Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"The Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws and Dispensaries on Self-Reported Health"

S21946191The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Elena Andreyeva and Benjamin Ukert published in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy. Here is its abstract:

Growing evidence suggests that medical marijuana laws have harm reduction effects across a variety of outcomes related to risky health behaviors.  This study investigates the impact of medical marijuana laws on self-reported health using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1993 to 2013.  In our analyses we separately identify the effect of a medical marijuana law and the impact of subsequent active and legally protected dispensaries.

Our main results show surprisingly limited improvements in self-reported health after the legalization of medical marijuana and legally protected dispensaries.  Subsample analyses reveal strong improvements in health among non-white individuals, those reporting chronic pain, and those with a high school degree, driven predominately by whether or not the state had active and legally protected dispensaries.  We also complement the analysis by evaluating the impact on risky health behaviors and find that the aforementioned demographic groups experience large reductions in alcohol consumption after the implementation of a medical marijuana law.

October 30, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis"

Download (6)The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by multiple authors published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Here is its "Summary":

Background

Medicinal cannabinoids, including medicinal cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have been suggested to have a therapeutic role in certain mental disorders.  We analysed the available evidence to ascertain the effectiveness and safety of all types of medicinal cannabinoids in treating symptoms of various mental disorders.

Methods

For this systematic review and meta-analysis we searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for studies published between Jan 1, 1980, and April 30, 2018.  We also searched for unpublished or ongoing studies on ClinicalTrials.gov, the EU Clinical Trials Register, and the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry.  We considered all studies examining any type and formulation of a medicinal cannabinoid in adults (≥18 years) for treating depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis, either as the primary condition or secondary to other medical conditions.  We placed no restrictions on language, publication status, or study type (ie, both experimental and observational study designs were included). Primary outcomes were remission from and changes in symptoms of these mental disorders.  The safety of medicinal cannabinoids for these mental disorders was also examined. Evidence from randomised controlled trials was synthesised as odds ratios (ORs) for disorder remission, adverse events, and withdrawals and as standardised mean differences (SMDs) for change in symptoms, via random-effects meta-analyses.  The quality of the evidence was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias tool and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.  This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017059372, CRD42017059373, CRD42017059376, CRD42017064996, and CRD42018102977).

Findings

83 eligible studies (40 randomised controlled trials, n=3067) were included: 42 for depression (23 randomised controlled trials; n=2551), 31 for anxiety (17 randomised controlled trials; n=605), eight for Tourette syndrome (two randomised controlled trials; n=36), three for ADHD (one randomised controlled trial; n=30), 12 for post-traumatic stress disorder (one randomised controlled trial; n=10), and 11 for psychosis (six randomised controlled trials; n=281).  Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) improved anxiety symptoms among individuals with other medical conditions (primarily chronic non-cancer pain and multiple sclerosis; SMD −0·25 [95% CI −0·49 to −0·01]; seven studies; n=252), although the evidence GRADE was very low.  Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) worsened negative symptoms of psychosis in a single study (SMD 0·36 [95% CI 0·10 to 0·62]; n=24). Pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) did not significantly affect any other primary outcomes for the mental disorders examined but did increase the number of people who had adverse events (OR 1·99 [95% CI 1·20 to 3·29]; ten studies; n=1495) and withdrawals due to adverse events (2·78 [1·59 to 4·86]; 11 studies; n=1621) compared with placebo across all mental disorders examined.  Few randomised controlled trials examined the role of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis.

Interpretation

There is scarce evidence to suggest that cannabinoids improve depressive disorders and symptoms, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis. There is very low quality evidence that pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) leads to a small improvement in symptoms of anxiety among individuals with other medical conditions.  There remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework.  Further high-quality studies directly examining the effect of cannabinoids on treating mental disorders are needed.

October 30, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bronx Borough Prez issues new marijuana reform report focused on social justice issues

Marijuana-report-cover-bxbpI was intrigued to see this short but compelling report released this week by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. titled "Marijuana Justice in New York: The Path to Reform." The report gives special attention to issues of criminal justice reform and economic empowerment, and here and the report's six recommendations as set forth in its executive summary:

Proposal 1: Community Reinvestment. Low-income and minority communities across the state that have been disproportionately affected by past marijuana criminalization should see the benefits of legalization. Some of the revenue from legalization should be returned to these communities in the form of grants and other opportunities.

Proposal 2: Second Chances for Job Applicants who Fail Drug Tests for Marijuana. Many New Yorkers have failed drug tests for marijuana in the past, which has prevented them from getting a job. Employers should be encouraged to call these job-seekers back for future openings, and services should be available to help these individuals find employment.

Proposal 3: Equity in Licensing. The marijuana industry in New York State should reflect the population of New York State. The state should ensure that licenses are granted to qualified equity applicants so that those harmed by marijuana criminalization will be able to benefit from its legalization. The licensing system should ensure that small and minority-owned businesses are able to participate in the industry so that large, out-of-state companies cannot box them out.

Proposal 4: Access to Capital and Banking Services. Currently, banks are reluctant to engage with the marijuana industry. The state should ensure access to funds for small marijuana businesses so that the industry is not dominated by larger businesses that do not reflect the diversity of the state. New York State should advocate for Congress to pass a law protecting financial institutions from prosecution for legal cannabis-related activities.

Proposal 5: Automatic Expungement. The decriminalization bill introduced an expungement mechanism in New York State for the first time and provided that low-level marijuana offenses could be expunged. A legalization bill must make more former marijuana offenses subject to expungement as well. Past criminal convictions limit opportunities, and the enforcement of marijuana laws has fallen disproportionately against minorities and low-income communities.

Proposal 6: Ending Family Separations because of Marijuana. Currently, a positive drug test for marijuana is sufficient to start a child neglect investigation. No families should be broken apart because a parent, particularly a new parent, tests positive for marijuana.

October 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Latest Gallup poll shows steady significant support for marijuana legalization

Though the direction of public polling is never a sure forecast of the direction of public policy, the rapid reform of marijuana laws at the state level in the US has move in sync with a rapid rise in public support for such reform.  And, as detailed in this Gallup posting, headlined "U.S. Support for Legal Marijuana Steady in Past Year," polling this year suggests that support for marijuana legalization is not waning (but also not growing). Here are the details:

Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has held steady at 66% over the past year, after rising 30 percentage points between 2005 and 2018.  The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 1-13. Not only have 66% favored legalizing marijuana in the 2018 and 2019 Crime polls, but the same level of support was found in an intervening Gallup survey, conducted in May.

Gallup first asked about making marijuana use legal in 1969, when just 12% of Americans favored the proposal.  Nearly a decade later, a 1977 survey found support had increased to 28%, but it held at about that level through 1995, finally surpassing 30% in Gallup's next measurement, in 2000.  Since then, the percentage of Americans advocating legal marijuana usage has more than doubled, with support increasing significantly among all major subgroups.

As public opinion has become increasingly pro-marijuana, so has state policy.  As of June, 11 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana.  Twenty-two other states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Majorities of most key subgroups now favor making marijuana legal, according to an analysis of the opinions of more than 3,500 adults asked the question in the three 2018-2019 Gallup surveys.  There are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal marijuana by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence -- between 60% and 70% of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization. Opinions do vary significantly according to partisanship and ideology, age and generation, race, and religiosity.

Americans on the left of the political spectrum are more likely than those on the right to favor making marijuana legal.  However, the differences are greater by political ideology than by partisanship.  Twenty-five points separate Democratic (76%) and Republican (51%) support for making marijuana legal, with independents (68%) near the national average.

In contrast, 82% of liberals versus 48% of conservatives want to see marijuana made legal, a 34-point difference.  Conservatives are one of the few major subgroups expressing less-than-majority support for making marijuana legal.  Moderates' opinions (72%) are closer to those of liberals than conservatives.

Generally speaking, younger adults are much more likely than older adults to favor legalizing marijuana.  This includes 81% of adults under age 30 as well as 80% of the larger millennial generation subgroup, consisting of those born between 1980 and 2000.  By contrast, less than half of senior citizens (49%) are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, and the percentage is even lower -- 40% -- among adults born in 1945 or before.  Baby boomers and members of Generation X are close to the national average in terms of wanting marijuana to be made legal, at 61% and 63%, respectively.

Majorities of major U.S. racial and ethnic subgroups endorse the legalization of marijuana, but blacks are more likely to hold this view than whites, while Hispanics show even less support.  Americans who attend religious services on a weekly basis are among the subgroups least likely to say marijuana should be made legal, with just 42% in favor.  That compares with more than three-quarters of those who seldom or never attend church (77%) and 63% of those who attend occasionally.

Americans have rapidly shifted to backing legal marijuana in the past decade after consistently expressing opposition for 40 years. It appears the increases in support have halted for the time being, with no change in the percentage favoring legalization over the past year. However, given generational differences in support for legalizing marijuana use, it is likely the percentage who endorse making marijuana use legal will continue to expand in the years ahead.

Even if support has leveled off for the time being, it remains solidly above the majority level, and has created a public opinion environment that is conducive to more states adopting pro-marijuana policies.  Although most states now allow marijuana usage for medical if not recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal according to federal law.

October 26, 2019 in Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Senator Bernie Sanders puts forth details for his plan to legalize marijuana and repair harms of the drug war

95e4ca64-1205-4f28-b167-c6912ed95230-sandersIn August, Senator Bernie Sanders released this extended plan detailing a wide array of criminal justice reform proposals.  Unsurprisingly, one plank of his broader reform plan included a commitment to "legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs."  Today, as detailed on this campaign page, Senator Sanders has provided a lot more of his proposed particulars for marijuana reform and here are excerpts:

As president, Bernie will:

Legalize marijuana in the first 100 days with executive action by:

  • Nominating an attorney general, HHS secretary, and administrator for the DEA who will all work to aggressively end the drug war and legalize marijuana
  • Immediately issuing an executive order that directs the Attorney General to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance
  • While Congress must aggressively move to end the war on drugs and undo its damage, as president Bernie will not wait for Congress to act. Passing legislation to ensure permanent legalization of marijuana

Vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions.

  • In a Sanders administration we will review all marijuana convictions - both federal and state - for expungement and re-sentencing. All past convictions will be expunged.
  • Based on the California model, we will direct federal and state authorities to review current and past marijuana related convictions for eligibility. This review will include re-sentencing for all currently incarcerated with marijuana convictions. Following determination of eligibility or status, prosecutors will have one year to appeal or object, after which authorities will automatically expunge and vacate past marijuana convictions for all those eligible.
  • Federal funding will be provided to states and cities to partner with organizations that can help develop and operate the expungement determination process, much like how California worked with Code for America....

Ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African-American and other communities of color.  With new tax resources from legal marijuana sales, we will:

  • Create a $20 billion grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color who continue to face discrimination in access to capital.
  • With this revenue we will also create a $10 billion grant program to focus on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by those in disproportionately impacted areas or individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses....
  • Use revenue from marijuana sales to establish a targeted $10 billion USDA grant program to help disproportionately impacted areas and individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses start urban and rural farms and urban and rural marijuana growing operations to ensure people impacted by the war on drugs have access to the entire marijuana industry....
  • Create a $10 billion targeted economic and community development fund to provide grants to communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

Ensure Legalized Marijuana Does Not Turn Into Big Tobacco  Big Tobacco is already targeting the marijuana industry for its profits.  As president, Bernie will not allow marijuana to turn into Big Tobacco.  He will:

  • Incentivize marijuana businesses to be structured like nonprofits.
  • We will provide resources for people to start cooperatives and collective nonprofits as marijuana businesses that will create jobs and economic growth in local communities.

October 24, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"Pop Culture's Influence on Recreational Marijuana Use & Legislation: A Case Study on Snoop Dogg"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Abby Graves, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the fourteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The thirteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:

Marijuana has taken a long journey through the court of public opinion; from condemned fringe use in minority communities and by jazz musicians through the 20s and 40s, to its heyday in the 60s and 70s era of Woodstock and Bob Dylan, only to be villainized again in the 80s and 90s.  Today, the public perception of marijuana is dawning a new era of acceptance, in no small part thanks to its normalization in rap music and white America’s embrace of men like Calvin Broadus, also known as Snoop Doggy Dogg.  Modern popular culture has slowly changed the public perception of recreational marijuana use and paved the way for legalization.  Social scientists have been able to link the lyrics in popular music to the attitudes in popular opinion, and this paper will focus on the influence of hip hop, gangsta rap, the cult of celebrity, and Snoop Dogg himself on modern legalization efforts and cannabusiness.

Prior student papers in this series:

October 23, 2019 in Music, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus to hold hearing on "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers."

As reported here via Marijuana Moment and as made official on this Senate webpage, the Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus is scheduled to hold a two-panel hearing on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 2:30pm under the title "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers."  Here is the "Witness List":

Panel I Consisting of:

  • Jerome Adams, MD, Surgeon General of the United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
  • Nora Volkow, MD, Director, National Institute of Drug Abuse, North Bethesda, MD 

Panel II Consisting of:

  • Robert Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, University of California-San Diego, San Diego, CA
  • Staci Gruber, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • Sean Hennessy, Pharm.D, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
  • Madeline Meier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Here is some context from the Marijuana Moment article:

While the panel has released few details about the meeting, the list of witnesses gives some indication about what kind of subject matter will be covered.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is set to participate in the first panel. The official is an outspoken critic of cannabis reform, decrying increased THC potency and decreased perception of marijuana risks among youth. He issued an advisory in August warning the public about marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), will join Adams on that panel. While often skeptical about claims about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis such as its ability to help people overcome addiction to opioids, Volkow has repeatedly stated that the Schedule I status of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act is inhibiting research into the plant....

For the caucus’s second panel, four professors from universities across the country will weigh in on marijuana and public health. Robert Fitzgerald of the University of California at San Diego, Staci Gruber of Harvard Medical School, Sean Hennessy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Madeline Meier of Arizona State University are scheduled to testify.

Fitzgerald and Gruber have led departments within their respective schools that have conducted studies into marijuana, such as Gruber’s research demonstrating that the use of medical cannabis can improve cognitive functioning. Meier is well-known for her 2012 study linking frequent marijuana use to a drop in IQ.

October 22, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Effective review of latest marijuana offense expungement efforts

Polygon US Hex Map 2It has now been about 18 months since the publication of my Federal Sentencing Reporter article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," in which I sought to spotlight the importance of integrating marijuana reform efforts and criminal record expungement efforts.  At the time I wrote my article, it was relatively uncommon to see marijuana reform proposals expressly include record clearing provisions.   But, as is common in the marijuana reform era, times have changed quite quickly and now it is becoming much more common to see marijuana reform proposals with record clearing provisions. 

This lengthy new article in Law360, headlined "Turning Over A New Leaf: The Push To Nix Old Pot Convictions," spotlights the new momentum in this space.  Here are excerpts:

An estimated 800,000 residents in Illinois alone with marijuana-related convictions on their records.  Between 2001 and 2010, more than 8.2 million marijuana-related arrests were made across the U.S., 88% of which were for simple possession.... 

Those whose arrests led to convictions often find themselves barred from certain jobs, housing, government benefits and even their children's field trips.... While more states have moved to legalize pot, many of them have failed to make provisions to help people who still carry convictions for behavior that's now legal. 

However, an increasingly loud chorus of activists, lawmakers and some prosecutors are championing bills and even lawsuits to make sure some of those most hurt by prohibition don't get left behind when it ends.In some places, those efforts are making a difference.  New York state, for instance, said it will automatically expunge convictions for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana as part of a decriminalization bill signed by the governor in July.

But opposition and inertia have stymied similar measures in a number of other jurisdictions, with critics saying avenues for expunging old convictions already exist and the new laws only serve to let people off the hook for activity that was illegal at the time....  "It's just unbelievable the kinds of things that people face even decades later from insignificant convictions," says Emma Goodman, a staff attorney in the special litigation unit of The Legal Aid Society who works to get criminal records sealed.

Since 2012, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, while another 15 have decriminalized it, usually meaning possession of small amounts is treated as a violation of the law subject only to a fine rather than time in prison.  But while arrests have fallen in some places, that's little help to the many people convicted of marijuana-related crimes in years past.

Over the past four years, at least 15 states have enacted laws providing for the expungement of those convictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Besides the expungement bill in New York, California is requiring its attorney general to review the cases of hundreds of thousands of people eligible to have convictions cleared as part of that state's marijuana legalization.
In Washington state, people with marijuana-related misdemeanors can go to court and apply to have those convictions vacated under a new law that went into effect in July.  "We had issues where people who when they were teenagers were caught smoking weed and now they have kids, and they're not allowed to go on a field trip with their kids because they had a marijuana conviction," says Democratic state Sen. Joe Nguyen, whose district includes West Seattle and who sponsored that bill....
Between 2001 and 2010, African Americans were 7.56 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in the Prairie State, according to the ACLU report.  As many as 770,000 records could be eligible for expungement under the new law, which grants automatic clemency to anyone convicted of possessing up to 30 grams of the drug, according to Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans, whose district includes part of Chicago and who is one of the bill's sponsors....
 
Activists are increasingly pushing for legalization bills "to have at least some racial justice lens and criminal justice lens" like Illinois', says Charlotte Resing, a policy analyst in the ACLU's National Political Advocacy Department. Resing's office has been working, along with a constellation of other groups, on advocating for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, introduced in Congress in July by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

That bill would not only legalize marijuana nationally but require federal courts to expunge convictions, ban the denial of federal benefits due to a previous conviction, and make entry into the cannabis industry easier for those most impacted by the war on drugs. "We wanted some reinvestment in these communities that have really had their lives ... turned upside-down by an arrest, by overpolicing, by a conviction, by serving a sentence," Resing says....

For expungement advocates, changing the law is often not enough.  When California first legalized recreational pot in 2016, the referendum included an expungement provision.  But in early 2018, when now-former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón asked how many of the more than 9,300 eligible people in the city had used the provision to escape what he calls the "paper prison," the answer was 23, according to Alex Bastian, deputy chief of staff in the San Francisco district attorney's office.   "The problem with the system in place is you would have to ... hire an attorney and pay for an attorney; you would also have to take time off from work and come in and do it yourself," Bastian says.

The San Francisco district attorney teamed up with technology nonprofit Code for America to develop a system to automatically expunge the marijuana convictions of those 9,300 people, a process his office completed in February.  In August, the district attorney of Cook County, Illinois, announced she would be partnering with Code for America to do the same.

Manhattan's district attorney, along with Goodman at the Legal Aid Society, is taking a different tack.  Frustrated with what Goodman calls "the arduous process of application-based sealing," they and a host of other organizations filed what they consider a "groundbreaking" class action in New York Supreme Court to get over 300 eligible marijuana convictions in Manhattan sealed all at once.   Justice Carol Edmead ordered the convictions sealed in July, and Goodman says her organization is looking at filing similar suits elsewhere.   "I really see sealing people's records and helping them with moving on with their lives as a way to counteract the systemic racism that still exists even decades later," Goodman says.

October 21, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Cannabis Legalization in State Legislatures: Public Health Opportunity and Risk"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Daniel Orenstein and Stanton Glantz now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Cannabis is widely used in the U.S. and internationally despite its illicit status, but that illicit status is changing.  In the U.S., 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, and 11 states and D.C. have legalized adult use cannabis.  A majority of state medical cannabis laws and all but two state adult use laws are the result of citizen ballot initiatives, but state legislatures are beginning to seriously consider adult use legislation.  From a public health perspective, cannabis legalization presents a mix of potential risks and benefits, but a legislative approach offers an opportunity to improve on existing legalization models passed using the initiative process that strongly favor business interests over public health.

To assess whether state legislatures are acting on this opportunity, this article examines provisions of proposed adult use cannabis legalization bills active in state legislatures as of February 2019 to evaluate the inclusion of key public health best practices based on successful tobacco and alcohol control public health policy frameworks. Given public support for legalization, further adoption of state adult use cannabis laws is likely, but legalization should not be viewed as a binary choice between total prohibition and laissez faire commercialization.  The extent to which adult use cannabis laws incorporate or reject public health best practices will strongly affect their impact, and health advocates should work to influence the construction of such laws to prioritize public health and learn from past successes and failures in regulating other substances.

October 21, 2019 in 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, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"The Cannabis Effect on Crime: Time-Series Analysis of Crime in Colorado and Washington State"

Justice_quarterly_front_and_The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors just now published in the journal Justice Quarterly.  Here is its abstract and part of its conclusions:

Abstract

Previous studies based on relatively weak analytical designs lacking contextualization and appropriate comparisons have reported that the legalization of marijuana has either increased or decreased crime.  Recognizing the importance for public policy making of more robust research designs in this area during a period of continuing reform of state marijuana laws, this study uses a quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series design to determine if, and how, UCR crime rates in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana, were influenced by it.  Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington.  We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states....

Conclusions

Authors of previous studies (Berenson, 2019; NHIDTA, 2016; Smart Approaches to Marijuana. (2018) argue that legalization is associated with an increase in crime.  Our results suggest that cannabis laws more broadly, and the legalization of recreational marijuana more specifically, have had minimal effect on major crime in Colorado or Washington State.  We observed virtually no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational marijuana legalization or retail sales on violent or property crime rates, except for a significant decline of burglary rates in Washington.  There were some immediate increases in crime at the point of legalization, but these did not result in long-term effects.  It is difficult to study trends for less serious crimes, as the UCR only includes arrest data for these offenses and not offenses known.  Though NIBRS data presents an attractive alternative, not all of Washington is NIBRS compliant and many of the agencies that are reporting NIBRS data have not done so for a long enough period of time pre-legalization for time series modeling to be examined.  Still, the results related to serious crime are quite clear: the legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a significant upward trend in crime rates.  Our results are robust in that we examined the first two states to legalize marijuana and compared them to states with no marijuana laws at all.  Moreover, we estimated our models in a variety of manners, including models with different interruption points, single-group interrupted time series analyses, and as a set of pooled cross-sectional models. None of our models revealed long term effects of marijuana legalization on serious crime rates.

In concert with recent research results from Makin et al. (2019), our results from Colorado and Washington suggest that legalization has not had major detrimental effects on public safety.  Having said this we would caution that it would also be premature to suggest that legalization renders substantial increases in public safety, as the rates of most crimes remained steady in this study in the post-legalization period and because crime is not the only measure of public safety.  Additional work is needed to examine the effect of legalization on other public safety outcomes, including public and mental health measures.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data"

Thanks to this posting at Marijuana Moment, I just now saw a study with the same title as the title of this post.   This study, which was authored by Erin Farley and Stan Orchowsky and was supported "using funding from the National Institute of Justice, between the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Justice Research and Statistics Association," sought "to address three research questions: (1) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on criminal justice resources in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon?; (2) What are the impacts on criminal justice resources in states that border those that have legalized marijuana? This includes Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas; and (3) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on drug trafficking through northern and southwest border states?  This includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington."

Notably, the paper highlights that state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs) "were unable to provide the requested information" to answer these questions as a result of the fact that the requested data "did not exist because they were not being tracked or they were being tracked/collected but were not readily available because they were not being reported in any systematic way to a centralized agency." Data limitations notwithstanding and subject to other caveats about analytical challenges, the report ends noting "some general conclusions can be offered based on the analyses of the quantitative and qualitative data presented here."  Here are excerpts from these conclusions:

First, it indeed seems to be the case that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana results in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases.  Whether we look at arrests or court case filings for possession or distribution, marijuana related offenses seem to have decreased in Oregon and Washington since legalization of recreational use. In most cases, these decreases appear to have started well before legislation was enacted, perhaps reflecting changes in law enforcement policies and practices in anticipation of the coming policy changes.

Interviews with law enforcement officials, though based on the perceptions of only a small number of respondents, provided insight into a number of concerns with regard to legalization of marijuana, including the potency of marijuana products, increased marijuana use among youth, and increases in incidents of drugged driving.  All of these anecdotal “findings” may potentially be verified empirically, provided that law enforcement agencies collect the requisite data and make it available for analysis. It should also be noted that several of the law enforcement officers interviewed indicated that methamphetamine and heroin were much larger problems for their agencies than was marijuana.

Our efforts to address the second question, regarding border states, were limited by the lack of availability of data in these states.  Nevertheless, for the data we examined, we saw no evidence that marijuana legalization had an impact on indicators in border states. Marijuana-related arrests and charges did not increase in either the state as a whole or, in the case of Nebraska, in counties that directly border the state that legalized marijuana, after legalization. It is possible that additional indicators or a longer follow-up time period might reveal impacts in these states and localities.  The few interviews we conducted in one border state (Nebraska) suggested increases in the potency of marijuana and in incidents of driving under the influence of marijuana. Again, these are perceptions that should be verified by future research.

The third question, related to drug trafficking, was particularly challenging to address.  Relatively few individuals were charged with trafficking in the data we examined, and it is difficult to identify other indicators of trafficking in state and local data.  However, in the data we did examine we found no indications of increases in arrests related to transportation/trafficking offenses.  Interview results suggested that drug trafficking had indeed increased in some states, including border states. Again, it is possible that different indicators, examined over a longer period of time, might reveal impacts of marijuana legalization on drug trafficking.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Cannabis Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by William J. Meadows, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the thirteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The twelve prior papers in this series are linked below.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:

This paper discusses how states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis are struggling to subdue the black market.  One of the goals of legalization was to defeat the black market and create a safer legal market for cannabis products.  However, the black market still persists today, and in many states, it is actually dominating the legal market.  This paper analyzes several reasons why consumers choose the black market, and it discusses several advantages black-market producers have over the legal market.  Finally, this paper offers several possible solutions to this problem, such as working with the black market and decreasing barriers to entry in the legal market.

Prior student papers in this series:

October 7, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tobacco historian makes case for why and how "Marijuana Reform Should Focus On Inequality"

The quoted part of the title of this post is the headline of this new Atlantic commentary authored by Sarah Milov.  The piece caught my eye in part because the piece's author, a history professor at the University of Virginia, is also the author of an interesting sounding new book, The Cigarette: A Political History.  Here are some excerpts from this new Atlantic commentary:

Especially because Americans of color have borne the brunt of the drug war, they deserve to share in the marijuana boom now taking hold across the country.  And if America’s long history with another smokable intoxicant — tobacco — is any guide, government rules will decide who can profit from growing the crop.  At the moment, though, those rules favor well-connected corporate growers rather than independent farmers, much less independent farmers of color....

Making up for the brutal inequalities of the drug war should be a major goal of marijuana reformers — but so far, the reality isn’t working out that way.  state that reforms its marijuana laws must decide how it will allocate production rights.  Right now, states severely restrict the number of licenses awarded to cannabis growers, ensuring corporate domination of the industry.  In New York, where medical marijuana is legal, just 10 companies own licenses to cultivate and dispense marijuana.  Competition is fierce over the licenses, which can sell for tens of millions of dollars — even before an ounce of marijuana is sold.  For this reason, licenses tend to go to well-financed pot conglomerates that own cultivation facilities in multiple states.

That outcome should not come as a surprise.  A federally supported program set rules for tobacco growers from the Great Depression until early this century.  Its history suggests that production regulations, when done right, can be a powerful tool to spread wealth — but also that, when done wrong, they are a highly efficient way of excluding people from an industry....

But for all its flaws, the tobacco program succeeded at what it was meant to do: endowing a designated class of Americans with a way of life that buoyed entire regional economies.  Because of strict production restrictions, tobacco farms were among the smallest for any staple commodity, which forestalled the consolidation of farms and an exodus of residents from rural areas.  And there were many tobacco farmers in the middle stratum of the farm income ladder, and relatively few at the top.  Small tobacco farms could still provide for a decent standard of living because tobacco was a high-value crop.  Growing even a small amount could be lucrative.  In 1980, an acre of cigarette tobacco was worth $2,700, as opposed to $150 for corn or $250 for soybeans.  “There is absolutely nothing on this Earth that can compete with tobacco money,” a USDA economist told The Washington Post in 1980.  Except, he added, “illegal smoking material.”...

Now that “illegal smoking materials” are legal in many states, the licensure system for marijuana cultivation is poised to replicate some of the oligopolistic features of the tobacco program, while thwarting its genuinely redistributive ones.  Instead of charging would-be cannabis growers for the privilege of growing, states should award licenses to a larger number of applicants from communities that have been hit hard by the War on Drugs.  Much as small-scale tobacco farms anchored entire communities across the Southeast, cannabis cultivation on a human scale, rather than a corporate one, can build wealth within communities of color where opportunities to amass property have been denied—  frequently at the hands of the government.

Indeed, the excesses of the drug war aren’t the only reason to enact more inclusive policies for marijuana farming.  U.S. agricultural policy, too, has throughout its history been skewed against African Americans.  When black farmers have availed themselves of government programs, they have frequently found discrimination and, ultimately, dispossession.

But those same tools can be put to work in the opposite direction.  The tobacco program was devised to address the emergency of the Great Depression, and it did so in a way that sustained the livelihoods and communities of a targeted group of Americans.  The effects of the War on Drugs are no less severe for communities of color, and the need for opportunity is no less urgent.

October 6, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Noticing how some major cannabis players are responding to vaping crisis

I have notices a number of new stories and reports about a number of marijuana reform groups and marijuana industry players responding to the recent worrisome vaping illnesses and deaths.  Here is a partial round-up:

From Americans For Safe Access, "ASA Creates Patient-Focused Recommendations in Light of the Vaping Crisis"

From Marijuana Policy Project, "Nation’s Largest Marijuana Policy Reform Group Releases Report on Cannabis Vaping Regulations"

From Marijuana Moment, "Hundreds Of Companies Sign Letter Calling For Marijuana Descheduling To Prevent Vaping Injuries"

October 3, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

"100 Years Since Prohibition: Legacy for the War on Drugs"

The title of this post is the title of a talk by Harvard University Professor Lisa McGirr being hosted tomorrow by the The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. Here is the event description:

In her latest book, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, Lisa McGirr revises our understanding of the Prohibition years.  The 1920s were not just about gin joints and Jazz; McGirr emphasizes, instead, the serious and long-lasting legacies of the ban on alcohol.  McGirr charts how the ban built the edifice of the federal penal state, fueled the Ku Klux Klan’s power, reshaped politics, and served as a dress rehearsal for the much larger and longer-lasting war on drugs.

For those in the central Ohio area, it is not too late to register for this event at this link.

October 3, 2019 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

"Contribution of Marijuana Legalization to the U.S. Opioid Mortality Epidemic: Individual and Combined Experience of 27 States and District of Columbia"

The title of this post is the title of this new forthcoming research article authored by Archie Bleyer and Brian Barnes.  Here is its abstract:

Background

Prior studies of U.S. states as of 2013 and one state as of 2015 suggested that marijuana availability reduces opioid mortality (marijuana protection hypothesis).  This investigation tested the hypothesis with opioid mortality trends updated to 2017 and by evaluating all states and the District of Columbia (D.C.).

Methods

Opioid mortality data obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used to compare opioid death rate trends in each marijuana-legalizing state and D.C. before and after medicinal and recreational legalization implementation and their individual and cumulative aggregate trends with concomitant trends in non-legalizing states.  The Joinpoint Regression Program identified statistically-significant mortality trends and when they occurred.

Results

Of 23 individually evaluable legalizing jurisdictions, 78% had evidence for a statistically-significant acceleration of opioid death rates after medicinal or recreational legalization implementation at greater rates than their pre-legalization rate or the concurrent composite rate in non-legalizing states.  All four jurisdictions evaluable for recreational legalization had evidence (p <0.05) for subsequent opioid death rate increases, one had a distinct acceleration, and one a reversal of prior decline.  Since 2009-2012, when the cumulative-aggregate opioid death rate in the legalizing jurisdictions was the same as in the non-legalizing group, the legalizing group′s rate accelerated increasingly faster (p=0.009).  By 2017 it was 67% greater than in the non-legalizing group (p<0.05).

Conclusions

The marijuana protection hypothesis is not supported by recent U.S. data on opioid mortality trends.  Instead, legalizing marijuana appears to have contributed to the nation′s opioid mortality epidemic.

October 1, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)