Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Two very different tales of state medical marijuana reform in Oklahoma and West Virginia

Download (30)Way back in April 2017, as spotlighted in this post, West Virginia become first new medical marijuana state of the Trump era when Gov. Jim Justice signed a comprehensive medical marijuana bill into law.  But, as highlighted by this new Marijuana Business Daily article, headlined "West Virginia medical marijuana sales start delayed until 2021 or 2022," two years later the state is still nowhere near an operational medical marijuana program:

Allison Adler, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Health, wrote in an email to MJBizDaily that the “primary cause” behind the projected two- to three-year delay is concern about the ability of MMJ companies to secure banking services. The banking issue was addressed in recent legislation. The state treasurer, Adler noted, recently issued a request for proposals from financial institutions interested in providing banking services to the industry. However, the proposals will “require time to evaluate and implement.”

Adler continued that “it is important to note that after a solution to the current banking issue is found, it will take time for multiple stages of the medical cannabis permitting process to be implemented.” The whole process, she added, also requires program staffing and development, rules implementation and registration of medical providers and patients.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles away, a different route to medical marijuana reform has helped produce a very difference experience in Oklahoma. One year ago, as noted in this post, Oklahoma voters passed a medical marijuana initiative’s passage by the wide margin of 57 percent to 43 percent.  And this recent article, headlined "One year after SQ 788 vote, Oklahoma near No. 1 for patients among medical marijuana states," details how quickly the state has become record setting:

When Oklahomans voted one year ago in favor of State Question 788, officials thought about 80,000 patients, or about 2% of the state’s estimated population, would register in the first year of a legal medical marijuana program.

As of June 24, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has already registered more than 3.5% of the population as patients, with little sign of applications slowing. That participation rate puts Oklahoma near No. 1 among the 33 states that have some form of medical cannabis legislation in place as of May.

Comparatively low financial barriers, combined with a lack of restrictions on qualifying conditions, brought patients out in droves to apply for licenses, OMMA Executive Director Adrienne Rollins said last week.

Oklahoma’s medical cannabis law, unlike the laws of most other states, does not have a list of qualifying medical conditions patients must prove to enroll. “I think everyone took the language of the state question to heart by not adding medical condition qualifiers,” Rollins said of lawmakers who worked the past legislative session to expand Oklahoma’s medical marijuana regulations....

U.S. Census data indicates Oklahoma has a projected 3.943 million residents as of 2018. With nearly 140,000 patients on record as of June 17, Oklahoma’s registration rate is about 35 per 1,000 people.

Maine, the closest comparison, removed qualifying conditions from its law last year after medical marijuana became legal in 1999 and does not require patients to register with the state. The Office of Marijuana Policy in Maine released statistics showing a printed patient certification card rate of about 34.3 per 1,000 residents in 2018.

California, a state with both medical and recreational cannabis laws, also does not require patients to obtain an identification card to take advantage of its medical law, Proposition 215, which took effect in 1996. However, organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project estimate California has a registration rate of about 31 patients per 1,000 residents.

“The numbers are already at least roughly tied with the highest participation rate in the country,” said Karen O’Keefe, the director of state policies for the MPP, a pro-cannabis nonprofit that advocates for legal reforms and also tracks cannabis use by state. “In a lot of ways I think Oklahoma has among the best medical marijuana programs in the country in terms of patients having relief quickly without a bunch of hurdles they and their physicians have to jump through.”...

The OMMA as of June 17 has approved 3,211 grower, 1,548 dispensary and 859 processor licenses. Arkansas, which legalized medical cannabis in 2016, had only its third dispensary statewide open earlier this summer after lengthy legal battles over limitations on commercial licenses. “I think it helped there was a noncompetitive application process,” O’Keefe said of SQ 788, adding that “You don’t have the government deciding how many pharmacies can operate. For the most part, we let the free market decide.”...

Rollins said neither the OMMA nor the state Legislature anticipate making attempts to reduce the size of Oklahoma’s program. The Oklahoma State Board of Health last July voted to enact emergency rules that would have banned consumption by smoking and require the involvement of pharmacists in dispensaries. However, public outrage — including, in some cases, from lawmakers — and a letter from the state’s attorney general led to a reversal of those changes.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 2612, a lengthier framework for the medical cannabis industry, into law earlier this year. It will take effect in late August, without restrictions likely to limit patient participation, and includes state-level protections for patients who own firearms.  “I think everyone has tried to make it easier for patients to have access to the system as far as applying and how they can get recommendations,” Rollins said. “The demand is obviously there, so I think it will be interesting once we get to renewal season (this fall) on the business side to see how many have been able to sustain and become operational.”

Just another stark reminder that just how a big new law gets implemented so often is so much more important than when and how it is passes.

June 29, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Spotlighting (and following) the social equity and justice provisions in new Illinois "Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act"

As everyone likely knows by now, Illinois this week became the eleventh state to fully legalize adult use of marijuana and the first state to do so with regulated sales through the regular legislative process.  But what I did not full realize until reading this local press article, headlined "Countdown begins to Jan. 1 after Pritzker signs bill making marijuana legal in Illinois," are all the particulars of the major social equity and justice provisions in the new law.  Here are the basics:

The most unusual and far-reaching aspect of the bill is its “social equity” component.  It calls for 25% of tax money for grants to fund neighborhood improvement projects in poor minority areas.  Proposals are to be chosen by a board led by Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton.

In addition, anyone with a marijuana arrest for under 30 grams would have the case automatically cleared, while the governor will pardon convictions for up to 30 grams. Prosecutors and individuals may petition the courts to expunge convictions for amounts between 30 and 500 grams.

The state will also provide lower licensing fees, low-interest loans and preference in awarding licenses to social equity applicants, defined as those from areas most affected by the war on drugs, or having criminal records eligible for expungement.

“What we are doing here is about reparations,” state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democrat from Peoria, said. “Black and brown people have been put at the very center of this policy.”

Regular readers know that I think marijuana reform can and should be an impactful form of criminal justice reform, and I have authored an article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," which urges jurisdictions to earmark a portion of marijuana revenues to devote to improving the criminal justice system.  In my article, I specifically advocate for the creation of a new criminal justice institution, which I call a Commission on Justice Restoration, to be funded by the taxes, fees and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and to be tasked with proactively working on policies and practices designed to minimize and ameliorate undue collateral consequences for all people with past criminal convictions.  Though Illinois has not quite created a new criminal justice infrastructure through its "Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act," it merits a good star in my book for achieving more on this front than any other jurisdiction to date.

But, as wise folks say in a variety of settings, effective implementation of the law can often be even more important than its initial reform.  Anyone and everyone seriously interesting in social equity and justice should be seriously interested in following how this law plays out in the months and years ahead.

Prior related posts:

June 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Race Based Statutes at Play with Cannabis: Cultivating a Process for Weeding Out the Competition"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Tyrus Hudson.  This paper is the seventh in an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The first six  papers in this series are linked below.)  Here is this latest paper's abstract:

The ongoing battle between federal and state cannabis laws have created a perplexing realm of ambiguity for legislatures tasked with establishing drug policy.  In the midst of this intricate conflict lies another issue that is wreaking havoc throughout the legalized cannabis marketplace.  With federal and state governments failing to administer concrete guidance by virtue of lacking to establish policies which govern concurrently and in a harmonious manner, laws have been enforced on both the federal and state levels, that are negatively impacting various minority groups and their potential to capitalize on the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry.

This article will examine the arguments for, and against, current and proposed legislation that impacts licensure for minority groups trying to enter the legalized cannabis marketplace.  Particularly, this article will address the primary obstacles that most negatively affect minorities and the specific role that each barrier has played in preventing minority entrepreneurs from becoming business owners and seizing the opportunity to cash in on this new lucratively flourishing agricultural business that is taking the nation by storm.  While not much research has been conducted on the topic of minority business owners obtaining licenses to operate in the legalized cannabis market, the primary goal of this article is to stimulate dialogue and encourage further research into the impact that legalizing cannabis is having on minority business owners trying to establish themselves as legitimate participants in this up-and-coming industry.

Prior student papers in this series:

June 26, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Emerging Public Health Law and Policy Issues Concerning State Medical Cannabis Programs"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new short paper now available via SSRN authored by William Christopher Tilburg, James Hodge and Camille Gourdet. Here is its abstract:

Thirty-four states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have legalized medical cannabis.  While no two state medical cannabis programs are alike, public health concerns related to advertising, packaging and labeling, pesticide use, scientific research, and the role of medical cannabis in the opioid crisis are emerging across the country.  This article examines these issues, the policy approaches states are adopting to protect patients and the public, and an assessment of the underlying federal legal landscape.

June 25, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Illinois officially now the eleventh US state to legalize marijuana for adult use

Though it was nearly a month ago that the Illinois legislature passed a full legalization bill, it was only today that Gov JB Pritzker signed this marijuana legalization bill into law.  This new Vox piece provides some of the particulars and context (as well as an updated marijuana reform map):

Illinois just became the 11th state to legalize marijuana — and the first where the legislature legalized selling the drug. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who advocated for legalization in his 2018 campaign, signed a marijuana legalization bill on Tuesday. The legislature had sent the bill to him in May.

Illinois’s marijuana legalization law will allow recreational possession and sales starting on January 1, 2020, creating a new system of taxes and regulations.  Adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess and buy cannabis, although tourists in Illinois will be allowed to buy less than state residents.  Cities and counties may prohibit sales, but not possession, within their borders. Personal growing will only be fully legal for medical use.  Previous low-level convictions and arrests for marijuana will be pardoned and expunged.

The law will go into effect on January 1, 2020.  The state previously allowed marijuana for medical purposes.  Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, with federal law classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance with no medical value and a high potential for misuse.  But the federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach toward state laws loosening access to the drug.

Ten other states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana.  But Vermont (which also legalized through its legislature) and DC have not yet allowed sales.  Besides Vermont and now Illinois, states have legalized through ballot initiatives. Several other states, including New York and New Jersey, have considered legalization in their legislatures this year, but the proposals have so far failed to pass despite support from the governors in those states.

Prior related post:

Illinois poised to become first big state to legalize adult use/recreational marijuana via traditional legislation

June 25, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Marijuana Damages Young Brains: States that legalize it should set a minimum age of 25 or older."

The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary in the New York Times authored by two doctors, Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek. Here are excerpts:

It’s tempting to think marijuana is a harmless substance that poses no threat to teens and young adults. The medical facts, however, reveal a different reality.

Numerous studies show that marijuana can have a deleterious impact on cognitive development in adolescents, impairing executive function, processing speed, memory, attention span and concentration. The damage is measurable with an I.Q. test. Researchers who tracked subjects from childhood through age 38 found a consequential I.Q. decline over the 25-year period among adolescents who consistently used marijuana every week. In addition, studies have shown that substantial adolescent exposure to marijuana may be a predictor of opioid use disorders.

The reason the adolescent brain is so vulnerable to the effect of drugs is that the brain — especially the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making, judgment and impulsivity — is still developing in adolescents and young adults until age 25....

The risk that marijuana use poses to adolescents today is far greater than it was 20 or 30 years ago, because the marijuana grown now is much more potent. In the early 1990s, the average THC content of confiscated marijuana was roughly 3.7 percent. By contrast, a recent analysis of marijuana for sale in Colorado’s authorized dispensaries showed an average THC content of 18.7 percent.

The proposals for legalizing marijuana under consideration in New York and New Jersey allow for use starting at age 21. While society may consider a 21-year-old to be an adult, the brain is still developing at that age. States that legalize marijuana should set a minimum age of no younger than 25. They should also impose stricter limits on THC levels and strictly monitor them. Educational campaigns are also necessary to help the public understand that marijuana is not harmless.

Simply because society has become more accepting of marijuana use doesn’t make it safe for high school and college students. Cigarettes and alcohol, both legal, have caused great harm in society as well as to people’s health, and have ruined many lives. Marijuana may do the same. We must tightly regulate the emerging cannabis industry to protect the developing brain.

UPDATE: Interestingly, not long after blogging about this NY Times commentary, I came across this extended Washington Post piece headlined "Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana." Here is a snippet:

As more than a dozen states from Hawaii to New Hampshire consider legalizing marijuana, doctors warn of an urgent need for better education — not just of teens but of parents and lawmakers — about how the products being marketed can significantly affect young people’s brain development.

The limited scientific research to date shows that earlier and more frequent use of high-THC cannabis puts adolescents at greater jeopardy of substance use disorders, mental health issues and poor school performance.

“The brain is abnormally vulnerable during adolescence,” said Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who studies how marijuana affects the brain. “Policy seems to have outpaced science, and in the best of all possible worlds, science would allow us to set policy.”

June 16, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Colorado reports having collected over $1 billion in marijuana revenue since legalization

Colorado public agencies yesterday produced this news release titled "Colorado marijuana industry continues to grow, revenue surpasses $1 billion to date."  Here are excerpts:

Colorado has surpassed $1 billion in marijuana revenue to date since adult-use marijuana sales began in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR)’s monthly reports for marijuana sales and revenue data released today.

“Today’s report continues to show that Colorado’s cannabis industry is thriving, but we can’t rest on our laurels.  We can and we must do better in the face of increased national competition.  We want Colorado to be the best state for investment, innovation and development for this growing economic sector,” said Governor Polis.  “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction.”

To date, marijuana tax, license and fee revenue has reached just over $1.02 billion and marijuana sales to date exceeded $6.56 billion.  Currently, Colorado has 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses and 41,076 individuals who are licensed to work in the industry....

Marijuana revenue supports statewide efforts such as licensing and regulation of legal marijuana businesses, youth prevention efforts, behavioral health treatment, protecting public health and safety, and coordination across state agencies.

Marijuana tax revenue funds Colorado Department of Education programs such as the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction assistance fund, as well as the Early Literacy Competitive Grant Program, School Health Professional Grant Program and the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program.

The Colorado Department of Human Services uses marijuana revenue funds to support community behavioral health programs including mental health services for juveniles and adults, crisis services, criminal justice diversion, the Circle Program, substance use disorder and detoxification services.  Additionally, funds support Mental Health Institutes at Pueblo and Fort Logan and Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, which is a collection of community based programs that target youth and their families for prevention and intervention services in the effort to reduce incidents of youth crime and violence, to prevent youth marijuana use, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

June 13, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

SAM releases report on "Fiscal Impact Study" concerning marijuana legalization in New York

The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this new report seeking to document costs that could flow from marijuana legalization in New York.  Here is the report's executive summary:

The proposed legalization of marijuana in New York will result in higher costs to state and local law enforcement and emergency services.  Towns and cities across the state will face increased budgetary pressures at a time when New York’s tax burden is already a serious drag on the economy.  In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, New York has the highest state and local tax burden in the country as a percent of the economy (12.7 percent) and fourth highest per person property tax burden ($2,782).1

Marijuana legalization in New York will have both significant budgetary and societal costs.  In fact, law enforcement and emergency services costs could account for a majority of the revenue projected by the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to be realized by legalization.

First, marijuana legalization will be a major cost driver for state and local law enforcement and emergency services agencies.  Keeping New York’s roads (from DWIs) and communities (from black market operations) safe will require additional drug policing with Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), drug testing equipment, and drug-sniffing dogs all of which will likely require expensive new equipment acquisitions and training.  Also, dealing with the consequences of increased impaired driving, and the corresponding increase in car crashes will lead to higher costs to law enforcement and emergency services.

Overall, upfront budgetary costs to law enforcement and emergency services could range from $190.3 to 235.2 million.  Ongoing annual estimated costs range from $157.5 to $192.2 million.  Car crashes would cost another $44 million between 2018 and 2028.

Second, car crashes have a broader negative societal impact in terms of increased hospitalizations (paid for, in part, by public health agencies), emergency departments, and deaths.

Overall societal costs between 2018 and 2028 would mean $388 million in hospitalization charges (of which $34.5 million will be paid for by public funded sources such as Medicaid and Medicare), $253 million in emergency department visits, and $4.3 billion in the value of lost lives.

In the end, marijuana legalization will create numerous destructive waves through New York ranging from significant budgetary hardship to law enforcement and emergency services to the shattered lives of people involved in car crashes.  New York’s law enforcement and emergency services will bear the immediate brunt of these circumstances which will create tradeoffs from reducing other existing services potentially impacting public safety, to increasing local budgets and taxes, boosting New York’s already highest-in-the-nation level of taxation.

June 13, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (2)

New Gallup poll (imperfectly) explores reasons Americans support or oppose marijuana reform

Gallup has this new story reporting on the results of its recent intriguing poll about marijuana reform under the headline "In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored."  Here are excerpts:

As public support for legalizing marijuana has surged, a new Gallup poll finds 86% of U.S. supporters of legal marijuana saying its medicinal benefits are a very important reason they support legalization.  Majorities also say freeing up police resources to focus on other crimes, respecting people's personal freedom, and generating tax revenue for state and local governments are key reasons for their support.

Marijuana legalization supporters are less likely to say that increasing the drug's safety through government regulation or believing that marijuana is not harmful are very important reasons they hold the opinion they do.

The results are based on a May 15-30 Gallup poll that sought to explore some of the reasons behind Americans' opinions for, or against, making marijuana legal. Gallup has documented a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans favoring legal marijuana in the past decade, from 44% in 2009 to 64% in the current survey. Gallup has measured support as high as 66% in an October 2018 update. In 1969, the first time Gallup polled on the issue, just 12% were in favor of legalizing marijuana.

For the most part, different subgroups of marijuana legalization advocates are similar in their stated reasons for supporting legal marijuana.  One modest difference concerns the importance of tax revenue for state and local governments, something that 63% of male supporters versus 50% of female supporters regard as very important.

The roughly one-third of Americans who oppose legalization were asked to say how important each of six factors is to their position on the issue.  Foremost among these is the possibility of increased car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana -- 79% say this is a very important reason they oppose legalizing the drug.

Additionally, at least six in 10 opponents rate three other factors as very important reasons behind their objections: the possibility that marijuana users would try stronger and more addictive drugs; the potential for marijuana usage to increase; and that legalizing marijuana would not benefit society much.  A slim majority of opponents cite its potential harm to users....

The most compelling reason for legalization, according to those who hold that position, is the help it gives to those who use it for medicinal purposes. Also, supporters tend to point to the possible benefits legal pot would have on law enforcement, state and local governments, and personal freedom.  A "lack of harm" for users does not appear to a be a major reason why people want marijuana legalized.

Opponents, though smaller in number, point more to the societal risks, including those related to car accidents and marijuana users trying more potent drugs that likely would have a greater societal cost for those who become addicted.

Though these poll results are interesting (and not all that surprising), it is somewhat disappointing that the questions exploring support for and opposition to marijuana reform were not more refined.  In particular, given concerns about the "war on drug" and its racial skew, I would have liked to seen more "support" questions focused on various criminal justice reform concerns.  Similarly, the opposition questions did not explore widespread concerns about increasing youth access to and use of marijuana.  Some of the existing questions get near to these topics, but I suspect more or more refined questions would have impacted the outcomes.

June 13, 2019 in Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Notable analysis of full legalization's impact on medical marijuana regimes

800The AP has this new extended article, headlined "Broad legalization takes toll on medical pot," which looks at the impact of full marijuana legalization on medical marijuana programs.  Here are some excerpts:

When states legalize pot for all adults, long-standing medical marijuana programs take a big hit, in some cases losing more than half their registered patients in just a few years, according to a data analysis by The Associated Press.

Much of the decline comes from consumers who, ill or not, got medical cards in their states because it was the only way to buy marijuana legally and then discarded them when broader legalization arrived. But for people who truly rely on marijuana to control ailments such as nausea or cancer pain, the arrival of so-called recreational cannabis can mean fewer and more expensive options....

States see a “massive exodus” of medical patients when they legalize marijuana for all adults — and then, in many cases, the remaining ones struggle, said David Mangone, director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access. “Some of the products that these patients have relied on for consistency — and have used over and over for years — are disappearing off the shelves to market products that have a wider appeal,” he said. Cost also rises, a problem that’s compounded because many of those who stay in medical programs are low-income and rely on Social Security disability, he said.

In Oregon, where the medical program shrank the most following recreational legalization, nearly two-thirds of patients gave up their medical cards, the AP found. As patients exited, the market followed: The number of medical-only retail shops fell from 400 to two, and hundreds of growers who contracted with individual patients to grow specific strains walked away.

Now, some of the roughly 28,000 medical patients left are struggling to find affordable medical marijuana products they’ve relied on for years. While the state is awash in dry marijuana flower that’s dirt cheap, the specialized oils, tinctures and potent edibles used to alleviate severe illnesses can be harder to find and more expensive to buy....

Ten states have both medical and recreational markets. Four of them — Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska — have the combination of an established recreational marketplace and data on medical patients. The AP analysis found all four saw a drop in medical patients after broader legalization.

In Alaska, the state with the second-biggest decline, medical cardholders dropped by 63% after recreational sales began in 2016, followed by Nevada with nearly 40% since 2017 and Colorado with 19% since 2014.

The largest of all the legal markets, California, doesn’t keep data on medical patients, but those who use it say their community has been in turmoil since recreational pot debuted last year. That’s partly because the state ended unlicensed cannabis cooperatives where patients shared their homegrown pot for free....

Getting a precise nationwide count of medical patients is impossible because California, Washington and Maine don’t keep data. However, absent those states, the AP found at the end of last year nearly 1.4 million people were active patients in a medical marijuana program. The AP estimates if those states were added the number would increase by about 1 million.

As more states legalize marijuana for all adults, some who have been using it medically are feeling disenfranchised.

In Michigan, where medical marijuana has been legal for over a decade, the creation of a new licensing system for medical dispensaries has sparked court challenges as the state prepares for the advent of general marijuana sales later this year. A cancer patient there filed a federal lawsuit this month, alleging the slow licensing pace has created a shortage of the products she needs to maintain her weight and control pain.

In Washington, medical patients feel they were pushed aside when that state merged its medical and general-use markets, which also is what’s happening in California. Los Angeles dispensary owner Jerred Kiloh sells medical and recreational marijuana and said those markets are quickly becoming one, since few companies are going to produce products for a vanishing group of customers. He said his medical business has dipped to 7% of overall sales and is dropping month to month. “It’s going to be gone,” said Kiloh, president of the LA trade group United Cannabis Business Association.

June 11, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The State of Marijuana in The Buckeye State and Fiscal Policy Considerations of Legalized Recreational Marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Finley Newman-James, who is a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the sixth of an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The first five papers in this series are linked below.)  Here is this latest paper's abstract:

In 1975, Ohio’s 63rd Governor James A. Rhodes joined the growing trend of marijuana decriminalization by signing a bill passed by the legislature that supported amending the Ohio Revised Code to remove criminal penalties for use of marijuana.  This was the first big change to marijuana laws in Ohio.  Despite Ohio being one of the most conservative states in the country at the time, Rhodes brought Ohio to become the 6th state to relax punishments on marijuana use.  Since that time, a lot has changed regarding the status of cannabis in the Buckeye State.

This paper will first describe the past legal framework for marijuana along with current developments and proposed changes in the future, including a citizen’s ballot initiative that will appear on the November 2019 ballot that could potentially make sweeping changes to Ohio’s Constitution and marijuana law in Ohio.   This is then followed by an analysis of the potential benefits that recreational marijuana could have in respect to key fiscal budgetary issues facing the state of Ohio. 

Prior student papers in this series:

June 11, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

New research raises questions as to relationship between medical marijuana reform and opioid overdoses

This new study just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that previously encouraging findings suggesting that medical marijuana reforms contributed to a reduction in opioid overdose deaths may not hold up over time.  Here is the article's abstract:

Medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the US opioid overdose crisis since Bachhuber et al. [M. A. Bachhuber, B. Saloner, C. O. Cunningham, C. L. Barry, JAMA Intern. Med. 174, 1668–1673] found that from 1999 to 2010 states with medical cannabis laws experienced slower increases in opioid analgesic overdose mortality.  That research received substantial attention in the scientific literature and popular press and served as a talking point for the cannabis industry and its advocates, despite caveats from the authors and others to exercise caution when using ecological correlations to draw causal, individual-level conclusions. 

In this study, we used the same methods to extend Bachhuber et al.’s analysis through 2017.  Not only did findings from the original analysis not hold over the longer period, but the association between state medical cannabis laws and opioid overdose mortality reversed direction from −21% to +23% and remained positive after accounting for recreational cannabis laws.  We also uncovered no evidence that either broader (recreational) or more restrictive (low-tetrahydrocannabinol) cannabis laws were associated with changes in opioid overdose mortality.   We find it unlikely that medical cannabis — used by about 2.5% of the US population — has exerted large conflicting effects on opioid overdose mortality.  A more plausible interpretation is that this association is spurious.  Moreover, if such relationships do exist, they cannot be rigorously discerned with aggregate data.  Research into therapeutic potential of cannabis should continue, but the claim that enacting medical cannabis laws will reduce opioid overdose death should be met with skepticism.

Some discussion of this research appears in these popular press pieces, among others:

June 11, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Interesting CRS report on "Marijuana Use and Highway Safety"

Last month, the Congressional Research Service released this interesting short report titled simply "Marijuana Use and Highway Safety." Here is its introduction:

A growing number of Americans report that they use marijuana.  As more states decriminalize the use of marijuana, the question of what impact marijuana usage has on the risk of a driver being involved in a motor vehicle crash has become more pertinent.  In a survey, the majority of state highway safety offices rated drugged driving an issue at least as important as driving while impaired by alcohol.

When faced with the issue of driver impairment due to marijuana, some stakeholders tend to approach the issue using the analogy of driver impairment due to alcohol. However, there are important differences between the two substances.  The fact that alcohol reduces a user’s ability to think clearly and to perform physical tasks has been known for decades.  Extensive research has established correlations between the extent of alcohol consumption and impairment, including drivers’ reaction times. Much less research has been done on marijuana.  Marijuana is a more complex substance than alcohol.  It is absorbed in the body differently from alcohol; it affects the body in different ways from alcohol; tests for its presence in the body produce more complicated results than tests for the presence of alcohol; and correlating its effects with its levels in the body is much more complicated than for alcohol.

That marijuana usage increases a driver’s risk of crashing is not clearly established.  Studies of marijuana’s impact on a driver’s performance have thus far found that, while marijuana usage can measurably affect a driver’s performance in a laboratory setting, that effect may not translate into an increased likelihood of the driver being involved in a motor vehicle crash in a real-world setting, where many other variables affect the risk of a crash.  Some studies of actual crashes have estimated a small increase in the risk of crash involvement as a result of marijuana usage, while others have estimated little or no increase in the likelihood of a crash from using marijuana.

This CRS report addresses various aspects of the issue of marijuana-impaired driving, including patterns of marijuana use, the relationship and detection of marijuana use and driver impairment, and related state law and law enforcement challenges.  The report also references the congressionally required July 2017 report by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress (hereinafter referred to as NHTSA’s 2017 Marijuana-Impaired Driving Report to Congress), as well as other studies and research.

June 6, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

SAM releases latest big report on "Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization"

The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this big new report titled "Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization"  Here is the short "Executive Highlights" from the start of the report:

Today’s highly potent marijuana represents a growing and significant threat to public health and safety, a threat that is amplified by a new marijuana industry intent on profiting from heavy use.

State laws allowing marijuana sales and consumption have permitted the marijuana industry to flourish, and in turn, the marijuana industry has influenced both policies and policy-makers.  While the consequences of these policies will not be known for decades, early indicators are troubling.

This report, reviewed by prominent scientists and researchers, serves as an evidence-based guide to what we currently observe in various states.  We attempted to highlight studies from all the “legal” marijuana states (i.e., states that have legalized the non-medical use of marijuana).  Unfortunately, data does not exist for several “legal” states, and so this document synthesizes the latest research on marijuana impacts in states where information is available.

Disappointingly, this report does not cover data comprehensively on any single topic from any one state nor does it effectively detail similar data across a number of states.  Rather, as seems common with SAM reports, this latest report focuses on the most troublesome data from a few states to make the case that marijuana reform is creating big problems.  In this way, the report serves as a good review of some of the strongest "data talking points" against marijuana reform, but it does not really provide a sound basis to reach sound conclusions about what lessons should be learned from modern marijuana reforms.

June 6, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Americans For Safe Access releases detailed "Patient's Guide To CBD"

2CBD_Guide_GraphicThe leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, has this terrific new resource titled "Patient's Guide To CBD."  Though the title of this nearly 50-page report is simple, the contents provide an intricate road-map to the complicated law and science surrounding the status and import of the cannabis-plant compound known as CBD. Here is a section of the publication's introduction:

The Patient’s Guide to CBD was created by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) for the benefit of patients, prospective patients, healthcare providers, consumers, and anyone interested in learning more about CBD.  The goal of this guide is to be an informative and useful reference document that will be shared with others so that patients, doctors, and regulators can make informed decisions regarding CBD....

Patients and consumers should also be aware of the legal and regulatory status of CBD products.  As of May 2019, 47 U.S. states have passed some type of legislation permitting the use of cannabis or cannabinoids such as CBD; nevertheless, cannabis with THC in excess of 0.3% by dry weight is a Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. Federal law.  Therefore, CBD-containing products that were produced from cannabis plants that exceed the federal threshold on THC may be legal at the state level, but are federally illegal.  Additionally, even CBD products that are derived from plants containing not more than 0.3% THC by dry weight may violate laws such as the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and create further legal challenges for patients and consumers.

The passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) will make industrial hemp (i.e., cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight), including CBD-rich industrial hemp, an agricultural commodity in the United States, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to promulgate federal regulations or approve state regulations regarding the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. Further, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has yet to provide a pathway for the introduction of hemp-derived CBD products into the marketplace.  Therefore, it is not yet federally legal to market hemp-derived CBD as a drug, dietary supplement, food product, or cosmetic.  Patients and consumers are encouraged to stay up to date on these changing regulations to ensure that they, and their products, are in compliance with applicable laws.

Globally, the use of products containing CBD has risen dramatically as more and more people seek alternative ways to improve their health and their lives.  The data has shown an increase in the sales of products containing CBD every year, and sales are expected to continue to rise in the coming years.

June 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Spotlighting former congressional leader John Boehner (and his cohorts) following the marijuana money

1541019214-screen_shot_2018-10-31_at_1.52.43_pmThe New York Times has this notable new account of the work of the former US House Speaker as salesman for marijuana reform.  The front-page lengthy piece, headlined "John Boehner: From Speaker of the House to Cannabis Pitchman," is an interesting read and here are a few excerpts:

John A. Boehner, the former speaker of the House, once stood second in line for the presidency and staunchly against legalized marijuana.  Now you can find the longtime Republican standing before a wall-size photo of the Capitol, making an online infomercial pitch for the cannabis industry.  “This is one of the most exciting opportunities you’ll ever be part of,” Mr. Boehner says in an endlessly streaming video for the National Institute for Cannabis Investors.  “Frankly, we can help you make a potential fortune.”

Mr. Boehner’s pro-weed epiphany coincides with the prospect of a payday as high as $20 million from the industry he once so vigorously opposed.  He sits on the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana investment firm whose sale to a cannabis industry giant hinges on Mr. Boehner’s ability to persuade Congress and the federal government to legalize, or at least legitimize, marijuana.

The chain-smoking, merlot-sipping, former 12-term congressman from Ohio says he had never lit a joint in his life when he and the former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, now a Republican candidate for president, joined Acreage’s board last year.  This year, Acreage announced plans to sell itself to Canopy Growth, a Canadian company that is the biggest cannabis holding in the world.  The deal, worth around $3 billion, based on current stock prices for both Acreage and Canopy, would create an $18 billion behemoth, industry analysts say.  Buried deep in a financial filing from Nov. 14, 2018, is Acreage’s disclosure that the two men each hold 625,000 shares in the company, which if sold after the company’s sale to Canopy would net them a fortune.

Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon and a founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said he saw Mr. Boehner at a dinner on Capitol Hill the day he joined Acreage.  “I said, ‘John, where were you when we needed you?’ And he said, ‘I’ve evolved,’” Mr. Blumenauer recalled in an interview, imitating Mr. Boehner’s smoky baritone.  (Mr. Boehner had made a similar statement on Twitter earlier that day.)

“He’s nothing if not entrepreneurial,” Mr. Blumenauer said.  “The more the merrier.”  But there is a catch.   The takeover will not happen without substantial changes in marijuana policy, leaving it up to Mr. Boehner and his team of lobbyists to work their magic in Washington.

Mr. Boehner declined to be interviewed for this article.  Terry Holt, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Roundtable, which Mr. Boehner founded in February, declined to speculate on Mr. Boehner’s potential income from the sector. Mr. Boehner “sees an investment opportunity in cannabis,” Mr. Holt said. Citing statistics suggesting most Americans favor “some kind of marijuana reform,” he added, “Who wouldn’t want to be involved?”

A slew of former lawmakers agree.  Among those who have signed on in recent months to represent the weed industry are former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, a longtime Democratic leader in the Senate; former Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California; former Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York; and former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida....

In 2016, [Boehner] joined Squire Patton Boggs, successor to the marquee Washington law and lobbying firm, as a “strategic adviser.”  About the same time, Mr. Boehner, who once handed out campaign checks from the tobacco industry to lawmakers on the House floor, joined the board of the tobacco giant Reynolds American, makers of his favorite Camel brand.

Reynolds directors with his profile earn roughly $400,000 a year, and Mr. Boehner holds other board seats, too, Mr. Holt said.  Combined with a pension derived from his $223,000 annual congressional salary, Mr. Boehner likely earns a seven-figure retirement income, even without the potential Acreage windfall.

Mr. Boehner and Mr. Weld joined Acreage’s board in April 2018, and together issued a statement: “We both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy.”  For evidence, “We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments,” they said, denouncing “the refusal of the V.A. to offer it as an alternative” to opioids.

Chanda Macias, the National Cannabis Roundtable’s first vice chairwoman and the owner and general manager of the National Holistic Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, said that she had seen more than 10,000 patients who suffer from a lack of research, education and access to medical marijuana.  “This is not about Boehner,” Ms. Macias added, “this is about saving lives.”

June 4, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)