated like alcohol. He didn't buy arguments by opponents who say it's a gateway drug, or that legalizing marijuana will lead to increased use by youths. "The opponents of these initiatives and moves to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, they cherry-pick their problems and they don't recognize that the major problem is with us right now — its called the status quo. We're arresting hundreds of thousands of people every year for nonviolent marijuana crimes. They're not rich white people, they're poor people and people of color. That's a real problem."

Steves acknowledged the difficulty getting marijuana legalized through a legislative effort rather than by ballot. Lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island had bills that progressed further than Connecticut's but neither were adopted. But public opinion is shifting. A national Pew poll released last week showed 57 percent of adults were in favor of legalizing marijuana use, up from 32 percent 10 years ago. "Politicians are realizing that the days when somebody could condemn you as being soft on drugs are slipping away," Steves said. "I don't think the issue is are you soft on drugs or are you hard on drugs. Now the issue is are you smart about drug policy reform?"

But even in Massachusetts most of the political establishment has shied away from supporting the ballot initiative. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healy and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both Democrats, are against it. As is U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy. The "yes" campaign has fought back with television advertising and a substantial campaign war chest, including more than $3 million in contributions from a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis reform advocacy group.

October 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Drug Policy Alliance reports on "what we know" about marijuana legalization "so far"

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance have released this notable new report titled "So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C." The website provides this summary of the short report's contents:

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.

  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.

  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

October 14, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)