Thursday, June 29, 2017
Complicated Tenth Circuit ruling tries to sort out marijuana banking issues in shadow of federal prohibition
As reported in this Cannabist article, headlined "Federal appeals court gives Colorado marijuana credit union another chance," the Tenth Circuit has issued an intricate and complicated ruling on banking issues in the marijuana space. Here are the basics from the article:
A federal appeals court has breathed life into a plan hatched in Colorado to open a credit union for the marijuana industry. A three-judge panel for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday vacated a district court ruling that nixed Denver-based Fourth Corner Credit Union’s bid to receive a master account with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Fourth Corner Credit Union first formed in late 2014 with the goal of serving licensed marijuana-related businesses, which have had trouble accessing financial services from traditional banking institutions. Any credit union or bank needs a Federal Reserve master account to operate.
The judges remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the amended complaint without prejudice. “By remanding with instructions to dismiss the amended complaint without prejudice, our disposition effectuates the judgment of the two panel members who would allow the Fourth Corner Credit Union to proceed with its claims,” the judges wrote in the June 27 opinion.
Previously, the district court dismissed Fourth Corner’s case with prejudice, meaning that the credit union could not refile. The 10th Circuit panel decision allows for Fourth Corner to reapply to the Federal Reserve for a master account, and — if it were to be denied again — the credit union could take the case back to court, said Tom Downey, a Denver-based attorney who specializes in cannabis regulations and law with Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe P.C.
This paragraph from the start of the Tenth Circuit panel's 60+ page opinion in Fourth Corner Credit Union v. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, No. 16-1016 (10th Cir. June 27, 2107) (available here), serves as a kind of a symbol of the mess that persists thanks to state and federal laws on marijuana being in tension:
In this appeal, we vacate the district court’s order and remand with instructions to dismiss the amended complaint without prejudice. This disposition is addressed in three opinions — one by each member of the panel. Judge Moritz would affirm the dismissal with prejudice. Judge Matheson would vacate and remand with instructions to dismiss the amended complaint without prejudice on prudential-ripeness grounds. Judge Bacharach would reverse the dismissal of the amended complaint. By remanding with instructions to dismiss the amended complaint without prejudice, our disposition effectuates the judgment of the two panel members who would allow the Fourth Corner Credit Union to proceed with its claims.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this new original research by Amanda Reiman, Mark Welty, and Perry Solomon. Here is the abstract:
Introduction: Prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Alternatives to opioids for the treatment of pain are necessary to address this issue. Cannabis can be an effective treatment for pain, greatly reduces the chance of dependence, and eliminates the risk of fatal overdose compared to opioid-based medications. Medical cannabis patients report that cannabis is just as effective, if not more, than opioid-based medications for pain.
Materials and Methods: The current study examined the use of cannabis as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication by collecting survey data from 2897 medical cannabis patients.
Discussion: Thirty-four percent of the sample reported using opioid-based pain medication in the past 6 months. Respondents overwhelmingly reported that cannabis provided relief on par with their other medications, but without the unwanted side effects. Ninety-seven percent of the sample ‘‘strongly agreed/agreed’’ that they are able to decrease the amount of opiates they consume when they also use cannabis, and 81% ‘‘strongly agreed/agreed’’ that taking cannabis by itself was more effective at treating their condition than taking cannabis with opioids. Results were similar for those using cannabis with nonopioid-based pain medications.
Conclusion: Future research should track clinical outcomes where cannabis is offered as a viable substitute for pain treatment and examine the outcomes of using cannabis as a medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
This new posting at Marijuana Business Daily, headlined "Cannabis industry employs 165,000-plus workers," includes this interesting chart highlighting just how many legal jobs might be linked to state-level marijuana reforms. Here is part of the text that goes with the chart:
With 165,000-230,000 full- and part-time workers, the U.S. cannabis industry has quickly become a major job generator. Cannabis-related businesses now employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists.
The estimates – published in the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook 2017 – include employment data for retailers, wholesale grows, infused products/concentrates companies, testing labs and ancillary firms. The job figures represent an impressive feat for an industry that has, for the most part, been operating legitimately only since 2009. They also underscore marijuana’s rapid transformation out of the black market and into a viable economic force, capable of producing a host of new jobs and business opportunities for towns and communities across the country.
Employment figures were calculated using a variety of methodologies, including the use of survey data regarding the average number of employees for each type of company in the industry. That information was then applied to the estimated number of companies in each sector to arrive at a rough idea of how many employees work in the industry. Only ancillary companies that glean a sizable portion of their revenue from the marijuana industry are included in these employment figures.
A majority of the jobs in the marijuana industry are currently with small businesses, most needing only a handful of employees to maintain daily operations. Though the average number of employees at marijuana companies has been rising in recent years as businesses grow, the state-by-state nature of the marijuana industry has prevented companies from developing into large-scale enterprises that employ hundreds of people....
The cannabis industry is coming off a landmark year in 2016, when four states legalized recreational marijuana and another four approved measures tied to medical cannabis. Additionally, Ohio and Pennsylvania legalized MMJ earlier in the year, while Louisiana passed a law to set up commercial cultivation and sales of medical cannabis. Though it will take some time for these markets to fully develop, they have the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the marijuana industry.
California’s recreational market alone could eventually bring in between $4.5 billion and $5 billion in annual retail sales – more than the nation’s entire legal cannabis industry generated in 2016 – so the impact adult-use legalization will have on business and employment opportunities in the state is massive.
June 27, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, June 26, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by multiple authors to soon appear in the American Journal of Public Health. Here is the abstract:
Background. Cannabis use is common in North America, especially among young people, and is associated with a risk of various acute and chronic adverse health outcomes. Cannabis control regimes are evolving, for example toward a national legalization policy in Canada, with the aim to improve public health, and thus require evidence-based interventions. As cannabis-related health outcomes may be influenced by behaviors that are modifiable by the user, evidence-based Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG) — akin to similar guidelines in other health fields — offer a valuable, targeted prevention tool to improve public health outcomes.
Objectives. To systematically review, update, and quality-grade evidence on behavioral factors determining adverse health outcomes from cannabis that may be modifiable by the user, and translate this evidence into revised LRCUG as a public health intervention tool based on an expert consensus process.
Search methods. We used pertinent medical search terms and structured search strategies, to search MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library databases, and reference lists primarily for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and additional evidence on modifiable risk factors for adverse health outcomes from cannabis use.
Selection criteria. We included studies if they focused on potentially modifiable behavior-based factors for risks or harms for health from cannabis use, and excluded studies if cannabis use was assessed for therapeutic purposes.
Data collection and analysis. We screened the titles and abstracts of all studies identified by the search strategy and assessed the full texts of all potentially eligible studies for inclusion; 2 of the authors independently extracted the data of all studies included in this review. We created Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses flow-charts for each of the topical searches. Subsequently, we summarized the evidence by behavioral factor topic, quality-graded it by following standard (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation; GRADE) criteria, and translated it into the LRCUG recommendations by the author expert collective on the basis of an iterative consensus process.
Main results. For most recommendations, there was at least “substantial” (i.e., good-quality) evidence. We developed 10 major recommendations for lower-risk use: (1) the most effective way to avoid cannabis use–related health risks is abstinence; (2) avoid early age initiation of cannabis use (i.e., definitively before the age of 16 years); (3) choose low-potency tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or balanced THC-to-cannabidiol (CBD)–ratio cannabis products; (4) abstain from using synthetic cannabinoids; (5) avoid combusted cannabis inhalation and give preference to nonsmoking use methods; (6) avoid deep or other risky inhalation practices; (7) avoid high-frequency (e.g., daily or near-daily) cannabis use; (8) abstain from cannabis-impaired driving; (9) populations at higher risk for cannabis use–related health problems should avoid use altogether; and (10) avoid combining previously mentioned risk behaviors (e.g., early initiation and high-frequency use).
Authors’ conclusions. Evidence indicates that a substantial extent of the risk of adverse health outcomes from cannabis use may be reduced by informed behavioral choices among users. The evidence-based LRCUG serve as a population-level education and intervention tool to inform such user choices toward improved public health outcomes. However, the LRCUG ought to be systematically communicated and supported by key regulation measures (e.g., cannabis product labeling, content regulation) to be effective. All of these measures are concretely possible under emerging legalization regimes, and should be actively implemented by regulatory authorities. The population-level impact of the LRCUG toward reducing cannabis use–related health risks should be evaluated.
Public health implications. Cannabis control regimes are evolving, including legalization in North America, with uncertain impacts on public health. Evidence-based LRCUG offer a potentially valuable population-level tool to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes from cannabis use among (especially young) users in legalization contexts, and hence to contribute to improved public health outcomes.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
"The Golden State's ‘High’ Expectations: Will California Realize the Fiscal Benefits of Cannabis Legalization?"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by George Theofanis now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The federal government has been taking an increasingly relaxed approach to enforcing marijuana laws, allowing states that have legalized to realize the tax benefits of lawful marijuana. California is now seeking to realize those same benefits. In 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passing of Proposition 64 (Prop. 64), also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
With the country’s highest population and largest economy, California’s impact on the marijuana industry is expected to be massive. Some are predicting that California’s marijuana market will generate $1 billion in tax revenue alone. Nonetheless, successfully generating revenue from the recreational market largely depends on several unknowable and unpredictable variables. For example, high prices when legal sales begin could polarize consumers toward the illicit market and stall industry growth. On the other hand, low prices could undercut a state’s revenue goals. In addition, even with the general success of the recreational markets in Colorado and Washington, the unique circumstance’s present in California make revenue projections unpredictable. Complicating matters more, marijuana’s illegal status under federal law also has the potential to slow down market growth and decrease revenue, depending on unpredictable circumstances. Accordingly, a sound cannabis tax scheme must take these and other uncertainties into account.
This Article focuses on how a tax regime that strives for short term gains will be more susceptible to the unstable conditions of the market. It explores how California is able to minimize financial risk in the recreational market while facilitating its growth. This Article argues that California should adopt several mechanisms for adjusting the marijuana tax rate, as recommended in the Rand report, because the current tax scheme is too aspiring and will result in slower market growth over time. For instance, by scheduling future tax rate increases and exploiting untapped tax bases, California can cash in long-term without overburdening the market in its infancy. Indeed, a tax scheme that focuses on a short rate of return rather than long term gain will fail to optimize cannabis tax revenue. The marijuana industry will continue to develop in unpredictable ways, making flexibility to change important to the overall success of any marijuana tax regime. By minimizing risk and facilitating market growth, California can seek to become the golden standard of the cannabis industry.
June 25, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Another accounting of the big drop in traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington
In this recent post I noted The Marshall Project article discussing data showing many fewer traffic stops after marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. This new NBC News article, headlined "Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana," covers similar ground. Here are excerpts of this reporting of fascinating data:
Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012. That also reduced the racial disparities in the stops, according to a new analysis of police data, but not by much. Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates than whites. Highway stops have long been a tool in the war on drugs, and remain a charged issue amid a furious national debate about police treatment of minorities....
The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers. “Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community," said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice in Boston. "Have a police officer search your car is really like, 'Why are they doing this to me?' And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”
The analysis comes from data crunched by the Stanford Open Policing Project.... The data compiled by the Stanford group is limited in that it is not uniform across states. Each of the country's law enforcement agencies track traffic stops differently, and some don't release the data publicly. In the end, the group compiled data from 20 states that was deep enough to allow a rigorous analysis. Colorado and Washington were compared against 12 of these states to arrive at the conclusion that marijuana legalization likely had an effect on search rates.
In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year. In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization. The search rate remained low thereafter. The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops.
The biggest finding ─ and one that mirrors the results of investigations in individual states and jurisdictions ─ is that minorities are still stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers. The threshold before a search is performed is also lower for minority drivers than it is for whites, according to the researchers at Stanford behind the Open Policing Project. Those differences remained in Colorado and Washington even after searchers dropped following pot legalization.
Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that although the disparities persisted, the overall drop in searches means that fewer minorities would be unfairly targeted. "As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious," Glaser wrote in an email.
Prior related post:
Thursday, June 22, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this terrific (and lengthy) article in National Affairs authored by Jonathan Caulkins. Every serious student of marijuana reform ought to read the whole piece, and here are excerpts that highlight just a fee of the many astute observations herein:
The concern with cheap marijuana is not that tens of millions more Americans might smoke marijuana once or twice a week. That would not matter much, because occasional use is, by and large, not terribly harmful. Rather, the concern is that millions more would become habitual users. Over the last decade or so of liberalizing policy, the number of people who report using marijuana at some point within the past year has increased moderately, but the number reporting heavy use has soared. In 1992, fewer than one million Americans self-reported daily or near-daily use of marijuana; by 2014, the figure had ballooned to 7.8 million. Half of the marijuana used in the U.S. is consumed by people who spend more than half their waking hours intoxicated.
Whatever one thinks about the long-term consequences of chronic heavy use, acute marijuana intoxication can interfere with the ability to perform useful and even necessary tasks. Marijuana is not a cognitive-performance enhancer. And while we welcome low prices for most consumer goods — if health care and rent were cheap, it would make life a lot easier for most people — that approach may not apply to "temptation goods." Suppose people could buy essentially unlimited candy and desserts for 50 cents a day. Would that be a good thing? Maybe not. Lots of Americans already struggle with their weight, and consumption tends to go up when prices fall.
Libertarians may want prices to be as low as possible even for temptation goods. But the internalities argument goes as follows: Marijuana is a dependence-inducing intoxicant that leads many users to systematically make bad decisions that harm themselves as well as third parties; more than four million Americans report suffering enough problems with chronic marijuana use to meet clinical criteria for a substance-use disorder.
Chronic drug use involves repeatedly ingesting chemicals that bind to one's neuro-receptors — literally altering the brain in ways that are visible in brain scans. Changes in the brain's reward circuitry can compromise the neural system that normally helps rational actors successfully negotiate free markets. Even if each dose considered on its own seems appealing, regular drug consumption can leave long-term users regretful. The phrase "drugs hijack the brain" is sensationalistic, but not altogether wrong. So there is nothing illogical about adopting a libertarian perspective toward conventional consumer goods but making an exception for temptation goods, particularly for artificially introduced neurotransmitters and their chemical cousins.
To be sure, taxing to protect the minority for whom cheap marijuana would trigger habitual use is paternalistic, and it sacrifices the interests of the majority whose use would not create such problems. But the sacrifice would not be large: A $5-per-gram tax would cost someone who smokes a half-gram joint every weekend only $125 a year. Furthermore, the taxes would not actually increase out-of-pocket costs, but merely lessen the decline in price that would inevitably accompany federal legalization. So even with high taxes, legalization would still save marijuana users money.
June 22, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
As reported in this industry article, the Highway Loss Data Institute has completed an interesting analysis of car crash claims data in marijuana legalization states. Here are the basics from the article:
Legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington has resulted in collision claim frequencies that are about 3 percent higher overall than would have been expected without legalization, a new Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis shows. This is HLDI's first look at how the legalization of marijuana since 2014 has affected crashes reported to insurers....
Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with voter approval in November 2012. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Oregon voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015.
HLDI conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use. During the study period, Nevada and Montana permitted medical use of marijuana, Wyoming and Utah allowed only limited use for medical purposes, and Idaho didn't permit any use. Oregon and Washington authorized medical marijuana use in 1998, and Colorado authorized it in 2000.
HLDI also looked at loss results for each state individually compared with loss results for adjacent states without legalized recreational marijuana use prior to November 2016. Data spanned collision claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016 for 1981 to 2017 model vehicles. Analysts controlled for differences in the rated driver population, insured vehicle fleet, the mix of urban versus rural exposure, unemployment, weather and seasonality.
Collision claims are the most frequent kind of claims insurers receive. Collision coverage insures against physical damage to a driver's vehicle in a crash with an object or other vehicle, generally when the driver is at fault. Collision claim frequency is the number of collision claims divided by the number of insured vehicle years (one vehicle insured for one year or two vehicles insured for six months each). "The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes," says Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI. "The individual state analyses suggest that the size of the effect varies by state."
Colorado saw the biggest estimated increase in claim frequency compared with its control states. After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Washington's estimated increase in claim frequency was 6.2 percent higher than in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon's estimated increase in claim frequency was 4.5 percent higher than in Idaho, Montana and Nevada. "The combined effect for the three states was smaller but still significant at 3 percent," Moore says. "The combined analysis uses a bigger control group and is a good representation of the effect of marijuana legalization overall. The single-state analyses show how the effect differs by state."
Each of the individual state analyses also showed that the estimated effect of legalizing recreational use of marijuana varies depending on the comparison state examined. For example, results for Colorado vary from a 3 percent rise in claim frequency when compared with Wyoming to a 21 percent increase when compared with Utah.
HLDI's new analysis of real-world crashes provides one look at the emerging picture of what marijuana's legalization will mean for highway safety as more states decriminalize its use. In the coming years, more research from HLDI and others will help sharpen the focus. As HLDI continues to examine insurance claims in states that allow recreational use of marijuana, IIHS has begun a large-scale case-control study in Oregon to assess how legalized marijuana use may be changing the risk of crashes with injuries. Preliminary results are expected in 2020.
A full accounting of this research provinding an interesting accounting of crash claims appears in this extended bulletin.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new New York Daily News article headlined "Science: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin, fit and active." I am not sure the article that follows entire backs up the implication of this headline, but here are excerpts from the article that are still encouraging:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Here’s a new health-related adage to consider: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin and active. According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, people who use marijuana more than five times per month have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who do not marijuana.
The researchers concluded: “Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users.”
The study also suggested that people who consume marijuana on a regular basis are more physically activity than those that use it sporadically or not at all.
Of course, this is not the first time scientific studies have reached this conclusion: A study published last year in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics suggests that regular consumers of cannabis have a lower BMI than those who do not use the drug.
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis consumers have 16 percent lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels than non-users. The research found “significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”
And data published in British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that cannabis consumers had a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption.
In the 2016 study, lead author Isabelle C. Beulaygue from the University of Miami concluded: “There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [THEY]are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case.”
Researchers have not identified the reason behind the findings. But some suggest that those who consume cannabis regularly may be able to more easily break down blood sugar, which may help prevent weight gain.
As reported in this Washington Post piece, "Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree this week legalizing medical marijuana." Here is more:
The measure also classified the psychoactive ingredient in the drug as “therapeutic.” The new policy isn't exactly opening the door for medical marijuana dispensaries on every corner. Instead it calls on the Ministry of Health to draft and implement regulations and public policies regulating “the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol.” It also tasks the ministry with developing a research program to study the drug's impact before creating broader policies.
The measure had broad support from Mexico's Senate and Lower House of Congress, where it passed 347-7 in April. Marijuana legalization advocates are celebrating the decision and calling on the government to do more. Sen. Miguel Barbosa said the legislation was “well below the expectations of society.” Sen. Armando Rios Peter called it a “tiny” step away from a failed drug policy.
For decades, Latin America has struggled to address the rampant corruption and violence wrought by the drug trade. Lately, many places have focused on a particular strategy: decriminalization. As my colleague Josh Partlow wrote last year: “Uruguay has fully legalized weed for sale. And a large chunk of South and Central America, including Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica, have made marijuana more available in varying ways, whether it is for medicinal or recreational use.” It's a recognition, he wrote, that “years of violent struggle have failed to stem the flow of narcotics into the United States.”...
Recreational marijuana is still broadly prohibited in Mexico, but the government is considering a measure that would let citizens legally possess up to an ounce of it. In 2015, Mexico's Supreme Court granted four people the right to grow their own marijuana for personal consumption. The ruling set a precedent that could accelerate efforts to pass legislation permitting broader use of pot. “Absolute prohibition is excessive and doesn’t protect the right to health,” Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero said at the time.
Peña Nieto, who once was a vocal opponent of drug legalization, has undergone a similar shift in thinking. He has said that addiction should be thought of as a “public health problem” and that users should not be criminalized. He has also advocated for the United States and Mexico to follow similar policies on drug use and marijuana legislation.
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Marshall Project piece that carried the subheadline "New data shows legalization leads to fewer encounters between cops and drivers, but racial disparities remain." Here are excerpts:
The legalization of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado had at least one unanticipated effect on the streets: a sharp decline in the number of traffic stops and searches by state police, a new analysis shows. The drop means fewer interactions between police and drivers, potentially limiting dangerous clashes. But even though the number of traffic stops fell significantly for all racial groups, black and Hispanic drivers are still searched at higher rates than white motorists, the analysis found.
[This review of] stop and searches conducted by Washington and Colorado state patrols before and after marijuana became legal in both states in late 2012 ... was based on data obtained by researchers at Stanford University who released a report this week studying 60 million state patrol stops in 31 states between 2011 and 2015, the most comprehensive look at national traffic stops to date. The data does not offer a complete picture because it includes only stops by state patrol agencies and not local law enforcement....
It is possible that pot legalization has not had the same effect on urban traffic stops as it has on those made by highway patrols because policing strategies differ, said Charles Epp, a University of Kansas professor who co-authored the 2014 book “Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship.” State police tend to focus on accidents, impaired and reckless driving, and the transport of illegal drugs. City police concentrate on crime deterrence and response....
The Stanford study suggests that removing marijuana possession from the potential list of crimes lowers the chance that a car will be stopped and searched. And the numbers are striking. In Washington, the search rate of black drivers age 21 and over decreased by about 34 percent after legalization, according to the analysis by Reveal and The Marshall Project. Search rates of white and Hispanic drivers in the same age group declined by about 25 percent.
Still, racial disparities remained: Both before and after legalization, black motorists age 21 and over – the legal age for buying pot – were searched at a rate roughly twice that of white drivers. The search rate for Hispanics was about 1.7 times that of whites.
In Colorado, the search rate of African American drivers 21 and over dropped by nearly half, while the search rate of Hispanic drivers fell by 58 percent. White drivers faced almost two-thirds fewer searches after recreational marijuana was legalized. Racial disparities, however, also persisted in Colorado even as overall numbers of searches went down. After legalization in Colorado, the search rate for African American drivers was 3.3 times that of white drivers, and the rate for Hispanics was more than 2.7 times that of whites.
The findings on stop and searches are similar to those showing a decrease in the number of marijuana arrests in Colorado after legalization, according to a 2016 Colorado Department of Public Safety report that reviewed legalization’s wide-ranging impacts. The study showed that the total number of marijuana arrests dropped by nearly half after legalization, but the marijuana arrest rate for African Americans was almost three times that of whites.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Fearing Trump turn, big bank no longer willing to serve national advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project
This new Washington Post article reports on a new reality in the banking space for the nation's leading marijuana reform advocacy group. The article is headlined "‘It is too risky’: Marijuana group says PNC Bank to close its accounts amid fears of a DOJ crackdown," and it begins this way:
One of the nation’s leading marijuana legalization groups says PNC Bank has notified it that it will close the organization’s 22-year-old accounts, a sign of growing concerns in the financial industry that the Trump administration will crack down on the marijuana industry in states that have legalized it.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbies to eliminate punishments for marijuana use but is not involved in growing or distributing the drug — an important distinction for federally regulated banks and other institutions that do business with such advocacy groups.
Nick Field, MPP’s chief operating officer, said a PNC Bank representative told him in May that the organization’s bank accounts would be permanently closed July 7 because an audit of the organization’s accounts revealed it received funding from marijuana businesses that handle the plant directly. “They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” Field said.
Although marijuana businesses are legal in some states, many banks will not provide services to sellers or growers of the drug because it is banned at the federal level. But policy and advocacy organizations such as MPP are spared. A bank’s severing ties with an organization that accepts donations from such businesses signals a new level of concern in the banking industry.
PNC bank declined to discuss its relationship with MPP, but a spokeswoman said that “as a federally regulated financial institution, PNC complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations.”
The bank has held MPP’s accounts since the organization was formed in 1995.
June 20, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
I highlighting in this post a few weeks ago that New Jersey may well be on a political path to become the first state to fully legalize marijuana via the traditional legislative process. That political path may have been started in earnest this week with a state legislative hearing on the topic, and this local article report on a notable advocate at that hearing. The article is headlined "Prosecutor says 'too many lives ruined' because marijuana is illegal in N.J.," and here are excerpts:
As a municipal prosecutor in Clark, Jon-Henry Barr said he must try a number of cases against people who get arrested for marijuana possession. Barr also said he knows these cases can wreck good people's lives, and doesn't want to keep quiet about it anymore. One case he won recently against a young black woman with no prior record "turned my stomach."
The former president of the New Jersey Municipal Prosecutors Association, Barr urged the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday to pass a law legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana because it is morally the right thing to do. "Legalize and regulate it like we do with tobacco and alcohol," Barr said. "I have seen too many lives ruined or damaged. I'll continue to enforce the law -- that is my sworn duty. But I will not endorse the law."...
The supporters for Sen. Nicholas Scutari's bill (3195) far outweighed opponents. The handful of detractors were called up to testify at the tail end of the five-hour Statehouse hearing.
Cathleen Lewis, the chairwoman for the coordinating council AAA Clubs in New Jersey, warned that legalizing marijuana will result in more people driving under the influence of the drug. A year after Washington legalized cannabis sales, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who has used marijuana climbed from 8 percent to 17 percent, she said....
Philip Kirschner of Morristown, who described himself as a concerned parent pleaded with the committee to reconsider pursuing the bill at all. "I know you want the tax money but let's be straight here: pass decriminalization first. That is what most people came here and spoke about," Kirschner said. "I plead with you, despite your rush for more taxes, to abandon this bill. The cost in human lives and misery is simply not worth it."
Following the hearing, Scutari, the bill's sponsor and committee chairman, said the there were plenty of suggestions how lawmakers can shape the bill, including speeding-up the expungement process. He said he didn't know whether he would call another hearing soon or wait for the new governor to take the place of Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch opponent.
Monday, June 19, 2017
I already have my eye upon states like Arizona and Michigan for potential notable marijuana initiative votes in 2018. And this local article, headlined "Medical marijuana advocates within weeks of filing ballot initiative," suggests Utah is another state worth watching. Here are the basics:
For years now, the Utah Legislature has labored over the question of whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. In 2014, the Legislature chose to legalize a marijuana extract for use in controlling epileptic seizures.
In 2016, two laws which would have legalized medical marijuana — to differing extents — both passed through the Utah Senate, but never reached a vote in the House of Representatives. And in the 2017 session, the only marijuana legislation passed allowed only for studies to take place, which could take years to yield results.
Despite the Legislature’s hesitancy to act on medical marijuana legalization, Utahns may have the chance to vote on the issue directly in the form of a ballot initiative in 2018. “Having tried multiple times to persuade the legislature to help these people and facing significant resistance, we think it’s best now to give the public a chance to decide for themselves,” said Connor Boyack, who is acting as a consultant for the ballot initiative. Boyack has previously advocated for medical marijuana in his role as the president of Libertas Institute, a Libertarian think tank....
It’s an extensive process to put an issue on the ballot. First, the language of the legislation must be written and an application turned into the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. The language of the medical marijuana initiative is almost complete, Boyack said, and is based off of language from one of the bills that failed in the Legislature in 2016. Senate Bill 73, sponsored by then-Sen. Mark Madsen of Saratoga Springs, was used as a baseline for the language of the ballot initiative, Boyack said, with just a few tweaks. For instance, autism was added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana could be used....
According to state law, to get an initiative on the ballot, signatures must be gathered that total 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last presidential election. Since Utahns cast approximately 1.13 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, it would take just over 113,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot. It’s not as simple as just collecting the 113,000 signatures. They have to be spread out semi-evenly over the many senate districts in the state....
Boyack said they already have much of the financial backing that will be needed to pay professionals to gather signatures. “We’ve got some very strong commitments,” Boyack said. “We’re following up to get checks written.” He said he’s confident that they’ll get the $2 million needed to pay for signature gathering and promotional media. “There are a lot of individuals who are very upset with the Legislature for having the chance to help people, then punting,” Boyack said....
Even if the necessary signatures are collected, Utah voters would still have to choose to pass the initiative. Organizations like the Utah Medical Association have consistently opposed legalizing cannabis as medicine before it has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Even the prominent and influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighed in on the issue in 2016, specifically favoring one medical marijuana bill over another more comprehensive one. Boyack says he believes the odds of passage are good — polls show that people want medical marijuana to be legal, he said.
June 19, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, June 16, 2017
As noted in this recent post, a coming election for Governor in New Jersey suggests the possibility of coming major marijuana reform in the Garden State. With that possibility clearly in mind, the ACLU of New Jersey has released this new report on marijuana enforcement in the state titled "Unequal & Unfair: New Jersey’s War on Marijuana Users." This press release and this webpage provides highlights from the 70-page report, and here is an excerpt from the executive summary:
New Jersey’s arrest practices for marijuana possession illustrate the failure of marijuana enforcement. They have a devastating impact of aggressive, costly, racially disparate punishment for use of a drug that for adults is less dangerous than alcohol. For the first time ever, the analysis in this report takes a deep dive into New Jersey’s marijuana possession arrest practices. What it finds is deeply troubling: New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever in a manner that is more racially disparate than ever.
Indeed, our marijuana arrest problem is getting worse, not better.
Key findings of the report include:
• New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever before. In 2013, New Jersey law enforcement made 24,067 marijuana possession arrests, 26 percent more than in 2000, when police made 19,607 arrests. Between 2000 and 2013, New Jersey police made nearly 280,000 total marijuana possession arrests.
• Police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes. This plays out with varying frequency around the state. Cape May was the county with the highest per capita arrest rate in 2013, and the 28th Legislative District, represented by Senator Ron Rice and Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Cleopatra Tucker, was the district with the highest per capita arrest rate that year. Seaside Park in Ocean County had the highest per capita arrest rate of any community in the state.
• Racial disparities in New Jersey marijuana arrests are at an all-time high. The racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests reached an all-time high in 2013. That year, Black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates. In 2000, Blacks were 2.2 times more likely to be arrested than Whites, an increase of 34 percent. In 2013, Blacks were 11.3 times more likely to be arrested than whites in the 21st Legislative District. And in Point Pleasant Beach, Blacks were 31.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2013 — the highest racial disparity of any municipality included in the study.
• New Jersey wastes more than $143 million per year to enforce our marijuana possession laws. Adding up the cost of police, courts, and corrections, New Jersey expends tremendous resources to implement and enforce marijuana prohibition. Indeed, throughout the past decade, New Jersey has spent more than $1 billion to enforce these laws. These are resources that could be invested in treatment, education, prevention, or other community needs.
• Nine out of ten marijuana arrests are of users, not dealers. In 2013, marijuana possession arrests made up 88 percent of total marijuana arrests statewide. In other words, nearly nine out of 10 arrests made for marijuana were not of dealers or kingpins, but rather New Jerseyans who possessed the lowest amount counted by New Jersey law. In Monmouth County, this number reached 95 percent. It was 97 percent in the 8th Legislative District. In 14 New Jersey communities included in the study, 100 percent of arrests were for low-level possession in 2013.
These findings are particularly troubling when one understands the potential collateral: jail, loss of one’s job, a criminal record for at least three years, driver’s license suspension, up to $1,255 in fines and fees, and potential consequences for one’s immigration status, financial aid eligibility, access to public housing, and the ability to adopt children.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
As reported in this new Roll Call article, a "bipartisan group of senators and representatives have reintroduced legislation that would enable states to set their own medical marijuana policies." Here are the basics:
Senators Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., joined by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., made the announcement on Thursday....
The legislation reintroduced Thursday would protect patients, doctors and businesses participating in state medical-marijuana programs from federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states. Instead, it would ensure that people in the states where medical cannabis is legal can use it without violating federal law.
In addition to Booker and Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the CARERS Act include Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Al Franken, D-Minn.
This press release from Senator Booker is titled "Lawmakers Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Medical Marijuana Bill: CARERS Act would ensure patients have access to lifesaving care without fear of federal prosecution." The press release includes quotes from all the sponsors and state that "the CARERS Act would:
(1) Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution
The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers, and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.
(2) Allow States to Import Cannabidiol (CBD), Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal of definition of marijuana. This change will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.
(3) Provide Veterans Access
Current law prohibits doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities from prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.
(4) Expand Opportunities for Research
The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana and creates a system for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage research.
The CARERS Act has the support of more than 20 health, veteran and policy organizations, including: American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access, Compassionate Care NY, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, MS Resources of Central New York, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Third Way, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care."
June 15, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
"Changes in undergraduates’ marijuana, heavy alcohol, and cigarette use following legalization of recreational marijuana use in Oregon"
The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the journal Addiction. Here are the summary details via the abstract:
Background and aims
Recreational marijuana legalization (RML) went into effect in Oregon in July 2015. RML is expected to influence marijuana use by adolescents and young adults in particular, and by those with a propensity for substance use. We sought to quantify changes in rates of marijuana use among college students in Oregon from pre- to post-RML relative to college students in other states across the same time period.
Repeated cross-sectional survey data from the 2012-2016 administrations of the Healthy Minds Study.
Seven 4-year universities in the USA.
There were 10,924 undergraduate participants. One large public Oregon university participated in 2014 and 2016 (n = 588 and 1115, respectively); six universities in U.S. states where recreational marijuana use was illegal participated both in 2016 and at least once between 2012 and 2015.
Self-reported marijuana use in the past 30 days (yes/no) was regressed on time (pre/post 2015), exposure to RML (i.e., Oregon students in 2016), and covariates using mixed effects logistic regression. Moderation of RML effects by recent heavy alcohol use was examined.
Rates of marijuana use increased from pre- to post-2015 at six of the seven universities, a trend that was significant overall. Increases in rates of marijuana use were significantly greater in Oregon than in comparison institutions, but only among students reporting recent heavy alcohol use.
Rates of Oregon college students’ marijuana use increased (relative to that of students’ in other states) following recreational marijuana legislation in 2015, but only for those who reported recent heavy use of alcohol. Such alcohol misuse may be a proxy for vulnerabilities to substance use or lack of prohibitions (e.g., cultural) against it.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
During his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was asked the Department of Justice’s stance on marijuana. Here from The Cannabist is a report on this discussion:
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski used part of her time to ask about marijuana, and the tension between federal law, under which cannabis is illegal, and states like Alaska which have legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana.
Rosenstein’s response: “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science. And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”
He also mentioned that there may be changes coming to the Cole Memorandum. “Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect. Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana. So I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…”
He concluded that the Department of Justice is “responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”
Murkowski responded only, “Confusing.”
Monday, June 12, 2017
AG Jeff Sessions has urged Congress to end limit on DOJ appropriations concerning state-compliant medical marijuana actors
In this new MassRoots posting, Tom Angell reports on a notable letter sent by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to member of Congress back in May. Here are the details (with a bit of my emphasis added):
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking Congressional leaders not to renew a current federal law that prevents the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic House and Senate leadership. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
The letter, sent to Capitol Hill last month, was shared with MassRoots by a Congressional staffer. The protections are the result of a rider — known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, after its lead Congressional sponsors — which has been enacted into law with strong bipartisan votes for the past three fiscal years, including the current one.
But when President Trump signed a Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he issued a signing statement that essentially reserved the right to ignore the medical marijuana protections. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he wrote. And when the president made his first full budget request to Congress, he did not include an extension of the provision.
While President Obama never issued a signing statement concerning the provision, he did suggest that Congress delete it in his last two budget requests. And the Obama Justice Department took the position that the budget rider only prevented the government from stopping states from implementing their laws and did not provide any protections to patients or providers who are acting in accordance with those policies.
But last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, over the Justice Department’s objection, that the measure does in fact prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing cases against state-legal medical cannabis patients, growers and dispensaries. However, the ruling only applies to the nine states and two territories that fall under the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction.
“As a result, in the Ninth Circuit, many individuals and organizations that are operating in violation of the CSA and causing harm in their communities may invoke the rider to thwart prosecution,” Sessions wrote in the new letter to Congress....
In the new letter to Congress, the attorney general wrote that marijuana use has “significant negative health effects,” arguing that is “linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, respiratory ailments such as lung infections, cognitive impairments such as IQ loss, and substance use disorder and addiction.”
Congress is now considering appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018, and marijuana law reform advocates are pushing to include the state medical cannabis protections again as well as add broader new ones that would cover full recreational legalization laws. “I respectfully request that you oppose the inclusion of such language in Department appropriations,” Sessions wrote to the Capitol Hill leaders.
On Tuesday, relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees will take testimony about the Justice Department’s budget request from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions was initially slated to testify but will instead appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The line I emphasized highlights that this newly-unearthed Sessions letter does not mark a huge departure from the position of the Justice Department under Prez Obama. Nevertheless, this letter, which stresses research on the harmfulness of marijuana and suggests that criminal organizations seek to hide within state marijuana regulatory regimes, reinforces the notion that AG Jeff Sessions is not too eager to allow state marijuana reform regimes to operate without significant possible federal review and oversight.
June 12, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Keith Humphreys has this interesting new piece at the Washington Post's Wonkblog headlined "More people are voluntarily seeking help for marijuana addiction." Here, along with the reprinted graph, is the interesting data story he is reporting on:
As marijuana has been increasingly liberalized and decriminalized, fewer people are finding themselves in court-mandated programs for marijuana addiction treatment. This is not particularly surprising: With fewer people landing in court for using marijuana, it follows that fewer would be sentenced to treatment for it. But while mandatory treatment is falling, evidence suggests that the number of people voluntarily seeking treatment is rising.
The blue part of each bar in the chart is drawn from annual surveys assessing court-referred marijuana patients in public sector addiction-treatment programs, which have dropped 40 percent since 2011. The orange part of each bar captures data from an annual national population survey that asks marijuana-using individuals about treatment they have received in the past year. It covers a much broader range of settings than the survey of substance-use treatment programs, including help-seeking with physicians, psychologists, school nurses, urgent care clinic staff and self-help groups. Most marijuana-treatment-seeking in these settings is voluntary, and court-mandated public sector addiction treatment has been excluded from the data reflected in the orange part of the bars.
The overall number of people receiving marijuana-addiction treatment is fairly stable. This suggests that the decline in court-mandated treatment is being compensated for by an increase in voluntary treatment seeking. The rise in voluntary admissions will likely surprise people who think marijuana is harmless and that, therefore, no one would seek treatment for it without legal pressure. But marijuana-addiction treatment will probably be more rather than less widely sought as legalization spreads, for two reasons.
First, although marijuana has a benign reputation, about 9 percent of users report becoming addicted to it. Because marijuana consumption is soaring, that 9 percent is becoming a larger absolute number of people, some of whom will seek treatment not because the legal system makes them but because they are genuinely experiencing problems with the drug.
Second, The Netherlands has long made marijuana legally available in licensed cafes with no legal pressure to seek treatment. Yet the Dutch have the highest rate of seeking marijuana treatment in Europe. The U.S. could very easily end up with a Dutch future: little legal pressure on marijuana users to seek treatment, but substantial desire among them to do so voluntarily.