Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Federal scheduling and research challenges for cannabis and psychedelics

The second of four student presentation this coming week in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar will focus on  federal scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act and the research and market realities impacted by the placement of marijuana in Schedule I.  Here is how my student has summarized his topic, along with the background readings he has provided:

The placement of cannabis in Schedule I practically prevents comprehensive and meaningful research into its medical applications and potential harms.  The federal government cites cannabis' placement in Schedule I as the reason rigorous research must be conducted before it can be rescheduled, but places restrictions on its research, because of its schedule, that are nearly impossible to overcome.  Is there an alternative pathway to federal cannabis legalization, or at least rescheduling, so that more meaningful research can be conducted? 

My presentation will examine U.S. drug scheduling, looking at the criteria and examples of substances in each schedule.  I will then provide an overview of the FDA research model by which new drugs come to market, contrast it with the type of research conducted on cannabis, and discuss why meaningful, rigorous research into cannabis is so difficult.  With this background, I will discuss the findings of a former UK drug-policy adviser that suggests substantial rescheduling is necessary, and how these findings helped initiate research into other Schedule I drugs.  Finally, I will provide an overview of research into other Schedule I substances, particularly psychedelics, and how this research may accelerate the rescheduling or federal legalization of cannabis so that its impact on health may be studied more effectively.

Background Resources:

March 31, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Examining links between popular culture and the legalization of marijuana

Students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are continuing with in-class presentations and continuing to cover diverse subject matter in consistently impressive ways.  The first of four presentations scheduled for this coming week will take a foray in to pop culture.  Here is how my student has summarized her topic, along with the background readings she has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):

From the jazz musicians in the 40s, the Beat authors in the 50s, rock and roll in the 60s, and rap in the 80s to present, popular culture has slowly changed the public perception of recreational marijuana use and paved the way for legalization.  My paper will focus on the influence of hip hop, gangsta rap, and Snoop Dogg on modern legalization efforts and cannabusiness.  Dr. Dre's 1992 album "The Chronic" launched Snoop Dogg's career and is commonly regarded as not only the best rap album of all time but one of the best albums in any genre.  After featuring heavily on "The Chronic," Snoop Dogg sold over 30 million of his own albums world-wide (46.35% of Snoop’s songs are about marijuana), became a cultural icon inextricably associated with marijuana use, and launched a multitude of business ventures in the legal marijuana space.

Background readings:

"How Marijuana Contributed to the Creation and Spread of American Forms of Music"

"Day of the Dre: Hip-hop’s biggest star and his protégé, Snoop Doggy Dogg, take hardcore rap from South Central L.A. to your house"

"25 years later, Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' remains rap's world-building masterpiece"

"Snoop Dogg’s Business Empire Harvests Green From Marijuana Legalization Trend"

"A Brief History of Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson's Marijuana Romance"

March 30, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Examining state medical marijuana programs and historic links to alcohol prohibition

A set of students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are taking a deep dive into state medical marijuana programs this coming week.  Here is how they explain their planned presentation and links to some background reading:

For our presentation, we analyzed each state’s medical marijuana programs to determine ease of accessibility for patients.  We studied each state’s medical marijuana program and compared variables such as cost of registration, reciprocity, approved conditions, and many others.  Through our research, we discovered that there is wide spectrum of accessibility among the states which have legalized medical marijuana.  More specifically, we concluded that the top 5 easiest states to obtain a medical marijuana card are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, and Nevada.  Additionally, we concluded that the hardest states (among those which have legalized it) to access medical marijuana are Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Utah.

Next, we sought to determine if there was any correlation between the states that had easier/hardest accessibility with when those states ratified and abolished prohibition.  Our hypothesis was that the states with the laxer medical marijuana laws would be the ones that repealed prohibition sooner than those with the harsher medical marijuana laws.  Generally, we found that that states that ratified the 21st Amendment sooner seemed to have laxer medical marijuana laws and the states with the harsher laws repealed prohibition later on.  Also, side note, Oklahoma didn’t even repeal prohibition until 1959!

Background Sources

March 27, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Minority Cannabis Business Association engages OSU College of Law 3L Chris Nani to evaluate social equity efforts in Los Angeles

Download (3)I am always so very excited when students here at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law get so very excited about marijuana law and policy.  One such student whose work I have spotlighted here is Christopher Nani, who took my marijuana seminar back in Fall 2017 and has been doing amazing work in this space ever since.  In addition to getting articles published at the Cannabis Law Report discussing federal tax treatment of cannabis businesses (see prior posts here and here) and co-hosting a podcast focused on business development in the cannabis industry (called Cannabiz with Canna-Chris), Chris has produced this notable article detailing a "Model Social Equity Equation for the Cannabis Industry."  

I describe Chris' article as notable in part because the Minority Cannabis Business Association took note of the work, and MCBA has now engaged Chris to use his equation to "score"  Los Angeles.  This press release, titled "MCBA Engages in Case Study to Rate Efficacy of Los Angeles’ Social Equity Program," explains:

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) announced plans to take a score of social equity policies implemented by the city of Los Angeles intended to increase diversity in the burgeoning cannabis industry.  Partnering with the MCBA on this effort is Chris Nani, an Ohio State Law student who recently released a similar study that focused on these equity policies in three other California cities.

The results of Nani’s preliminary study had outcomes for Sacramento, San Francisco and even the much-lauded Oakland program that didn’t fully meet the intent of those policies, and underlines the necessity of reassessment once these programs have been implemented.  As one of the largest markets in California, Los Angeles is an important influencer in the industry and will serve as an example for future efforts on this topic.

“We are excited to see municipalities across the country starting to implement social equity programs as a way to reinvest in communities that for decades have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs,” says Kayvan Khalatbari, MCBA’s Board Chair. “Now we need to ensure their intended outcomes are being met.  If they’re not, we need to reexamine those policies and work on them until we get it right. We must develop an effective and repeatable model.”

The case study will utilize an “Equity Equation”, which provides a scored assessment to rate the effectiveness of municipal social equity programs based on 10 separate factors, all of which have been determined to play a major role in the ultimate success or failure of these policies.  One factor commonly cited as a barrier to entry for people of color to find a place in the cannabis industry, regardless of policies in place, is a lack of available capital.

“Social equity programs are an important progression for the cannabis industry,” says Chris Nani. “As new markets come online and use Los Angeles as a model in their own programming, it’s critical that we understand what is working and what is not.  The equation I developed is meant to grade the efficacy of these programs and offer suggestions for improvement.  I look forward to working with lawmakers, social equity applicants and MCBA to work towards improving these policies across the country.”

March 27, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rounding up just some (of so many) stories about CBD

There is so much talk and so many stories about CBD, I know I can barely scratch the surface on this topic.  But it seems this past week I have seen an especially notable number of notable stories on this front.  Below I provide a partial round-up, and suggested particular attention to the first linked piece for its science and thoughtfulness:

March 27, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 25, 2019

New Jersey shows, yet again, the challenges of marijuana legalization done via the traditional legislative process

NJ-legalize-marijuana-1-800x533Full adult-use marijuana legalization has a strong winning record when the issue has been taken directly to voters via ballot initiative.  This reform has proven much more difficult through the traditional legislative process, with only Vermont able to pass a limited (non-commercialized) version of reform this way.  Today, after lots of debate in the state, New Jersey proved yet again how challenging this can be as detailed in this local story headlined "Legal weed won’t happen right now in N.J. Lawmakers call off big vote."  Here are the basics:

Leaders of the state Legislature have canceled a planned vote Monday on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in New Jersey, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney is set to announce.

“While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy,” Sweeney, New Jersey’s top state lawmaker, said in a statement provided to NJ Advance Media. Sweeney. D-Gloucester, added that the “fight is not over.”

It’s expected that lawmakers will schedule another vote this year, but it’s unclear when that will happen. “We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward,” Sweeney said." While this legislation is not advancing today, I remain committed to its passage.”

The vote fell apart after Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democratic state leaders spent more than a week feverishly trying to wrangle enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Legislature to pass the Democratic-sponsored measure. But top lawmakers said they wouldn’t hold the vote if they weren’t guaranteed to have both the 21 votes they need in the state Senate and the 41 they need in the state Assembly. As of Monday afternoon, multiple sources said, there were only 17 or 18 members of the Senate who would vote yes. But that still left leaders a few votes short....

Sweeney said earlier this year said he wouldn’t schedule another vote until after the November elections at the earliest. If they can’t get enough votes by then, it’s possible leaders could opt for asking New Jersey voters to decide in a ballot referendum next year whether to legalize weed.

The crumbling of Monday’s vote is a tough pill for Murphy, who made legalizing marijuana a key plank in his platform when he won election in 2017. He and top Democratic lawmakers have been hoping for more than a year to have New Jersey join 10 other states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized pot. But they prefer to become only the second state to do it legislatively, rather than through a ballot referendum.

Monday’s development also postpones two other measures tied to the bill: one that would expand the state’s oft-criticized medial marijuana program and another that would expunge thousands of pot convictions in the state. Murphy has said his administration will now move to dramatically increase the number of licenses for cultivators of medical marijuana as a backup plan.

Murphy and proponents of legal pot say the goal of legalization is to increase tax revenue for the state, create a brand new industry, and improve social justice because black people are three times more likely to be arrested on pot charges than whites. Recent polls have found a majority of New Jerseyans support legal pot. But many lawmakers — Democratic and Republican — have been leery, saying it could erode public safety, lead people to try more dangerous drugs, and damage communities of color.

March 25, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Effect of Marijuana Use on American Veterans with PTSD, and How the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Ought to Respond"

The title of this post is the title of a presentation to be made by one of my students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week.  Here is part of his explanation of his topic and links to some background reading:

Because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is required to follow all federal laws, the VA is prohibited from prescribing, recommending, or assisting veterans in obtaining marijuana.  While veterans may discuss marijuana use with VA providers, VA doctors cannot help their patients participate in a state medical marijuana program and veterans cannot obtain reimbursement funding through the VA when they seek medical marijuana from state programs.

The inability of the VA to prescribe or recommend marijuana to American veterans with PTSD denies former service members an opportunity to receive treatment that many veterans not only want, but which also has the potential to be safer than the VA’s history of doling out addictive prescription drugs such as opioids, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety pills.  PTSD is a serious disease that is relatively common among combat veterans — it causes varying symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thought about a triggering event.

The medical research in this arena has reached mixed findings.  While some researchers have found that the use of medical marijuana by veterans with PTSD has positive results, other studies suggest that marijuana use by those with PTSD may actually make symptoms worse.  There simply has not been enough controlled studies to conclusively state whether marijuana is beneficial for those with PTSD.  Nonetheless, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence by veterans suggesting that their use of marijuana has improved, or in some cases eliminated, symptoms associated with their PTSD.  Fortunately, the first clinical trial of marijuana for American veterans with PTSD is currently underway in Colorado.  My presentation will suggest that we need more controlled clinical trials such as this to further identify whether marijuana could (or should) truly be used as a remedy for veterans with PTSD.

* Medical journal article, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" (discussing what PTSD is and various treatment options, including cannabis).

* Medical journal article, "Use and effects of cannabinoids in military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder"(reviewing several studies and noting that while there is a need for more randomized and controlled studies, some PTSD patients report benefits in terms of reduced anxiety and insomnia and improved coping ability).

* Medical journal article, "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Cannabis Use Characteristics among Military Veterans with Cannabis Dependence" (exploring the negative effects of treating PTSD with marijuana and finding that individuals with PTSD may have a particularly difficult experience when attempting to quit marijuana).

* Medical journal article, "Marijuana and other cannabinoids as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: A literature review" (explaining that conclusions cannot yet be drawn about the therapeutic effects of marijuana and related cannabinoids for PTSD; suggesting that rapidly changing legal landscape will permit promising clinical research).

* Medical journal article, "A review of medical marijuana for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Real symptom re-leaf or just high hopes?" (finding some positive data for use of marijuana for PTSD but also noting conflicting findings and limits of studies conducted thus far).

* Report on study, "Marijuana for Symptoms of PTSD in U.S. Veterans" (first clinical trial of marijuana for PTSD in American veterans underway).

* Recent Weedmaps article, "Marijuana Study Findings Could Hold Promise for Veterans With PTSD" (noting that MAPS study mentioned above could pave the way toward an FDA-approved prescription medicine; anecdotal evidence of veteran using black market rather than expensive medical marijuana program in CA)

March 25, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

"Marijuana Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market"

The title of this post is the title of a presentation to be made by one of my students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week.  Here is part of his explanation of his topic and links to some background reading:

Summary:

I will be looking at the prevalence (and in some cases, the dominance) of the black market for marijuana in jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana. I will specifically be looking at states that have legalized recreational use. However, I may still look at states that have only legalized medical marijuana because the black market still dominates in many of those states as well.

A major argument for marijuana legalization is potential revenue, but the black market can steal a significant amount of revenue from states.  Additionally, the existence of a black market is detrimental to public health and safety for a variety of reasons, including the distribution of potentially laced products. 

At first, I was surprised by just how dominant the black market remains in states that have legalized. For example, in California the black market is estimated to be worth 4 times the legal market. But consider major reasons why consumers choose to purchase cannabis products from the black market:

  • The black market offers much cheaper weed with no sin taxes;
  • The black market is able to sell higher potencies of marijuana;
  • The black market is able to sell larger amounts of marijuana;
  • The black market is oftentimes much more convenient.

Another reason people choose the black market is because they are familiar with it. Someone who has had a dealer for years is not all of a sudden going to switch to buying from a legal source.  Additionally, the black market (generally) has no age restrictions, so the black market still exists for minors who wish to use marijuana products.

I also plan on talking about the regulations on legal cannabis providers and how those contribute to the struggle to subdue the black market (ex: marketing, banking, barriers to entry, supply problems, lax enforcement of black market).  Finally, although I recognize that wholly eliminating the black market is infeasible, I will analyze potential solutions to the problem, such as deregulating (decreasing barriers to entry, lowering the age restriction, increasing enforcement, increasing strength of legal products, etc.) and working with the black market dealers.

Background Resources:

"Can a marijuana dispensary’s budget pot put illegal dealers out of business?" (discussing Nevada’s lower cost product dubbed the Black Market Killer) 

"Marijuana Black Market ‘Business Has Never Been Better’ In Canada Despite Legalization, Cannabis CEO Warns" (discussing Canada’s struggle with the black market)

"'I deliver to your house': pot dealers on why legalization won't kill the black market" (interview with two black market dealers in Canada)

"How marijuana entrepreneurs can outsmart black-market competitors" (discussing ways to possibly beat the black market)

"California’s black market for pot is stifling legal sales. Now the governor wants to step up enforcement" (discussing California’s black market)

"Marijuana Advertising Rules Challenge California Businesses" (discussing marketing regulations (including <30% of Minors Rule)

March 24, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Exploring how employers should reform drug policies in an era of marijuana reform

As mentioned in prior posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is now deep into the student presentation unit, and we will have four presentations each week in coming weeks and thus lots of great student-assembled content here on the blog  The first presentation for next week will focus on updating employment  policies, and here is how my student has summarized his topic, along with the background readings he has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):

As more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses, the business community must acknowledge that larger portions of the American public will consume marijuana. Consequently, the labor market now includes more marijuana users than ever before. The zero-tolerance drug policies that employers use to discourage marijuana consumption are driving labor shortages throughout corporate America. To remain competitive and recruit the next generation of talented employees, Fortune 500 companies should revise their drug policies to permit off-duty marijuana use. Efforts to reform workplace drug policies should consider the labyrinth of federal and state laws that require certain employers to test for marijuana. Provided that corporate employers include exceptions for these rules, workplace drug policies will remain legally compliant.

 

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, How Do Recreational Marijuana Laws Affect the Workplace?, Society for Human Resource Management (Jan. 17, 2018).

 

Roy Maurer, Employers in This State Can’t Reject Job Applicants ‘Solely’ for Smoking Pot, Society For Human Resource Management (February 16, 2018) .

 

Judy Stone, The Sham Of Drug Testing For Benefits: Walker, Scott And Political Pandering, Forbes (Feb. 17, 2015).

 

Nelson D. Schwartz, Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll, N.Y. Times (July 2017).

 

Federal Laws and Regulations, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Nov. 2, 2015).

March 22, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spotlighting "a hazy cannabis stalemate" after Baltimore State’s Attorney says she will stop prosecuting these cases and police resist change

This new CityLab article by Ethan McLeod reports on the notable state of marijuana affairs in the city of Baltimore. The Full headline and subheadline provides the basics: "For Weed Arrests in Baltimore, It’s Catch-and-Release Season: Baltimore prosecutors won’t charge people for marijuana possession, but police are still making arrests. Result: a hazy cannabis stalemate." Here is an excerpt from the story, with links from the original:

Mosby’s move added Baltimore to a growing list of cities where prosecutors are dropping cannabis offenses en masse and moving to purge thousands of conviction and charges. From New York to Philadelphia to Houston to St. Louis and elsewhere, these efforts share a common goal: Reduce enforcement of drug laws proven to largely target African Americans, and free up resources for prosecutors and cops to focus on more serious crimes.

In most cities, district and state’s attorneys are pursuing these reforms with the cooperation—albeit sometimes grudging—of police and city leaders. Even if they lack enthusiastic endorsements from police, they’re already working with officials and police departments that have instructed officers to hand out tickets or criminal summonses in lieu of arrests for possession (often of around an ounce).

But not in Baltimore. Here, police have pledged to keep following the letter of the law, which states that possessing anywhere from 10 grams to 50 pounds of cannabis is a misdemeanor statewide—and using cannabis arrests as a means to an end. “Arresting people for marijuana possession is an infrequently used, but sometimes important, law enforcement tool as we focus on violent crime and violent criminals in Baltimore,” BPD’s chief spokesman Matt Jablow said in an emailed statement.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh isn’t on board with the policy, either: She’s said that she supports the principle behind Mosby’s move, but that “those who deal illegal substances fuel criminality in our neighborhoods which leads to violence.” Pugh called on prosecutors and police to craft a singular approach to possession, but has been silent on advocates’ subsequent calls to push BPD to cease arrests.

All this is happening in a city whose struggles with corruption and violent crime have made it the focus of growing national attention. The city also has a new police commissioner, former New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison. He recently told city council members he’s met with Mosby about their conflicting policies and insisted that the BPD has been de-prioritizing possession arrests since decriminalization of up to 10 grams took effect in 2014. (Arrest data, however, shows hundreds are still being arrested annually, almost all of them black, and the same pattern goes for citations.)

“Our policies align with the law, and the law didn’t change,” Harrison told council members. And, he argued, even if possession is nonviolent in nature, “it doesn’t always mean that a person caught with simple possession of marijuana is a nonviolent offender.”

Like other prosecutors charting the cannabis-decriminalization course, including Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner and St. Louis’s Kim Gardner, Mosby has drawn varied criticism for the policy. Defense attorneys have argued that without BPD buy-in, the pledge amounts to “virtue signaling” by Mosby, whose prosecutors can elevate cases to possession with intent to distribute—a crime they’re still pursuing—at their discretion. Vacating and expunging the cases has already proven to be challenging for her office, given that many of them included charges other than possession. Dropping them could have unintended repercussions, as for someone who violated probation because of a weed arrest.

More broadly, Mosby’s policy risks exacerbating the rift that has grown between her and BPD since her high-profile decision to charge six officers in the killing of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died in police custody in April 2015. Three of those officers were acquitted; charges were dropped for the rest. (Mosby’s office did not respond to requests for comment from CityLab.)

Prior related post:

Baltimore State’s Attorney says no more prosecutions of marijuana possession offenses

March 22, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Noting the latest polling numbers favoring marijuana reform

This Business Insider article, headlined "A record 61% of Americans now want weed to be legalized across the US, with support rising in every age group," report on the latest notable poll numbers concerning marijuana reform. Here are excerpts:

A record 61% of Americans say pot should be legalized, according to the respected General Social Survey.  The poll, which has tracked support for legal marijuana since 1973, found that approval reached an all-time high across all age groups, US regions, and political affiliations in 2018.

The numbers reflect how attitudes toward the drug are shifting across the nation. While the majority of Americans want the legalization of cannabis now, only 16% did in 1987 and 1990, the years with the joint-lowest support....

Though support grew across all age brackets, it remains the highest among 18- to 34-year-olds, the survey found.  More than 70% of young Americans say they want pot to be legal, while only 42% of interviewees over 65 say the same.

Survey takers in the Midwest are most in favor, at 68%. While support was lowest in the South, more than half of respondents there still said marijuana should be legalized.

On the political spectrum, Democrats (69%) and independents (66%) were largely in favor of legalizing weed.  Only 42% of Republicans agreed, but support among them has been growing steadily over the years. In 2012, only a third of Republican voters wanted cannabis to be legal.

March 21, 2019 in Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study"

The title of this post is the title of this important new study appearing in The Lancet Psychiatry.  Here is its summary:

Background

Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of later psychotic disorder but whether it affects incidence of the disorder remains unclear.  We aimed to identify patterns of cannabis use with the strongest effect on odds of psychotic disorder across Europe and explore whether differences in such patterns contribute to variations in the incidence rates of psychotic disorder.

Methods

We included patients aged 18–64 years who presented to psychiatric services in 11 sites across Europe and Brazil with first-episode psychosis and recruited controls representative of the local populations.  We applied adjusted logistic regression models to the data to estimate which patterns of cannabis use carried the highest odds for psychotic disorder.  Using Europe-wide and national data on the expected concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the different types of cannabis available across the sites, we divided the types of cannabis used by participants into two categories: low potency (THC <10%) and high potency (THC ≥10%). Assuming causality, we calculated the population attributable fractions (PAFs) for the patterns of cannabis use associated with the highest odds of psychosis and the correlation between such patterns and the incidence rates for psychotic disorder across the study sites.

Findings

Between May 1, 2010, and April 1, 2015, we obtained data from 901 patients with first-episode psychosis across 11 sites and 1237 population controls from those same sites.  Daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 3·2, 95% CI 2·2–4·1), increasing to nearly five-times increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis (4·8, 2·5–6·3).  The PAFs calculated indicated that if high-potency cannabis were no longer available, 12·2% (95% CI 3·0–16·1) of cases of first-episode psychosis could be prevented across the 11 sites, rising to 30·3% (15·2–40·0) in London and 50·3% (27·4–66·0) in Amsterdam.  The adjusted incident rates for psychotic disorder were positively correlated with the prevalence in controls across the 11 sites of use of high-potency cannabis (r = 0·7; p=0·0286) and daily use (r = 0·8; p=0·0109).

Interpretation

Differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across the 11 studied sites. Given the increasing availability of high-potency cannabis, this has important implications for public health.

March 19, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Native Americans & Cannabis: History, Religion, Fraud, & the Future"

The title of this post is the title of a presentation to be made by one of my students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week.  Here is part of her explanation of her topic and links to some background reading:

   Native Americans have a tricky and unique history with cannabis. Indians have always used “teaching plants.” And almost every single ceremonial herb used by Indians has been illegal at some point in the United States: salvia, peyote, mullen, mints, and sage.  In particular, cannabis is more controversial, given its growing popularity in the United States by non-Natives.  Cannabis is considered a sacred herb in many tribes, but not all tribes.  For example, the First Nation tribe uses it in rituals, some tribes claim great visionaries used it with their sacred pipes, and other tribes, such as the Dakota and Lakota tribes, state that their medicine men have never used cannabis as a part of their ceremonies.

   There has recently been a rise in "cannabis churches,” with the most controversial church, the Oklevueha Native American Church, leading such controversy.  The church was founded by James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney.  Mooney claims to have native American ancestry, but does not have any official tribal affiliation.  The church is comparable to the fundamentalist mormons: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not condone of affiliate itself with fundamentalist mormons, and the National Council of Native American churches released a statement, advising the public that it does not “condone the activities of the illegitimate organization.”  This complicates Indian history, as some tribes may wish to use it as a sacrament, and others use the Oklevueha church as a scapegoat and a reason to ban cannabis on its tribes.

   U.S. courts have previously ruled that cannabis being used as a religious sacrament does not give tribes the right to use it.  Overall, my goal is to: 1) explain the history of peyote, ayahuasca, and cannabis in Native American culture; 2) describe the use, or lack thereof, of cannabis and how it differs from tribe to tribe; 3) describe the rise of “cannabis churches” generally, with a focus on the Oklevueha Native American Church, and the legal troubles they have faced; 4) the legal argument to allow Indian churches to use cannabis as a sacrament or a ritual herb, and the legal argument to prohibit Indian churches from using cannabis as a sacrament or a ritual herb; and 5) the potential implications which it would have on tribes in the future.

 

Background Resources:

 

March 19, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Assessing employment law realities in Ohio’s medical marijuana system

As mentioned in a prior post, the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are back from break and back at presentations on their research topics. The second presentation this week will focus on "on Ohio’s employment law future and will draw inferences from other states’ statutory language and case law to predict how discrimination cases may (or may not) proceed." Here is how my student has summarized her topic, along with the background readings she has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):

In Ohio, the law gives employers discretion to accommodate employees' medical marijuana use or not, and has a provision specifically designed to thwart disability claims from proceeding.  It is possible that a court could find that failure to accommodate is not per-se unreasonable, and an Ohio court decision could follow the lead of a in Barbuto and Connecticut court in Noffsinger.   This interpretation would require that an employee argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act's carve-out for medications should be used to interpret Ohio's Revised Code § 4112.02, creating a carve-out for legal (under state law) marijuana used as medication under the supervision of a medical professional.  Due to fairly clear legislative intent to prevent employment discrimination actions for medical marijuana under Revised Code § 3796.28(5), the more likely path in Ohio is probably the way of Colorado in Coats which allowed an employer to fire a disabled employee for failing a baseline Cannabinoid presence test, regardless of his medical status, as violating employer policy.

 

Here are some additional background resources:

A Survey of Medical Marijuana Laws Impacting the Workplace by Joseph H. Yastrow

Employers and workers grapple with laws allowing marijuana use by G. M. Filisko

 

Here are resources more specific to my topic:

Ohio’s medical marijuana employment provision: Revised Code § 3796.28(5)

Links directly to leading cases: Noffsinger from CT and Barbuto from MA and Coats from CO

Ohio's disability anti-discrimination regulation under Code § 4112: OAC § 4112-5-08 Discrimination in the employment of the disabled

March 17, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Employment and labor law issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Examining public and individual health issues amidst debates over marijuana reform

After a well-deserved week off for spring break, the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform Seminar are back at it this coming week with presentations on their research topics.  The first presentation this week will focus on health issues, and here is how my student has described his topic, along with the background readings he has provided for his classmates (and the rest of us):

I will be looking at the various public and individual health issues – both real and imagined – pertaining to the national debate over marijuana in general and legalizing the drug's recreational use in particular.  Special attention will be given to the way in which our society's normative value judgments have dictated how we view marijuana products in the context of public health. 

As a result, I will be examining a number of associated issues including whether edibles are safer than smoking marijuana, marijuana's addictiveness or lack thereof, the cognitive and non-cognitive health problems that can be caused by regularly using marijuana products, and whether the accidental consumption of edible marijuana products by children is a legitimate cause for concern. 

Finally, I will also offer my thoughts on how we can most effectively respond to the genuine health risks posed by a post-legalization America.

1) Manisha Krishnan, We Fact-Checked an ER Doctor Who Said Weed Edibles Can Kill Kids, Vice (Aug. 21, 2018)

2) Douglas A. Berman, New Report Details Big Decrease in Pedestrian Fatalities in Marijuana Legalization States…but Makes No Mention of Trend Despite Fear-mongering Last Year, Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform (Mar. 10, 2019)

3) Nora D. Volkow et al., Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use, 370(23) New Eng. Med. J. 2219 (2014)

4) DrugAbuse.com, Joints vs. Edibles: How Marijuana Affects the Body (last visited Mar. 15, 2019)

5) National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Chapter Highlights (Jan. 12, 2017)

March 16, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Is the NHL the future of marijuana in pro sports?"

Download (11)The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable recent ESPN article that a terrific student of mine made sure I did not miss.  Here is how the lengthy piece gets started and an excerpt reviewing the NHL's notable approach to positive drug tests:

Player X is in the NHL.  After home games, he has a routine . Typically, he'll meet a few teammates at a local restaurant for a late dinner.  He likes to order steak after games -- medium rare, with a side salad and mashed potatoes.  Then he'll go home.

Player X sometimes has a hard time unwinding; it was a day of unbounded stimulation.  He woke up and arrived at the rink for a morning skate and meetings, went home to nap, returned to the arena for warm-ups (bright lights and eardrum-blasting music), then exerted his body for 20-something sub-one-minute shifts during which he shoves, sprints, reaches, shoots, gets hit and sometimes bleeds on the ice.  By the time he gets home at night, he needs something to ease the process of getting to bed.  So he'll often reach for his weed pen and take a few hits.  "Just to relax," he says.  "Honestly, it's the easiest and most natural way for me to fall asleep and be ready for the next day."

Because Player X is on a Western Conference team based in a state in which there are broad laws legalizing marijuana, he knows he's not doing anything wrong.  Actually, he's doing what he estimates thousands of others who live in his city do every night as well.

And because he plays in the NHL -- and not, say, the NFL, NBA or MLB -- he knows he won't be punished.

Society's views on marijuana are evolving -- fast.  On Oct. 16, Canada became the largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana.  Coupled with results from the midterm elections in the United States, this is the landscape: Of the 31 teams in the NHL, 28 play in states where players have access to legal marijuana, whether it is for medicinal or recreational purposes.  That's the highest percentage (90.3) of any of the major four North American pro leagues, but hardly an anomaly.

This might surprise you: Of the 123 teams across MLB, the NBA, NHL and NFL, 45 play in states or provinces where recreational marijuana is legal (36.6 percent). Another 56 play in jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal (45.5 percent).  That's a whopping 82 percent of teams (101 of 123) that are playing in areas where their employees can legally purchase either medicinal or recreational marijuana....

Dr. Dave Lewis and Dr. Brian Shaw are the physicians who run the NHL and NHLPA's joint Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) Program.  If they determine Player X's test features "abnormally high levels" of THC, they flag it.  The veil of anonymity is then lifted, and the two doctors will contact Player X.  They can recommend he enters the SABH, in which they'll develop an individualized treatment plan for him. Neither the NHL nor NHLPA needs to know that he's in the program.

The league won't punish Player X at all for his test. If he chooses to enter the SABH, Dr. Lewis and Dr. Shaw have the power to levy fines, suspensions or other penalties if conditions are breached.  However, the player is not required to enter the program if he doesn't want to.

"The thing that we're really looking for is if there's a guy that has an issue or a problem and he needs help -- that's what we're trying to capture in that program," says longtime NHL defenseman Mathieu Schneider, now a senior executive at the NHLPA . "I do think it has worked very well.  We have a tremendous amount of faith in the doctors that run the program.  Confidentiality in that program is of the utmost importance."

I have long thought it notable (and not a mere coincidence) that the "whitest" major sports league, the NHL, has the most tolerant approach to marijuana and other drugs.  This ESPN article does not focus on racial issues, but rather is focused on the possibility that other major sports leagues could be attracted to the treatment-oriented marijuana policies in the NHL.  I certainly like that idea, but I am not sure why this kind of public-health approach to marijuana use ought to only benefit elite athletes.  We have used punitive models for dealing with drug use and abuse for so long, the idea that a person would not get punished by his employer for a position drug test seem surprising when it should be the norm.  

March 15, 2019 in Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Minority Cannabis Business Association produces new "Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance"

There is much discussion in marijuana reform circles about how states and localities can best ensure the new growing marijuana industry develops in a diverse, socially equitable way. The latest effort to advance this agenda comes from the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), which has now released this interesting new "Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance." Here is part of the preface of this model ordinance:

This Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance (“Model Ordinance”) is intended to be used by municipalities that have adopted ordinances to regulate, zone and license local cannabis businesses, or are currently considering draft ordinances to do so.  As such, this Model Ordinance does not include recommended provisions for general license types (other than to add license types that lower barriers to entry or mitigate on-going criminalization of cannabis consumption), nor does it include detailed zoning and land use provisions.  The drafters of this model ordinance assume those provisions are already incorporated within the adopting municipality’s general licensing ordinance, and that the general licensing ordinance already reflects the particular circumstances of its local community.

We also assumed that the types of licenses which may be available, and the general regulatory framework surrounding cannabis businesses will be largely predetermined by the state in which the adopting local jurisdiction sits.  As such, the Model Ordinance contains only those provisions necessary to create a baseline framework for adopting and advancing social equity in the cannabis industry as official public policy -- a “minimum viable product” designed to be broadly adopted and tailored as necessary by each adopting jurisdiction.  Prevailing political realities in each jurisdiction will vary, and the Model Ordinance includes bolded and bracketed substantive terms that may be revised as necessary....

The Drafting Committee finalized this version of the Model Ordinance after incorporating input received on two previous working drafts.  The First Discussion Draft was previously circulated in October 2018 and presented to the attendees of the MCBA Policy Summit, as well as the members of the MCBA Policy Committee and the MCBA Board of Directors.  Their input was incorporated by the Drafting Committee into the Second Discussion Draft. The Second Discussion Draft was circulated for input to the MCBA Board of Directors, the NCIA Policy Council staff, Drug Policy Alliance staff as well as other select stakeholders for additional input before being finalized. Finally, please note that this Model Ordinance is intended to be a living documents, and one that can be continually improved upon. The Drafting Committee invites any and all input on the Model Ordinance, and expects to publish updated versions of the Model Ordinance periodically.

Interestingly, though the heart of the Model Ordinance is a social equity program, these heading from the model proposal show that more is covered than just business issues:

Section 1: Short Title

Section 2: Cannabis Social Equity Program

Section 3: Good Faith Effort for Equity in Employment

Section 4: Community Benefits Agreement

Section 5: Community Reinvestment Fund

Section 6: Record Change Provisions

Section 7: No Additional Restrictions Allowed on Entry Into the Cannabis Industry

Section 8: Data Collection

Section 9: Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

Section 10: Permitting Social Consumption Lounges

Section 11: Eliminating Suspicionless Drug Testing

March 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Law enforcement practices in the first two states in U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana"

1-s2.0-S0955395918X00097-cov150hThe title of this post is the title of this recent article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy that I just recently came across. Here is its abstract:

Background

There is a lack of research regarding law enforcement practices where recreational marijuana sales are legal.  Given that legalization of recreational marijuana is expanding, lessons learned from areas with existing legalization can help inform future practices.  This pilot study is an evaluation of enforcement of marijuana laws in the first two states in the U.S. to legalize sales of recreational marijuana, Colorado and Washington, several years post legalization.

Methods

We surveyed a random sample of local law enforcement agencies in the two states (25 agencies per state).  We also attempted to survey the state-level marijuana enforcement agency but only Washington responded.  Surveys focused on youth marijuana use, youth access to marijuana, and impaired driving but included other topics.  Chi-square tests assessed differences between states (p < .05).

Results

All local agencies reported underage use was somewhat or very common in their jurisdictions.  Thirty percent of local agencies conducted enforcement targeting underage use/possession.  Twenty percent of agencies overall conducted underage compliance checks at licensed stores, with more agencies conducting checks in Colorado (32%) than Washington (8%; p = .03).  Most agencies in both states reported marijuana-impaired driving was somewhat or very common in their jurisdictions.  One local agency in each state specifically targeted marijuana-impaired driving.  The state-level agency in Washington reported that their agency is the one primarily responsible for enforcing marijuana retail laws and they conducted routine underage compliance checks at all licensed marijuana stores three times per year.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate that marijuana enforcement can be improved regarding sales/provision to underage youth and impaired driving in these states, particularly given that underage use and impaired driving are perceived to be common.  Larger studies with additional jurisdictions and types of agencies (e.g., highway patrol) are warranted.

March 12, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

New report details big decrease in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states ... but makes no mention of trend despite fear-mongering last year

2_StateChangesIn this post last year, titled "New report suggests big increase in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states... but only by leaving out California," I noted a big report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) which expressed concern about pedestrian fatalities in 2017 and spotlighted that the legalization of recreational marijuana in several states seemed to correlate with an uptick in pedestrian fatalities in those states.    That prior GHSA report stressed  in graphic and text how "seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and DC that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a collective 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017 versus the first six months of 2016, whereas all other states reported a collective 5.8 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities." 

But, as I lamented in my post, the GHSA accounting completely left out the state of California (which also legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016), perhaps because the GHSA data from that year showed a big decrease in pedestrian fatalities in that state for the first six months of 2017.   Had California been included in the analysis by GHSA, as it rightly should have been in that prior report, the data in last year's report on legalized recreational use of marijuana and pedestrian fatalities would have looked a whole lot different.

Fast forward a year, and now the GHSA has recently released its latest data and report on pedestrian fatalities.   This new GHSA report expresses again a deep concern with increases in the number of pedestrian fatalities.  But while last year's report mentioned marijuana 14 times, this year's report does not use the word once and does not spotlight or even mention the states that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016.  Why not?  Perhaps because the story looks very different this year, as seven of the eight states to legalize recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 had notable decreases in pedestrian fatalities according to the latest GHSA data: Alaska down 29%, California down 8%; Colorado down 8%, Maine down 40%, Massachusetts up 9%, Nevada down 28%, Oregon down 18%, Washington down 4%.  These numbers would be notable even if pedestrian death were flat in other states, they are particularly encouraging given that so many other states saw increases in pedestrian fatalities in the first part of 2018.

Critically, these latest GHSA data showing a decrease in pedestrian fatalities in so many which have legalized recreational use of marijuana do not prove any causal relationship.  And, in the same spirit, the older data did not clearly prove anything, either.  Rather, there is every reason to suspect this is all just usual statistical noise.   

Prior related post:

New report suggests big increase in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states... but only by leaving out California

March 10, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Leafy report finds"more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States"

DownloadThis story at Leafy, headlined "As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America," reports on Leafy's effort to account for job creation in the legal marijuana industry.  Here is how the article starts:

How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry?  It’s a common question — and one the government refuses to answer. Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.

Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.

There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States.

The Leafy accounting is set forth in this relatively short document titled "Special Report: Cannabis Jobs Count."  Here is an excerpt:

In early 2017, roughly 120,000 Americans worked in the legal cannabis industry.  At that time, 29 states allowed medical marijuana.  Four states and the District of Columbia had legalized the adult use of cannabis.  National sales in legal markets topped $6.7 billion.

Today, two years later, 34 states have legalized medical marijuana.  Ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult use.  Annual sales nationwide are nearing the $11 billion mark.  And the number of Americans directly employed in this booming industry has soared to more than 211,000.

When indirect and ancillary jobs — think of all the lawyers, accountants, security consultants, media companies, and marketing firms that service the cannabis industry — are added, along with induced jobs (local community jobs supported by the spending of cannabis industry paychecks), the total number of full-time American jobs that depend on legal cannabis rises to a whopping 296,000.

By comparison, there are currently about 52,000 coal mining jobs in the United States.  American beer makers employ 69,000 brewery workers.  And 112,000 people work in textile manufacturing.

March 9, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)