Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"Man smokes marijuana in front of judge after advocating for legalization"

The title of this post is the headline of this new ABC News piece that should be filed in the category "There are safer (and smarter) ways to advocate for marijuana reform."  Here are the details (and click through for the video):

A 20-year-old man caused a stir in a Tennessee courthouse when he advocated for the legalization of marijuana and then proceeded to spark a joint in front of the judge.

Spencer Alan Boston was appearing before Judge Haywood Barry on Monday at the Wilson County Courthouse in Lebanon, on a simple possession-of-marijuana citation, when he began to tell Barry that marijuana should be legalized, according to Lt. Scott Moore, a spokesman for the Wilson County Sheriff' Office.

Courtroom video captured what came next: Boston is seen seen reaching into his jacket pocket, pulling out what appears to be a joint and lighting it up, taking multiple puffs. Security quickly intervened and took Boston into custody.

Moore told ABC News in a telephone interview that Boston said something to the effect of "the people deserve better" before he was taken away. "I've been here 20 years," Moore added, "and this is the first time I've ever seen that."

Boston faces two new charges: disorderly conduct and simple possession of marijuana. He's being held on $3,000 bond, online jail records show. He'll also have to serve 10 days in Wilson County Jail because Barry held him in contempt of the court, according to Moore.... The joint smoked in court was collected as evidence.

January 28, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 27, 2020

"A Brief Global History of the War on Cannabis"

Cover-2I have started another semester of my Marijuana Law and Policy seminar at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and early in the semester I spend considerable time exploring the history of all sort of drug laws (including, of course, those dealing with alcohol and so-called harder drugs).  Thus, I was very pleased this week to see this new extended posting at the MIT Press Reader authored by Ryan Stoa (the author of “Craft Weed”).  I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts from the start and end of the great piece:

Before the war on drugs put marijuana farmers firmly in its crosshairs, cannabis was being grown openly and with commercial success on every continent on earth, much as it had been for centuries.

This ancient and extensive history of cannabis farming has given rise to the idea that prohibitions put in place in the mid-20th century were the first of their kind — a whirlwind of racial, political, and economic forces that successfully used marijuana prohibition as a pretext for suppression.  By contrasting prohibition with our ancient history of cannabis farming, some historians make our modern-day drug laws appear irregular and shortsighted....

Yet, while unprecedented in scope, the United States’ war on drugs was not the first of its kind. The reality is that marijuana has been controversial for almost as long as humans have been farming it. Many societies throughout history have banned cannabis cultivation and use. What many of these crackdowns and prohibitions have in common is social and economic inequality, or a distrust of the unknown. When members of a minority or lower class embrace marijuana use, the ruling class moves to outlaw marijuana as a form of suppression and control. Marijuana is perceived to be a threat to the order of society, and stamping it out naturally begins with a prohibition on cultivation.

What many of these crackdowns and prohibitions have in common is social and economic inequality, or a distrust of the unknown.  As a case in point, the ancient Chinese might have been the first cannabis farmers — and, as far as we know, were the first to write about psychoactive marijuana — and yet they may also have been the first to reject it as a socially acceptable drug.  The rise of Taoism around 600 BCE brought with it a cultural rejection of intoxicants.  Marijuana was then viewed as antisocial, and derisively dismissed by one Taoist priest as a loony drug reserved for shamans.  The sentiment persisted into the modern era — to this day, marijuana struggles to disassociate itself with the stained history of opium in China....

The historical record illustrates that while many regions of the world have tolerated or embraced marijuana farming in the past, plenty of others have seen authorities attempt to exterminate farmers and their crops.  Targeting the first step in the supply chain is a logical starting point for prohibitionists, and marijuana’s role as an agent of religious, political, or economic change has long made it a threat to the established social order.

Our marijuana-farming ancestors of the past could have told us, based on experience, that when prohibitionists come after cannabis, they will do so in predictable ways. They will use rhetoric to associate the plant with violence, depravity, and other more dangerous drugs, as the European temperance movement did in France and Great Britain.  They will use a militarized show of force to eradicate crops, persecute farmers, and dissuade the next generation from growing marijuana, as the Ottomans did in Egypt.  They will portray marijuana users as religious extremists or dangerous minorities, as Pope Innocent VIII did in Europe, Sunni Muslims did in the Middle East, or white South Africans did in South Africa.  The best-case scenario, they might say, is that the authorities will turn a blind eye to the unstoppable forces of supply and demand, much as the Portuguese did in Brazil or the British did in India.

In telling us this, our marijuana-farming ancestors might as well have been writing the playbook for the 20th-century war on drugs.  The cannabis prohibition era in the United States did not invent this “greatest hits” collection of tactics that prohibitionists have been using for centuries; it simply brought them all together in one place, and injected them with more financial and military resources than any prohibition movement in history has ever seen.

January 27, 2020 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Should the public health community applaud shifts from alcohol to marijuana (and support cannabis beverages)?

960x0The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting recent Forbes piece headlined "Cannabis Taking A Larger Share Of Alcohol Industry Amid Concern Over Calories And Hangovers." Here are excerpts:

The growing concern over calories and hangovers is driving more millennials to replace alcohol with cannabis in their social life — a trend that pushes investors to increasingly eye the infused beverage industry as an opportunity.

A recent Monitoring the Future research found US millennials drink far less alcohol than previous generations: The percentage of college students who drink alcohol daily declined from 6.5% in 1980 to 2.2% in 2017.  By contrast, there was a significant increase in daily marijuana use among young US adults, especially during 2019, the research further revealed, resonating with the gradual legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across the country....

Financial services company Cowen predicts the sales of recreational cannabis in the US will increase more than 700% from $6 billion in 2016 to $50 billion in 2026, prompting beverage companies of all sizes, such as Ceria, to tap into the space to grow their profits.  Keith Villa, the creator of Blue Moon Brewing Company, launched Ceria in 2018 – a company produces a cannabis-infused and non-alcoholic craft beer brand Grainwave.  Breweries that manufactures similar products include Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing and Dad & Dude’s Breweria, as well as SweetWater Brewing Co. of Georgia.  Several mainstream CPG heavyweights, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Mondelēz, also reportedly consider launching infused food products, but nothing so far has materialized.

These existing infused beverages in the market, however, do not appeal widely to consumers who are already frequent cannabis users, at least according to Jake Bullock, co-founder of cannabis-infused social tonic startup Cann.  Cann produces cannabis-infused beverage products that are low in calories.  “As a result, the mainstream consumer is not entering the market as quickly,” he wrote me via email, stressing the cannabis industry has lagged the growth projections many analysts and companies have made.  “It is clear that cannabis is here to stay and will only continue to penetrate existing markets and new states over time,” Bullock added....

The other element that prevents more people from exploring THC-added food is their confusion with CBD products.  The other co-founder of Cann, Luke Anderson, notes many consumers who are curious about cannabis turn to CBD to explore the plant, but often time, they don’t know the difference between the cannabinoids.  “This has created a lot of confusion in the market, with people thinking they would 'feel something' after trying a CBD-only product and not being able to tell what was physiologically happening versus a placebo effect,” he said.

“This experience may have discouraged people from exploring micro doses of THC, which are quite safe but give you a very palpable buzz.  While CBD products play in a crowded health and wellness segment of grocery aisles.”

Anderson said his company has aimed to reshape the alcohol industry with a small amount of THC in each can since it was first launched about a year ago.  Cann prides itself in balancing 2 mg of sativa-dominant hybrid THC and 4mg of CBD to provide a “sessionable experience” without high calories and the hangover.

When the modern marijuana reform movement got started, I was often in the habit of saying that it would likely be a "public health win" if a lot of alcohol use was replaced by marijuana use. This article suggest this is already happening, and I presume a growing cannabis beverage market would enhance the number of folks who might substitute cannabis for alcohol. But, as the question in this post title reveals, I am not knowledgeable enough about the public health literature to say for sure that these trends ought to be applauded.

January 23, 2020 in Food and Drink, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Highlighting another troublesome spot at the intersection of marijuana reform and criminal justice systems

Regular readers know that, because of my work in the criminal justice arena, I often come to marijuana reform stories with an extra focus on how marijuana law and policy impact criminal justice system.  Though I am particularly interested in topics covered in my Federal Sentencing Reporter article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," regarding how marijuana reform efforts may be impacting criminal record expungement efforts, there are so many other interesting (and troublesome) spots where marijuana reform intersects with criminal law and practice.

This recent Marshall Project piece looks at one of these spots in a piece headlined "People on Probation and Parole Are Being Denied Perfectly Legal Medical Weed: Despite statewide legalization, some counties ban probationers and parolees from using medical marijuana. So the chronically ill turn to less effective and more addictive prescription drugs."  Here are excerpts:

Following years of research demonstrating that marijuana can be a life-changing treatment for people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, eating disorders, nausea and epilepsy, and that it is neither physically addictive nor an evident danger to public safety, the drug has been legalized for medical use in 33 states and for adults over 21 to smoke recreationally in 11.  Yet for most people on probation or parole — even in precisely these same states — drug testing remains the rule, and jail time the potential punishment.

The argument that many parole and probation authorities make for this seeming contradiction is that regardless of whether marijuana has been legalized in their state, it remains illegal at the federal level, and that if you’re under government supervision for committing a crime, you should at the very least have to follow all state and federal laws.  Some parole and probation officials also point out that they drug-test their own officers, so the people they oversee should be held to at least the same standard.

“I don’t know of any paroling authorities who are casual about marijuana — it’s part of their institutional culture, and old habits are hard to break,” said Edward E. Rhine, a former corrections official in multiple states and an expert on parole at the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Law School.  “Obviously most people couldn’t conceive of marijuana being allowed inside a prison, even if that prison is in a state where it has been legalized.”

A handful of states where marijuana is now legal, though, have taken action to make it available to people on probation or parole.  Arizona’s supreme court ruled in 2015 that medical marijuana patients cannot be arrested or jailed for taking their medication, even if they are under court supervision.  An Oregon appeals court in 2018 issued a similar decision.  Within Pennsylvania, where there isn’t yet any such ruling statewide, different counties have different policies....  In other states where there haven’t been major court cases, county courts and even individual probation officers are often responsible for deciding whether to drug-test — and possibly jail — those under their control. Some do so only when marijuana or drugs were related to someone’s underlying crime.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania [is] challenging the court rule in Lebanon County that prohibits parolees and probationers who have a prescription for medical marijuana from using it....   The ACLU’s position is that these counties’ rules contradict the letter and intent of Pennsylvania’s 2016 medical marijuana law, which protected medical marijuana patients from any criminal sanction.  The legislation expressly prohibited people in prison from possessing pot, but did not expressly exclude those on parole or probation. The lawyers also point out that people under court supervision can still use opioids with a prescription — which is far more of a public health concern in this day and age, especially in Pennsylvania....

In Colorado, where anyone can smoke a joint freely, a parolee named Mark Paulsen is still being tested for marijuana — even though he is about to die.  In 2009, Paulsen, a former mechanic who is an alcoholic, blacked out while drinking and attacked two acquaintances with a knife (neither was killed).  He was sentenced to prison for a decade, records show.  There, his hepatitis of the liver worsened, becoming end-stage cirrhosis by the time he was released last year.

Paulsen, 64, is now on parole outside Denver.  He is visibly ill, jaundiced and constantly bleeding.  He has peach-sized tumors in his abdomen, which he says make walking around feel like jumping up and down with heavy, jagged rocks in his belly.  And his nausea is so severe that he has at times gone weeks without eating solid food. “The always-there-ness” of the stomach pain, he said, “is what gets you.”

As he waits to die, there have been all the challenges familiar to people on parole.  He got out of prison with no money or health insurance, and has to go to the emergency room instead of to a specialist because he’s in such immediate pain, he says.  There, he has racked up insurmountable medical debt.

The only things that would ease his symptoms are opioids or medical marijuana, but the former is something that doctors have been wary to prescribe, amid a nationwide epidemic.  The latter, Paulsen believes, would seem the solution. (He also has been sober ever since his crime and is not “drug-seeking,” he emphasizes.)  Yet every morning, he has to call his parole office, he says.  If he is randomly selected that day, he must ride the bus an hour and a half, those sharp rocks in his stomach jostling, to take a drug test.  And if he fails one, he could be sent back to prison for whatever time he has left before dying.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections said that if a parolee has a prescription for medical marijuana, the agency in most instances is willing to “work with” that person to avoid being sanctioned for using it.  She later added, “Our parole team is going to reach out directly to Mr. Paulsen to see what assistance they can provide.”

January 20, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taking stock of 2020 marijuana reform prospects in various states (and noting some significant omissions)

US-legalization-prospects-2020Jeff Smith over at MJBizDaily has this helpful article (with a helpful graphic) under the headline "Several states could legalize cannabis sales in 2020 as marijuana industry eyes lucrative East Coast market."  The article maps out the ten or so states that might move forward with adult-use legalization regimes in 2020 and also reviews the handful of states in which medical marijuana legalization might move forward this year.  Here is a snippet from the start of the piece:

Up to a dozen states could legalize adult-use or medical marijuana in 2020 through their legislatures or ballot measures, although only about a handful will likely do so.

Much of the cannabis industry’s focus will home in on a possible recreational marijuana domino effect along the East Coast, which could create billions of dollars in business opportunities.  Adult-use legalization efforts in New York and New Jersey stalled in 2019, but optimism has rekindled this year.

Potential legalization activity runs from the Southwest to the Dakotas to the Deep South. Mississippi in particular has a business-friendly medical cannabis initiative that has qualified for the 2020 ballot.

If even a handful of these state marijuana reforms move forward this year, it becomes that much more likely that some form of federal reform will have to follow. That reality is one of the theme of this lengthy new Politico article which also provides an accounting of potential state reforms under the full headline "Marijuana legalization may hit 40 states. Now what?: Changes in state laws could usher in even more confusion for law enforcement and escalate the pressure on Congress to act." Here is an excerpt:

More than 40 U.S. states could allow some form of legal marijuana by the end of 2020, including deep red Mississippi and South Dakota — and they’re doing it with the help of some conservatives.  State lawmakers are teeing up their bills as legislative sessions kick off around the country, and advocates pushing ballot measures are racing to collect and certify signatures to meet deadlines for getting their questions to voters.

Should they succeed, every state could have marijuana laws on the books that deviate from federal law, but people could still be prosecuted if they drive across state lines with their weed, because the total federal ban on marijuana isn’t expected to budge any time soon.  The changes could usher in even more confusion for law enforcement and escalate the pressure on Congress to act.  Federal bills are crawling through Congress, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell firmly against legalization....

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we can win more marijuana reform ballot initiatives on one Election Day than on any previous Election Day,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project.  Schweich cited growing public support for the issue among both liberals and conservatives.  The measures that make the ballot could drive voter turnout at the polls and by extension affect the presidential election.

Liberal states that allow ballot petitions have largely voted to legalize marijuana, including California, Oregon and Massachusetts.  “Now, we’re venturing into new, redder territory and what we’re finding is voters are ready to approve these laws in those states,” said Schweich, who, along with leading legalization campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan, served as the co-director of the medical marijuana legalization campaign in Utah.  “If we can pass medical marijuana in Utah, we can pass it anywhere.”

National organizations like his are eschewing swing states like Florida and Ohio, where the costs of running a ballot campaign are high during a presidential election. They are intentionally targeting states with smaller populations.  For advocates, running successful campaigns in six less-populous states means potentially 12 more senators representing legal marijuana states.  “The cost of an Ohio campaign could cover the costs of [four to six] other ballot initiative campaigns. Our first goal is to pass laws in as many places as we can,” Schweich said.

They can’t take anything for granted, however.  In Florida, where polling says two-thirds of voters want to legalize pot, one effort to gather enough signatures for a 2020 ballot measure collapsed last year, and a second gave up on Tuesday, saying there’s not enough time to vet 700,000 signatures.  Organizers are looking to 2022.  And many legislative efforts to legalize marijuana came up short in 2019, including in New York and New Jersey.  Those efforts were derailed in part over concerns about how to help people disproportionately harmed by criminal marijuana prosecutions, despite broad support from Democratic-controlled legislatures and the governors.

I fully understand the strategic and economic reasons why MPP and other national marijuana reform activist groups have chosen not to focus on big purple states like Florida and Ohio for full legalization campaigns. But these two states have unique long-standing and well-earned reputations as national swing states. Only if (when?) these kinds of big (reddish-purple) states go the route of full legalization will I think federal reform becomes unavoidable.

January 20, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"From Reefer Madness to Hemp Utopia: CBD, Hemp and the Evolving Regulation of Commoditized Cannabis"

Jan-24-Cannabis-Roundtable_for-email-600x400The title of this post is the title of this exciting event taking place next week put on by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University.  Here are all the essential details and some background from this page where you can also find a registration link: 

When: Friday, January 24 from 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Where: 2nd Floor Rotunda, Mason Hall, 250 W Woodruff Avenue, Columbus Ohio

Join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and the Center for Innovation Strategies for From Reefer Madness to Hemp Utopia: CBD, Hemp and the Evolving Regulation of Commoditized Cannabis.  The latest Cannabiz Roundtable discussion will feature a panel of experts as they discuss the challenges of regulating the unusual agricultural commodity that is hemp and the myriad products infused with one of its derivatives, CBD.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the world of the cannabis plant has undergone a seismic shift allowing for its legal cultivation as long as its THC content remains below 0.3%.  A year later, the federal and state governments, including the state of Ohio, are in the process of creating regulations that would allow the agricultural sector to take advantage of this new crop while at the same time addressing numerous concerns about public health and law enforcement.

 

Speakers

Benton Bodamer, DEPC Adjunct Faculty, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Columbus


Donnie Burton, Owner and CEO, The Harvest Foundation


David E. Miran, Jr. Esq., Executive Director, Hemp Program, Ohio Department of Agriculture


Anthony Seegers
, Director of State Policy, Ohio Farm Bureau


Patricia Zettler, DEPC Assistant Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law

 

Moderator: Douglas Berman, Executive Director, DEPC


Schedule

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. | registration
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. | panel
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. | follow up conversation and networking

January 16, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

New research suggest early, heavy marijuana users may have persistent driving impairment

This new CNN article covers some interesting new driving research, although like lots of media this CNN piece -- and especially its headline ("Weed impairs driving skills long after the high is gone") -- obscures some nuances of the research.   I always recommend checking out the original research, which here appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.  The research article is headlined "Recreational cannabis use impairs driving performance in the absence of acute intoxication," and here is its abstract:

Background

Across the nation, growing numbers of individuals are exploring the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and the proportion of cannabis-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes increased from 8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014, raising concerns about the impact of cannabis use on driving. Previous studies have demonstrated that cannabis use is associated with impaired driving performance, but thus far, research has primarily focused on the effects of acute intoxication.

Methods

The current study assessed the potential impact of cannabis use on driving performance using a customized driving simulator in non-intoxicated, heavy, recreational cannabis users and healthy controls (HCs) without a history of cannabis use.

Results

Overall, cannabis users demonstrated impaired driving relative to HC participants with increased accidents, speed, and lateral movement, and reduced rule-following. Interestingly, however, when cannabis users were divided into groups based on age of onset of regular cannabis use, significant driving impairment was detected and completely localized to those with early onset (onset before age 16) relative to the late onset group (onset ≥16 years old). Further, covariate analyses suggest that impulsivity had a significant impact on performance differences.

Conclusions

Chronic, heavy, recreational cannabis use was associated with worse driving performance in non-intoxicated drivers, and earlier onset of use was associated with greater impairment. These results may be related to other factors associated with early exposure such as increased impulsivity.

January 16, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Intriguing little survey on Ohioians views on marijuana a year after its medical program began

Download (7)The group Interact for Health recently released this report detailed the results of a survey focused on "Ohio adults’ knowledge of marijuana use and perception of its harm." Here are excerpts:

The Ohio Health Issues Poll (OHIP) is conducted every year to learn more about the health opinions, behaviors and status of Ohio adults. In 2016 Ohio legalized medical marijuana. It became available in early 2019....

OHIP in 2019 asked Ohio adults about their knowledge of marijuana use among friends and family members, their perception of harm and their participation in the medical marijuana program....

OHIP asked “Do you have a friend or family member who regularly uses marijuana?” About half of Ohio adults said yes (46%).

OHIP also asked, “How much do you think people risk harming themselves by regularly using marijuana?” About half of Ohio adults (47%) said they think regularly using marijuana is a great deal or somewhat harmful.

Responses varied the person knows someone who regularly uses marijuana. Three in 10 Ohio adults (30%) who have a friend or family member who regularly uses marijuana perceive marijuana as harmful. That compares with 6 in 10 Ohio adults (61%) who do not know someone who regularly uses marijuana.

OHIP asked several questions to learn how many Ohioans had explored the new medical marijuana options. OHIP asked, “Have you ever sought information about whether you have a medical condition that can be treated with medical marijuana in the state of Ohio?” About 8 in 10 Ohio adults (83%) have not sought medical marijuana information. Ohio adults who do not perceive marijuana as harmful are more likely (26%) than those who perceive marijuana as harmful (8%) to seek information.

OHIP then asked, “Has your doctor written you a recommendation for the use of medical marijuana?” Very few Ohio adults (2%) reported this. Among those who did, OHIP asked “Have you completed your registration with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Patient and Caregiver Registry?” Very few Ohio adults did.

January 15, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

US House Subcommittee to hold hearing on Jan 15, 2020 on "Cannabis Policies for the New Decade"

Ccc_SQUAREAs detailed on this US House committee webpage, the "Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the John D. Dingell Room, 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, 'Cannabis Policies for the New Decade'."  Interestingly, the hearing page provides a list and links to six House bills with varying approaches to marijuana reform as well as the names and titled of the three government officials now scheduled to testify:

Legislation

H.R. 171, the "Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marihuana Act" or the "LUMMA"

H.R. 601, the "Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019"

H.R. 1151, the "Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act"

H.R. 2843, the "Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act"

H.R. 3797, the "Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019"

H.R. 3884, the "Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019" or the "MORE Act of 2019"

 

Witnesses

Matthew J. Strait
Senior Policy Advisor, Diversion Control Division
Drug Enforcement Administration

Douglas Throckmorton, M.D.
Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
Food and Drug Administration

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

 

Also listed on the website is a "Key Document" in the form of a "Memorandum from Chairman Pallone to the Subcommittee on Health."  This memo runs six pages and provides a nice primer on the basics of federal cannabis law as well as a very brief accounting of the six bills listed above.

January 13, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Is 2020 really going to be "a defining year for the cannabis industry"?

Us-1231-1364894-frontThe question in the title of this post is promoted by this CNN Business piece which asserts in its headline "2020 could be a defining year for the cannabis industry."   I find myself a bit skeptical because it seems someone says every January that this year is going to be a defining one for marijuana reform.  But I do think there are reasons to see 2020 as an especially big year in this space, and here is part of the article:

2019 was a momentous year for the cannabis industry: Hemp-derived CBD had a heyday, Illinois made history, California got sticky, vapes were flung into flux, and North American cannabis companies received some harsh wake-up calls.

2020 is gearing up to be an even more critical year. There's a well-worn saying in the cannabis business that the emerging industry is so fast-moving that it lives in dog years. 2020 is barely a week old, and cannabis is already making headlines after Illinois kicked off the new year with recreational sales. Other states are inching closer to legalization this year -- with several mulling how best to ensure social equity. Also in 2020, there's the FDA could chill the CBD craze, and a move from Congress could change the game entirely....

Illinois will remain in focus, after it made history last year with the first legislatively-enacted recreational cannabis program. Critical aspects of its program include social equity and social justice measures created to help people and communities most harmed by the War on Drugs. "Underserved groups are holding the industry accountable," said Gia Morón, president for Women Grow, a company founded to further the presence of women in the cannabis industry. "And our legislators are recognizing that [social, gender and minority concerns] are a part of this now."

New York and New Jersey have been flirting with legalization but have held off to navigate some logistics related to aspects that include social equity. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania convened this past fall for a summit on coordinating cannabis and vaping policies. New Jersey is putting a recreational cannabis measure before voters in November, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Wednesday that New York would legalize cannabis this year....

CBD products have been all the rage, but they may be on shaky ground. CBD oils, creams, foods and beverages have seen an explosion in availability following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp but left plenty of discretion to the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pharmaceutical drugs, most food items, additives and dietary supplements.

The FDA is reviewing CBD and has yet to issue formal guidance, although the agency has issued warning letters to CBD makers that make unsubstantiated health claims. Class action lawsuits have been filed against several CBD companies, including two of the largest, Charlotte's Web and CV Sciences, alleging they engaged in misleading or deceptive marketing practices, Stat News reported.

Cannabis insiders are closely awaiting the fate of industry-friendly bills such as the STATES Act, which would recognize cannabis programs at the state level, and the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow for banks to more easily serve cannabis companies. Those and other bills likely won't pass in full...

In addition to the promise of new markets, the evolution of established cannabis programs could also play a significant role in the cannabis business landscape. In California, the world's largest cannabis industry has developed in fits and starts. Regulators are taking aim at an entrenched illicit market as businesses decry tax increases and local control measures that limit distribution....

Canada's "Cannabis 2.0" roll-out of derivative products -- such as edibles, vapes and beverages -- is in its beginning stages. The Canadian publicly traded licensed producers that have been beset by missed and slow market development have bet heavily on these new product forms....

The capital constraints are expected to continue into the first leg of 2020 as some initial bets don't pan out for some companies, said Andrew Freedman, Colorado's former cannabis czar who now runs Freedman & Koski, a firm that consults with municipalities and states navigating legalization. Some companies' low points could create opportunities for other firms and investors that waited out the first cycle, Freedman said. "In 2020, I see that everybody will understand the economics of cannabis a little bit better," he said.

I am with Andrew Freedman in thinking that the realities of marijuana reform and the industry will, at best, become just "a little bit" clearer during 2020. In the end, I think what will matter most is who wins the White House and control of Congress in this big election year. If the status quo holds after the votes are counted, I do not expect to see federal reform anytime soon. But if new leadership takes over the White House or the Senate, then 2021 will become real interesting.

January 10, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Is rooting for Bengals or Browns a sign of insanity or really just a medical marijuana qualifying condition?

2ad18363-5937-4414-bf02-94d0d218ba6d-large16x9_OhiotoconsiderifbeingaBrownsorBengalsfanqualifiesformedicalmarijuanamgnI moved to central Ohio from the east coast in 1997.   I had my reasons to start following the Cincinnati Bengals upon first arriving in the Buckeye state (I grew up in Maryland in the 1980s and formed a connection with Boomer Esiason).  And I could not help but also be keen on the Cleveland Browns when the team returned to action in 1999.  But, fast forward 23 years, and I have not seen either of Ohio's professional football teams even manage to win a single playoff game over this very long period.  (Do not feel too bad for me, the OSU Buckeyes have given me plenty of victories to savor.)

Why do I tell this familiar tale of sporting woe in this space.  Well, this amusing Cincinnati Enquirer article, headlined "Bengals, Browns seasons got you down? Medical marijuana proposed as treatment," reports on why it is relevant to the work of marijuana reform in the Buckeye state:

Long-suffering Bengals and Browns fans know the pain of defeat — over and over again. At least one person thinks they should be able to treat that misery with medical marijuana.

A petition to make "Bengals/Browns Fans" an official medical marijuana condition was submitted last month to the State Medical Board of Ohio.

Don't get your hopes up: It probably won't go anywhere. The board requires information from experts who specialize in studying the condition, relevant medical or scientific evidence and letters of support from doctors.

The board could not provide more information Monday about the petition, including who submitted it and their argument for why the board should add the "condition."

Last year, more than 100 petitions for new conditions were submitted. Those were winnowed to five: anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, depression, insomnia and opioid use disorder. All five were rejected by the board.

This time around, the board received 28 petitions. The latest batch includes conditions already approved in Ohio, such as chronic pain and PTSD. Petitions were again submitted for the conditions rejected last year. Repeat petitions must include new "scientific information" to be considered again.

Rob Ryan, who heads pro-cannabis coalition Ohio Patient Network, re-submitted a petition for opioid use disorder but he doesn't expect a different outcome. Ryan, who lives in Blue Ash and sometimes roots for the Bengals, didn't have a strong opinion of the football fan condition idea. "Maybe they should sell marijuana as well as beer at the stadium," Ryan said, chuckling. "It might calm the crowd down."  But he hopes his proposal has a better shot.

Medical board attorneys will review the petitions to determine whether they meet the minimum requirements, such as including letters from supporting physicians.  A medical board committee plans to decide in February which conditions will be reviewed by experts and voted on by the board later this year.

January 8, 2020 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Marijuana policies: A call to shift from a criminal justice approach to a public health approach"

The title of this post is the title of this Hill commentary authored by Elizabeth Long and Diana Fishbein.  Here are excerpts:

Despite the billions of dollars, marijuana prohibition has cost society; this strategy has failed to protect communities. Instead, it has caused great harm, particularly for marginalized populations. These adverse outcomes are rooted in policies enacted to tackle this public health problem that has little to do with public health. Marijuana possession continues to be treated as a criminal matter, even though, historically, there are no examples of criminal law solving a public health matter....

While decriminalization of marijuana is projected to have many economic and social benefits, legislation must balance decriminalization with the need to prevent teenage use. Teenage marijuana use can alter the course of brain development and increase risk for dependence and possibly addiction. Heavy use in adolescence has been associated with several developmental delays. Importantly, when teenagers believe using a drug is not harmful, they are more likely to use it....

A substantial body of research justifies reallocating resources from criminal justice to public health policies. A public health approach focuses on the implementation and enforcement of regulations to manage health risks through policy changes, such as taxation, regulation of advertising, and age limits. Several policy recommendations are offered here for consideration:

  1. Support a detailed, comprehensive, scientific evaluation of the impacts from current laws surrounding both medical marijuana and adult-use to guide future legislation.
  2. Re-categorize marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III or IV to be more consistent with its known pharmacological properties and effects.
  3. Update the regulatory structure by applying uniform standards to the types of products that can be sold or marketed to the public.
  4. Invest prevention resources in delaying the age of initiation of marijuana use past the period when the brain is still developing (around age 25) to reduce the impact on neurodevelopment.
  5. Support screening, early detection, and intervention. Focus both on at-risk youth who have not yet initiated to avert pathways to use in adolescence and youth who have already begun using marijuana to avoid negative consequences. 

January 7, 2020 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hemp legalization leads to huge decline of misdemeanor marijuana charges in Texas

This lengthy local article, headlined "Marijuana prosecutions in Texas have dropped by more than half since lawmakers legalized hemp," reports on a remarkable new reality for Texas marijuana prosecutions. Here are some excerpts:

It’s been more than six months since Texas lawmakers legalized hemp and unintentionally disrupted marijuana prosecution across the state.  Since then, the number of low-level pot cases filed by prosecutors has plummeted. Some law enforcement agencies that still pursue charges are spending significantly more money at private labs to ensure that substances they suspect are illegal marijuana aren't actually hemp.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and local government crime labs expect to roll out a long-awaited testing method to distinguish between the two in the next month or so.  But that's only for seized plant material.  There's still no timeline for when they will be able to tell if vape pen liquid or edible products contain marijuana or hemp.  And DPS said even when its testing is ready, it doesn’t have the resources to analyze substances in the tens of thousands of misdemeanor marijuana arrests made each year — testing it didn’t have to do before hemp was legalized....

In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a widely supported bill to legalize hemp in Texas.  The bill focused on agriculture practices and regulations, but it also narrowed the state’s definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high.  Anything with less THC is hemp.

Lawmakers were warned the measure could bring marijuana prosecution to a halt without more resources because public labs could only determine whether THC was present in a substance, not how much was present.  Still, the legislation sailed into law with no crime lab funding attached.  State leaders and the bill authors have since reaffirmed that the law did not in any way decriminalize marijuana.

Soon after its passage, however, district and county prosecutors across the state, in counties that lean both Republican and Democratic, began dropping hundreds of low-level pot cases.  Some began requiring law enforcement agencies to submit lab results proving the suspected drugs had more than 0.3% THC before they accepted cases for prosecution.  The Texas District and County Attorneys Association advised its members that such testing likely is needed to prove in court that a substance is illegal....

In 2018, Texas prosecutors filed about 5,900 new misdemeanor marijuana possession cases a month, according to data from the Texas Office of Court Administration.  The first five months of 2019 saw an average of more than 5,600 new cases filed a month.  But since June, when the hemp law was enacted, the number of cases has been slashed by more than half.  In November, less than 2,000 new cases were filed, according to the court data.

For those who support marijuana legalization, that change is welcome, adding to an already growing effort in some of the state’s most populated counties to divert pot smokers from criminal prosecution or not arrest them at all.  “It means that there are fewer Texans that are getting slapped with a criminal record for marijuana possession, something that is already legal in other states,” said Katharine Harris, a drug policy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

January 5, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

"Trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization: 2008–2018"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research to be pubished in the journal Addictive Behaviors.  Here is its abstract:

Background

Young adult college students may be particularly sensitive to recreational marijuana legalization (RML).  Although evidence indicates the prevalence of marijuana use among college students increased after states instituted RML, there have been few national studies investigating changes in college students’ other substance use post-RML.

Method

The cross-sectional National College Health Assessment-II survey was administered twice yearly from 2008 to 2018 at four-year colleges and universities. Participants were 18–26 year old undergraduates attending college in states that did (n = 243,160) or did not (n = 624,342) implement RML by 2018.  Outcome variables were self-reported nicotine use, binge drinking, illicit drug use, and misuse of prescription stimulants, sedatives, and opioids.  Other variables included individual and contextual covariates, and institution-reported institutional and community covariates.  Publicly available information was used to code state RML status at each survey administration.

Results

Accounting for state differences and time trends, RML was associated with decreased binge drinking prevalence among college students age 21 and older [OR (95% CI) = 0.91 (0.87 − 0.95), p < .0001] and increased sedative misuse among minors [OR (95% CI) = 1.20 (1.09 − 1.32), p = .0003].  RML did not disrupt secular trends in other substance use.

Conclusions

In the context of related research showing national increases in college students’ marijuana use prevalence and relative increases following state RML, we observed decreases in binge drinking and increases in sedative use that both depended on age.  Findings support some specificity in RML-related changes in substance use trends and the importance of individual factors. 

January 2, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)