Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Should anyone get excited about the new "Path to Marijuana Reform" bills just introduced in Congress?

The question in the title of this post was my first reaction to this big new Cannabist story headlined "Bipartisan 'Path to Marijuana Reform' bills introduced to decriminalize, protect, regulate cannabis industry."  The piece has the subheadline "Three marijuana-related bills address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation," and here are the basics:

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced a package of marijuana reform bills aimed at protecting and preserving existing state-based programs while laying framework for the federal regulation of cannabis. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, announced the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” a bipartisan package of three marijuana-related bills that address issues such as taxation, banking, civil forfeiture, de-scheduling, decriminalization, research, individual protections and regulation. Included in the package is the reintroduction of legislation from Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, to regulate marijuana like alcohol.

“The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls and allow law-abiding marijuana businesses to go to the bank just like any other legal business.” Wyden said in a statement, referencing the legalization efforts in his home state and those made elsewhere. “This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard.”

The Path to Marijuana Reform includes the following bills, according to the announcement from Wyman and Blumenauer:

The Small Business Tax Equity Act — Create an exception to Internal Revenue Code section 280E that would allow businesses compliant with state laws to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana. Currently, under 280E, people and businesses cannot claim deductions or credits for the sale of Schedule I or Schedule II substances. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is a cosponsor of Wyden’s Senate bill and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act — Remove federal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses complying with state law; ensure access to banking, bankruptcy protection, research and advertising; expunge the criminal records for certain marijuana-related offenses; prohibits residents of marijuana-legal states to be required to take a marijuana drug test for positions in the federal civil service; and easing barriers for medical marijuana research.

Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) — Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act; impose an excise tax regime on marijuana products; allow for the permitting for marijuana businesses; regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Rep. Polis is sponsoring a portion of this legislation in the House.

I am pleased to see additional federal legislative action in this space, but I have little reason to be hopeful that these reform bills will have any more chance of moving forward than a host of other like marijuana reform bill that have previously been put forward in recent years. I am certain that the pro-reform results of so many 2016 ballot initiatives helps keep the marijuana reform momentum moving, but I do not think this momentum has yet built to the point that anyone should get excited about these new bill becoming law anytime very soon.

March 30, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yet another serious study finds link between medical marijuana reforms and reduced opioid problems

Regular readers might be getting a bit bored by regular posts here highlighting research showing reductions in opioid use and problems in states that have legalized medical marijuana.  But, especially with the Trump Administration reportedly about to create a new commission to tackle opioid problems, I do not think the research in this arena can be given too much attention.  And, perhaps especially helpful for purposes of influencing the Trump Administration, FoxNews Health here is discussing the latest research under the headline "Would legalizing medical marijuana help curb the opioid epidemic?". The article starts this way:

In states that legalized medical marijuana, U.S. hospitals failed to see a predicted influx of pot smokers, but in an unexpected twist, they treated far fewer opioid users, a new study shows.

Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent in states after marijuana was permitted for medicinal purposes, the analysis found. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.  "Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers," said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego.

"This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary," she said in an email.

Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, was intrigued by the study's suggestion that access to cannabis might reduce opioid misuse.  "It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity," Choo, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.  

"Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution? It seems plausible." However, she said, "there is still much we need to understand about the mechanisms through which marijuana policy may affect opioid use and harms."...

Shi analyzed hospitalization records from 1997 through 2014 for 27 states, nine of which implemented medical marijuana policies. Her study was the fifth to show declines in opioid use or deaths in states that allow medical cannabis.

Previous studies reported associations between medical marijuana and reductions in opioid prescriptions, opioid-related vehicle accidents and opioid-overdose deaths. In a 2014 study, Dr. Marcus Bachhuber found deaths from opioid overdoses fell by 25 percent in states that legalized medical marijuana.

The study referenced in this press article is available at this link and is titled "Medical marijuana policies and hospitalizations related to marijuana and opioid pain reliever."

March 29, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Too Stoned to Drive? The question is trickier than you’d think for police and the courts to answer."

Download (1)The title of this post is the headline of this ABA Journal article appearing in the April 2017 issue. Here are excerpts:

Massachusetts is one of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, where recreational marijuana use is now legal.  Twenty more states have legalized medical marijuana.  But science and the law have not kept pace with this rapid political change.

We take for granted that not being able to walk a straight line or stand on one leg means you’re drunk, and that being drunk means it’s unacceptably dangerous to drive.  But there is no clear scientific consensus when it comes to smoking pot and driving.  And few of the tools police officers have long relied on to determine whether a driver is too drunk to drive, such as the Breathalyzer, exist for marijuana....

Most (but not all) studies find that using pot impairs one’s ability to drive.  However, overall, the impairment appears to be modest — akin to driving with a blood-alcohol level between 0.01 and 0.05, which is legal in all states. (The much greater risk is in combining pot with alcohol.)

The increased crash risk with pot alone “is so small you can compare it to driving in darkness compared to driving in daylight,” says Rune Elvik, a senior research officer at the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway, who conducted several major meta-analyses evaluating the risks of drugged driving.  “Nobody would consider banning people from driving in the dark.  If you tried to impose some kind of consistency standard, then there is no strong case, really, for banning it.”

When it comes to alcohol, science and the courts have long established a direct line between number of drinks, blood-alcohol level and crash risk.  As one goes up, so do the others.  Not so for pot.  Scientists can’t say with confidence how much marijuana, in what concentration, used in what period of time, will reliably make someone “high.” (This is especially difficult to gauge because most of the existing studies used pot provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which tends to be a lot less potent than what smokers can buy on the street or in shops.)

Blood levels of THC — the chemical component of pot that makes you high — spike quickly after smoking and decline rapidly in the hours afterward, during the window when a smoker would feel most high.  What’s more, regular smokers could have THC in their blood for days or weeks after smoking, when they are clearly no longer high.

Still, laws in 18 states tie drugged driving charges to whether drivers have THC or related compounds in their blood.  Some states prohibit driving with any amount, and some specify a threshold modeled after the 0.08 limit states use for blood alcohol.  But the lag time between being pulled over and being transported to a hospital for a blood draw — on average, more than two hours — can lead to false negatives, while the tolerance developed by regular users (and the tendency for THC to stick around in their bloodstreams) can lead to false positives.  This is why, researchers say, blood THC laws make little sense....

The more sensible strategy appears to be prohibiting driving while high, and 31 states take this approach. But proving that a driver is high turns out to be tricky terrain, too....

Research shows that failing a standard field sobriety test correlates closely with having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit—and officers have the Breathalyzer to confirm their findings.  But “the gap between assessment, cannabis use and driving is really not completely closed,” says Thomas Marcotte, co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California at San Diego....

Some police departments use drug recognition experts — specially trained officers dispatched to evaluate suspected drugged drivers.  These officers, commonly referred to as DREs, use an hourlong, 12-step process that includes taking the suspect’s blood pressure and pulse and conducting eye exams and balance tests.  They use this information to generate an opinion about whether the driver is intoxicated — and, if so, by what.  Preliminary research seems to indicate their opinions are of mixed quality, and not all judges allow DREs to testify to their findings.

“They’re not EMTs. They’re not medically trained,” says [Nicholas] Lovrich, the Washington State professor who, in a recent study of five years of DRE data in Washington and New Mexico, found a false-positive rate for pot intoxication ranging from 38 percent to 68 percent.  “Everyone in the DRE business knows it’s really hard to do this.”

The gold standard would be a Breathalyzer-like device that can objectively measure whether someone has recently smoked, as well as how much.  Lovrich is working on developing such a tool, using the same type of technology that security screeners use at airports to check for explosives.  He says it will be at least two years before the technology is perfected, miniaturized and engineered to be durable enough to toss in the back seat of a squad car.

March 29, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Analyzing risks, restrictions, and barriers for those providing medical marijuana recommendations

As readers know from recent posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students deep into their class presentations. And a student this coming week is "analyzing and comparing the risks, restrictions, and barriers providers face for providing recommendations." Here are the materials this student has prepared for background on this topic:

CNN article about physician medical marijuana education

ABA article about Malpractice Liability

Nurse Practitioner article about APRN recommendations

ACP article about Marijuana Hospital Policies

Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program - Advisory Committee - Physician Rule Presentation - Notice and Comment Review on Proposed Rule

Ohio's Proposed Rule for Physicians (draft as of 03/21)

March 27, 2017 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)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Terrific Harvard School of Public Health panel on "Marijuana: The Latest Scientific Findings and Legalization"

Marijuana-web-missed-1-636x358Though other commitments prevented me from watching the event live, I am grateful to have been able to find (and find the time) to watch an hour-long panel discussion on marijuana research and reform today as part of as The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  I watched the full video via this page at The Huffington Post, which provides this "preview":

Twenty-eight states and the nation’s capital allow for the legal use of medical marijuana.  The drug is legal for recreational use in eight states and Washington, D.C. But with a new administration in office signaling a crackdown on recreational use, including an attorney general personally opposed to the drug, states are gearing up for a marijuana war.

While medical marijuana has been scientifically proved to ease pain, but the jury is still out on the drug’s other health benefits. A recent study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Marie McCormick, found as much.  Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, will be joined by McCormick and other policy and research experts for a panel discussion on marijuana’s health benefits and legalization. 

This page at the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that the video will be posted there soon as well, and it provides this additional summary of the event:

California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada became the latest states to legalize recreational marijuana, bringing to 28 the number of states that have okayed the drug for medicinal use, recreational use, or both. Even more states have rules that allow certain kinds of cannabis extracts to be used for medical purposes. At the same time that state legalization is increasing, the Trump administration is signaling that it may ramp up enforcement of federal drug laws, even when they come into conflict with state laws allowing recreational marijuana use. State and local governments may find themselves on uncertain legal ground. Meanwhile, policymakers navigating this new landscape are also working largely without the benefit of a solid foundation of scientific evidence on the drug’s risks and benefits. In fact, a new National Academy of Medicine report describes notable gaps in scientific data on the short- and long-term health effects of marijuana. What do we know about the health impacts of marijuana, and what do we still need to learn? This Forum brought together researchers studying marijuana’s health impacts with policymakers who are working to implement new laws in ways that will benefit and protect public health.

March 24, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Looking at marijuana reform in black and white

Though a number of folks in a number of ways have brought a critical race perspective to discussion of marijuana law, policy and reform, I still think this topic always merits even more extensive and thoughtful attention.  Thus, I am very pleased that a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is planned a presentation on racial issues surrounding marijuana reform.  And here are materials this student sent my way in preparation for the class presentation and discussion next week:

ACLU Report, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests"

Seattle Times article, "Minorities, punished most by war on drugs, underrepresented in legal pot"

Huffington Post commentary, "A Big Shift Is Necessary to Successfully Market Cannabis to Minorities"

 

March 24, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Legalization Lite: The Case for De-scheduling Marijuana

The title of this post is the title suggested by a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar as a preview of his planned presentation to the class next week.  Here are the resources the student assembled as background on this topic to go with the great title (which leads to show my age by thinking "tastes great/less filling"):

1.  Sam Kamin, Legal Cannabis in the U.S.: Not Whether, But How?, 50 UC Davis L. Rev. 617 (2016).

2.  Jeffrey M. Jones, In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use, Gallup (Oct. 21, 2015)

3.  Abigail Geiger, Support for Marijuana Legalization Continues to Rise, Pew Research Center, Oct. 12, 2016

4.  Kevin Loria, 11 Key Findings from One of the Most Comprehensive Reports Ever on the Health Effects of Marijuana, Business Insider, Jan. 12, 2017,

5.  Ryan Stoa, Is Big Marijuana Inevitable?, The New Republic, Aug. 19, 2016

6.  Debra Borchardt, Marijuana Sales Totaled $6.7 Billion in 2016, Forbes, Jan. 3, 2017

7.  Robert Benzie, Recreational Weed Could Be A $22.6 Billion Industry: Study, The Toronto Star, Oct. 27, 2016,

8.  Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard, & Jeffrey Miron, Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations, The Cato Institute, Sep. 16, 2016,

9.  Jeffrey A. Miron & Katherine Waldock, The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition, The Cato Institute (2010)

10.  Beau Kilmer, Trump's Marijuana Options, The Hill (Jan. 17, 2017)

March 23, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Illinois lawmakers propose legalizing recreational marijuana"

Despite lingering uncertainty about enforcement of federal drug law under the Trump Administration, marijuana reform continues in the states. Yesterday, legislators in Illinois introduced bills that would legalize small amounts of marijuana. According to The  Chicago Tribune:

Lawmakers are proposing to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois but say the legislation probably won't come up for a vote until next year.

 

Sponsors on Wednesday introduced bills that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow and buy limited amounts of marijuana.

 

The state would license and regulate businesses to grow, process and sell the plant, and it would establish safety regulations such as testing and labeling requirements, sponsors said.

 

The measure would also allow residents to possess up to 28 grams of pot, or about an ounce, and to grow five plants.

 

The bills propose taxing marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce wholesale, plus the state's standard 6.25 percent sales tax.

 

Based on sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates sales in Illinois could generate about $350 million to $700 million per year.

 

Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan reserved judgment, as they typically do with new bills. But the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposes legalization, saying marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety, and causes potential enforcement problems because it conflicts with the federal prohibition on marijuana.

 

The co-sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Democrats from Chicago's North Side, said they don't plan to call the bill for a vote this session but will hold hearings to get feedback and see whether some version of a legalization bill can get support next year.

 

"If we bring this out in the open, we can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market," Steans said.

 

Cassidy said marijuana prohibition creates far more problems than it prevents. "Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer," she said.

 

Eight states have allowed the sale of the drug, generally by referendum. But in Illinois, it's very difficult to get a binding vote on the statewide ballot, so it probably would take legislative action to change the law.

 

If approved, the plan would make Illinois the first state in the Midwest to allow the general public, including out-of-state visitors, to buy marijuana, though it would remain illegal to transport it across state lines. The proposal also calls for dividing the tax revenue, with half going to the state's general fund and the rest to schools and drug abuse treatment and prevention.

March 23, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Providing advice to a potential Ohio medical marijuana business

As noted in recent posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students, after a well-deserved Spring Break, are hearing presentations this week about marijuana reform's intersection with immigration (background here) and education (background here). If these presentations (or other realities) end up inspiring my students to want to get into the marijuana industry in the Buckeye State, a third student presentation this week has them covered. Specifically, a student this coming week is presenting on "advising a marijuana dispensary in Ohio," and here are the materials this student has assembled for the planned presentation:

Article discussing 501(C)(4) tax emption (webpage includes link to a law review article for those interested)

Posting on taxation of marijuana dispensaries (includes text of 280E as well as a link to the IRS memo regarding taxation, Memo 201504011, for further optional reading)

---- For further reading on the taxation issue: "Tax Planning for Marijuana Dealers"

Memo summarizing Ohio dispensary rules (with changes after comment period)

---- For further reading, check out the “Dispensary Rules” section of OMMCP website

For more information (not Ohio specific) about industry activity as cultivator or processor and for more general business advice, see "Marijuana Business: How to Open and Successfully Run a Marijuana Dispensary and Grow Facility" (free on Amazon’s Kindle unlimited)

March 20, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Marijuana raids are more deadly than the drug itself"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Washington Post WonkBlog item by Christopher Ingraham.  The piece identifies effectively one quite notable marijuana-related take-away from recent New York Times reporting about deadly drug raids by law enforcement.  Here is how this piece gets started:

Since 2010, At least 20 SWAT raids involving suspected marijuana dealers have turned deadly, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

The list of fatalities includes small-time dealers and people who sold the occasional joint to a friend, as well as people suspected of dealing in more serious drugs like crack or meth, but who were found to be in possession of only marijuana after the fact. It also includes four police officers who were killed during the raids, intentionally or otherwise.

The deadly raids are a reminder that an activity that's legal and celebrated in some states -- selling weed -- can get you killed in others.

The dead include:

• 29-year-old Jason Westcott of Tampa, who was shot and killed by police who stormed his home and observed him with a firearm. Westcott never fired his gun. The police uncovered a total of .2 grams of marijuana at Westcott's residence, not enough to fill a typical joint.

• Trevon Cole of Las Vegas, who was targeted for a raid after undercover officers purchased 1.8 ounces of the drug from him. Cole was unarmed, and was shot and killed by an officer as he was trying to flush marijuana down a toilet. His family eventually received a $1.7 million settlement from police.

• Levonia Riggins, also of Tampa, who became the subject of a raid after undercover agents purchased marijuana from him on three occasions. Riggins was in bed at the time of the raid. He didn't respond to officers' demands, and when the officers moved toward him Riggins made a quick movement. He was shot and killed. The raid turned out no firearms and a small amount of marijuana.

Marijuana itself is not a deadly substance. "No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported," according to the DEA. But the deadly raids on suspected marijuana dealers underscore how drug enforcement can become a greater threat to life and safety than drug use itself.

The Times' data shows that drugs are the primary driver of SWAT raids that turn deadly. Among the 85 fatal raids that have occurred since 2010, 61 of them -- or 70 percent -- were initiated on suspicion of drugs.

March 20, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Examining marijuana reforms' impact on teachers, students and educational achievement

My Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students, after a well-deserved Spring Break, are back next week to continue making presentations based on their selected marijuana-related research issue. A student this coming week is looking at issues marijuana reform from an educator's perspective and he will be presenting results from some original survey research. Here are the resources the student assembled as background on this topic:

"Texas Teacher Shouldn’t Be Punished for Marijuana Use in Colorado, Judge Says"

NYT article on an administrative judge ruling that a Texas teacher should not face sanction for smoking marijuana legally in Colorado then testing positive for it in Texas.  Article is tangentially related to my subject, but an interesting case (the judge compares the teacher smoking marijuana in Colorado to a Texas teacher going to another state to gamble at a casino).

"Teen marijuana use in Colorado found lower than national average"

Reuters article summarizing the findings of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s survey of Colorado high school students that found that marijuana consumption among teens actually dipped after legalization in the state. Report also found that the percent of Colorado teens using marijuana was below the national average.

"Will legalization lead to more teens smoking pot?"

This CBS News article summarizes a report by the International Journal of Drug Policy that concluded in 2014 that about 10 percent of high school students that would otherwise be low risk to use marijuana would pick up the habit if it was legal. This hypothesis is based on nationwide survey data from 2007-2011.

"The Academic Opportunity Costs of Substance Use During College"

A study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health that analyzed a 10-year period to conclude that marijuana use contributed to college students skipping more classes, spending less time studying, earning lower grades, dropping out of college, and being unemployed after college. It also concluded that early chronic use can lead to a decrease in IQ.

March 17, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New survey finds quarter of all beer drinkers would switch to marijuana if legalized

The title of this post comes from this article on the results of a recent survey finding marijuana legalization could greatly affect brewers' bottom lines. The article begins:

American presidents and poets have long expressed their love of beer. Abraham Lincoln said he firmly believed the people could be depended upon in any national crisis, as long as they were given “the facts and beer.” Edgar Allen Poe wrote an ode to the stuff, and Charles Bukowski called brew his “continuous lover.”

 

Yet more than a quarter of American beer drinkers have switched to marijuana, or would switch if it was legally accessible, a new report finds. According to the Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G), 27% of 40,000 people surveyed last year said that cannabis already does replace beer in their lives or could if the former were legalized.

 

Brewers, who in 2015 sold more than $105 billion worth of beer, stand to lose from this tradeoff. Specifically, about $2 billion annually, C2G predicts, noting that wine and spirits sales will be affected as well. Ultimately, the analysts project, cannabis will cost beer 7% of its market.

 

There’s some evidence to support the claim. A 2016 report from the investment research group Cowen and Company noted that cannabis consumption seems to be leading to lower beer sales in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, the three states where weed is recreationally legal. The shift in consumption habits was apparently most dramatic in Denver, where people bought 6% less beer post-legalization. Analysts said too that higher-income consumers and men in general have been drinking less alcohol in the past five years, while weed use rose among those groups.

 

Also worth noting: Cannabis consumption has variety on its side. There are of course classic methods, like smoking flowers and hash, but enthusiasts can also take advantage of vaporizers, edibles, infused beverages, powders, tablets, creams, tinctures, and ointments, plus whatever’s in development.

 

More than 24 million Americans legally accessed weed in 2016, and the new C2G report argues that these figures will only grow. It projects that “legal cannabis penetration will settle at a level comparable to that of beer and wine and that a fully mature market would create a new $50 billion industry.” 

March 16, 2017 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Looking closely at intersection of marijuana policy and immigration

After a Spring Break break, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students are back next week to continue making presentations based on their selected marijuana-related research issue.  A student this coming week is exploring the ever-so-timely topic of immigration and its intersection with marijuana laws and policies.  Here are the resources the student assembled as background on this topic:

1.  Press article: "If pot is legalized, it can still have big consequences for certain immigrants"

2.  Press article: "When Immigrants are Deported for Smoking weed"

3.  Press Article: "How Marijuana Gets People Deported, In 5 Simple Charts"

4.  Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) Report: "Immigration Impact: Analysis of the Adult Use of Marijuana"

5.  Law review article: "Nonserious Marijuana Offenses and Noncitizens: Uncounseled Pleas and Disproportionate Consequences"

March 16, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Congressional Research Service report on "The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward"

The folks at the Congressional Research Service do a terrific job summarizing complicated law and policy issues for members of Congress, and their latest marijuana publication is no exception. This latest CRS report is titled "The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward," and it covers an amazing amount of marijuana law and policy in under 50 pages. Here are excerpts from its summary:

Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana — all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  As of March 2017, nearly 90% of the states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, allow for the medical use of marijuana in some capacity.  Also, eight states and the District of Columbia now allow for some recreational use of marijuana.  These developments have spurred a number of questions regarding their potential implications for federal law enforcement activities and for the nation’s drug policies as a whole.

Thus far, the federal response to state actions to decriminalize or legalize marijuana largely has been to allow states to implement their own laws on marijuana.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) has nonetheless reaffirmed that marijuana growth, possession, and trafficking remain crimes under federal law irrespective of states’ positions on marijuana. Rather than targeting individuals for drug use and possession, federal law enforcement has generally focused its counterdrug efforts on criminal networks involved in the drug trade.

While the majority of the American public supports marijuana legalization, some have voiced apprehension over possible negative implications.  Opponents’ concerns include, but are not limited to, the potential impact of legalization on (1) marijuana use, particularly among youth; (2) road incidents involving marijuana-impaired drivers; (3) marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized it into neighboring states that have not; and (4) U.S. compliance with international treaties.  Proponents of legalization have been encouraged by potential outcomes that could result from marijuana legalization, including a new source of tax revenue for states and a decrease in marijuana-related arrests.  Many of these potential implications are yet to be fully measured.

Given the current marijuana policy gap between the federal government and many of the states, there are a number of issues that Congress may address.  These include, but are not limited to, issues surrounding availability of financial services for marijuana businesses, federal tax treatment, oversight of federal law enforcement, allowance of states to implement medical marijuana laws and involvement of federal health care workers, and consideration of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. The marijuana policy gap has widened each year for some time.

March 16, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More notable comments about marijuana and federal enforcement from AG Sessions in new speech and Q&A

Jeff-sessions-attorney-general-630x354Over at my Sentencing Law & Policy blog, I have this new post highlights various aspects of  this extended speech delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions today in Richmond, Virginia.  Though covering various topics, these passages from the speech are sure to intrigue those following marijuana law, policy and reform:  

Our nation is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014. According to the CDC, about 140 Americans on average now die from a drug overdose each day. That means every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks. Illegal drugs are flooding across our southern border and into cities across our country, bringing violence, addiction, and misery. We have also seen an increase in the trafficking of new, low-cost heroin by Mexican drug cartels working with local street gangs. As the market for this heroin expands, gangs fight for territory and new customers and neighborhoods are caught in the crossfire.

There are three main ways to fight the scourge of drugs: criminal enforcement, treatment and prevention. Criminal enforcement is essential to stop both the transnational cartels that ship drugs into our country, and the thugs and gangs who use violence and extortion to move their product. One of the President’s executive orders directed the Justice Department to dismantle these organizations and gangs — and we will do just that.

Treatment programs are also vital.  But treatment often comes too late to save people from addiction or death. So we need to focus on the third way we can fight drug use: preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place.

I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable.  I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.

In the ’80s and ’90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction.  We can do this again. Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse.

In addition to these prepared remarks, AG Sessions also apparently had some interesting things to say during a Q&A after his speech.  Tom Angell, in this new MassRoots posting, provides this report:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is indicating that he might keep Obama-era marijuana enforcement guidelines in place, perhaps with some modifications. "The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama's Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid," he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters following a speech in Richmond, Virginia.

That memo, adopted in 2013, lays out guidelines for how states can avoid federal interference with their marijuana laws.

Sessions added that he "may have some different ideas myself in addition to that" but indicated that the federal government would not be able to enforce its remaining marijuana prohibition across the board in states with legalization. "Essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades," he said.

The attorney general also addressed medical cannabis, suggesting that it "has been hyped, maybe too much."

"It's possible that some dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial," he said. "But if you ever just smoke marijuana for example where you have no idea how much THC you're getting it's probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount. So, forgive me if I'm a bit dubious about that."

March 15, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why it Matters"

The title of this post is the title of a notable new report issued by National Families in Action. The report can be downloaded at this link, and this press release about the report provides a summary of its themes and core contents:

A new report by National Families in Action (NFIA) uncovers and documents how three billionaires, who favor legal recreational marijuana, manipulated the ballot initiative process in 16 U.S. states for more than a decade, convincing voters to legalize medical marijuana.  NFIA is an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1977, that has been helping parents prevent children from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  NFIA researched and issued the paper to mark its 40th anniversary.

The NFIA study, Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters, exposes, for the first time, the money trail behind the marijuana legalization effort during a 13-year period.  The report lays bare the strategy to use medical marijuana as a runway to legalized recreational pot, describing how financier George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, and for-profit education baron John Sperling (and groups they and their families fund) systematically chipped away at resistance to marijuana while denying that full legalization was their goal.  The report documents state-by-state financial data, identifying the groups and the amount of money used either to fund or oppose ballot initiatives legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in 16 states.  The paper unearths how legalizers fleeced voters and outspent — sometimes by hundreds of times — the people who opposed marijuana.

Tracking the Money That’s Legalizing Marijuana and Why It Matters illustrates that legalizers lied about the health benefits of marijuana, preyed on the hopes of sick people, flouted scientific evidence and advice from the medical community and gutted consumer protections against unsafe, ineffective drugs.  And, it proves that once the billionaires achieved their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana (in Colorado and Washington in 2012), they virtually stopped financing medical pot ballot initiatives and switched to financing recreational pot.  In 2014 and 2016, they donated $44 million to legalize recreational pot in Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Only Arizona defeated the onslaught (for recreational marijuana).

March 15, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Medical marijuana business in New York is a bust so far"

NEW-YORKThe title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new local article from Buffalo.  Here are excerpts:

The state health commissioner last year declared New York’s medical marijuana program a success. But the five companies that the state selected in 2015 to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering from debilitating and sometimes terminal diseases such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis tell a different story.

“Our company is not close to break-even yet," said Ari Hoffnung, president of Vireo Health of New York, which has a marijuana-growing facility in Fulton County and dispenses its products in two downstate and two upstate locations. “And based on my understanding, no one has made a dime here in New York."

If other states were a guide, New York should be preparing for at least 200,000 patients enrolled in the program, the industry estimates. But since medical marijuana went on the market in New York State a little over a year ago, just over 14,000 patients have enrolled to buy the drug at one of the 20 dispensaries scattered around the state. Only half of those are regular customers. Many stopped taking the drug because of high costs, distances they must travel to get it or because they died, industry executives say. Fewer than 900 doctors signed on to certify patients to use the drug.

“There are two things the program is lacking: physicians and patients," said Sen. Diane Savino, author of the bill that opened up medical marijuana treatment in New York State. Now, while the five companies producing medical marijuana struggle to stay alive for lack of customers, the Cuomo administration wants to add five more grow-and-distribution licenses.

At the same time, the administration is not opening up a new bidding process. Instead, the Cuomo administration is turning to five companies – from the original 43 bidders – that lost in the application process two years ago. All of this is worrying the companies still trying to stay afloat. “Every single one of them is financially struggling," Savino said....

Instead of adding new grow facilities, the existing licensees say, New York should more aggressively attract physicians to participate and put dispensaries in more locations. Savino, the Staten Island senator who sponsored the legislation, said she is pushing the Cuomo administration to award new “retail license” dispensaries, but to bar the five existing grower/dispensary firms from owning them. She said the administration does not understand how the medical marijuana marketplace works and that adding new growers while supplies exceed demand is “a big mistake.”

Marijuana companies say they are not arguing more licenses should never be issued to grow and sell marijuana. “No one is making any money here. Twenty percent of us have already failed," said Hoffnung, president of Vireo Health, referring to one of the original licensees that sold out to a California company because of financial problems.

March 12, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Terrific summary of terrific Pacific McGeorge School of Law symposium on "Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad"

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As detailed on this webpage, the University of the Pacific Law Review and Global Center held a symposium last week on "Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad."  The panels and panelists for the event were are terrific and timely, and the video of the event is available via the website.  In addition, Professor Michael Vitiello was instrumental in arranging for two terrific students to provide a detailed multi-page summary of the symposium. This summary is much too long (and much too thoughtful) to really fit in this space, so I have linked it before and I recommend it to all. Here is how the terrific summary gets started to whet appetites from the whole product:

The University of the Pacific Law Review and Global Center Annual Symposium: Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad

Friday, March 3rd, 2017 – McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, CA

Summary by: Kendall Fisher and Rosemary Deck

The University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law hosted the “Regulating Marijuana at Home and Abroad Symposium” on Friday, March 3rd in Sacramento. Several notable speakers gave remarks regarding the progressing trend toward legalization. While the individual states are developing piecemeal legalization under our federalist framework, the national legalization of marijuana remains in conflict with UN drug control treaties.

Michael Vitiello, Distinguished Professor of Law at McGeorge, delivered the opening remarks. He set the stage for discussions to follow by outlining a brief history of marijuana prohibition and decriminalization, focusing particularly on changing attitudes towards marijuana – he noted that today’s younger voters grew up with movies and television shows like Pineapple Express and Workaholics that present marijuana use as socially acceptable. Professor Vitiello predicts that this generation’s more lenient attitude towards marijuana will continue the trend towards national legalization, which has already begun with eight states permitting recreational use and twenty-eight allowing some form of medical use. In addition to demographic changes in attitude, he pointed to the capital that investors are now pouring into the industry as a reason to believe a national solution is in the offing. Professor Vitiello also pointed out that, despite comments from members of the Trump Administration, namely White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s recent insinuation that the federal government may crack down on state-legal recreational use, some of these legalized states have already expressed a willingness to push back against any such federal enforcement.

Download Regulating at Home and Abroad

March 9, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Can this man successfully treat opioid addiction with marijuana?"

The title of this post comes from this article from The Guardian discussing a controversial new addiction treatment facility that "uses cannabis as a a central part of its treatment plan." It begins:

When Joe Schrank got the call six years ago that his friend Greg Giraldo had been found unconscious after an overdose in a New Jersey hotel room, he was not surprised. Giraldo, a comedian, had cycled through the addiction loop for years, and Schrank had tried in vain to save him.

 

“Greg’s death really rattled me to the core,” says Schrank, a trained social worker who works with addicts. “He tried the abstinence route and it never really took root. I felt like rehab had failed him. It failed his family. It failed me. I kept thinking he could be smoking pot instead of dead. And that’s a big difference.”

 

Using pot instead of cocaine and Valium was something Schrank had suggested to his friend weeks before his death. Although it is an unpopular idea in the rehab world, where Schrank had made his career (first at the Malibu detox center Promises, then as head of a clean house in Brooklyn and founder of the The Fix, a website dedicated to addiction recovery), he nonetheless had a hunch marijuana could have helped his friend.

 

“There’s no lethal dose,” says Schrank who has collaborated with the addiction psychiatrist Scott Bienenfeld for the past decade on cases Bienenfeld oversees medically.

 

Indeed, page through the National Academy of Sciences’ latest 395-page report of 10,000 scientific abstracts on the health effects of cannabis, and you’d be pressed to find a single mention of death by marijuana overdose in adults. Yet because of its longtime classification as a Schedule 1 drug (right up there with heroin), research on marijuana’s impact on our health remains limited and largely inconclusive.

 

After Giraldo’s death, Schrank began working with Bienenfeld on treatment plans that incorporated marijuana as a crucial detox step. He also connected with Amanda Reiman, former head of marijuana law and policy at the  Drug Policy Alliance, whose research at University of California, Berkeley, for more than a decade has focused on the use of cannabis as a viable substitute for prescription drugs.

 

This January, Schrank took another step and opened High Sobriety – a first-of-its-kind rehab center that uses cannabis as a central part of its treatment plan. Seen as a highly contentious move in the rehab world, High Sobriety has been met with skepticism and criticism for its use of marijuana in a field where success is traditionally measured by total abstinence.

Some prior related posts:

March 9, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Series on "Marijuana in the age of Trump" via The Cannabist

The Cannabist has a series of new article under the heading "Marijuana in the age of Trump." Here are the headlines and subheadlines of the three pieces with links thereto:

Part 1: ‘Something’s going to have to give’: An untenable conflict between feds, legalized states: Cannabis businesses, legalization forces prepare to fight as ground shifts beneath their feet

Part 2: Federal marijuana law enforcement: What you need to know: The Cannabist talks with drug policy and legal experts about what could take shape, from selective raids and the threat of asset seizures on cannabis businesses to how cases could be handled in federal court

Part 3: What is the Supremacy Clause and what does it mean for states’ rights to legalize marijuana?: If preemption of state law happens and federal prohibition stands, "That's shooting themselves in the foot," says Robert Mikos, an expert on federalism and drug law

March 8, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)