Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Reflexive Federalism" reviews Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane

9780815737896_FCI believe I have previously noted some of the marijuana reform essays in the terrific collection published last year by Brookings under the title "Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane." (Information about the book can be found here and here.)  I am now pleased to see that Paul Larkin, Jr. has this notable new article titled "Reflexive Federalism" which engages with many of the ideas and essays in Marijuana Federalism.  Here is its abstract:

Over the last twenty-plus years, a majority of states have concluded that marijuana has legitimate therapeutic and recreational value, and those states allow private parties to cultivate, sell, possess, and use it under a state regulatory régime.  Consequently, we have witnessed the development of state cannabis regulatory programs that are inconsistent legally, practically, and theoretically with the approach that our national government has taken for fifty years.  How do we resolve that conflict between state and federal law?  The Supreme Court has refused to take this issue away from the political branches of the federal government by ruling that it is a matter within the states’ bailiwick.  The Executive Branch has failed to take a coherent position regarding whether, when, and how it will enforce the existing federal law.  And Congress has abdicated its responsibility to clarify what should be federal policy in a field where only Congress can decide.  The result is that we have one law for Athens and one for Rome. Not surprisingly, that strategy is not working for anyone other than those members of Congress who wish to avoid casting a vote on the issue.

Some of Marijuana Federalism’s contributors encourage Congress to “cowboy up” politically and eliminate the disarray in the law by leaving it to each state to decide, while others try to persuade the Supreme Court to take another whack at the issue and rule that Congress cannot generally regulate the intrastate sale of cannabis.  The threads that tie the essays together are the potential benefits we might see from permitting multiple states to devise different regulatory approaches and the affinity for decentralized decision-making built into our Constitution’s DNA.  What Marijuana Federalism is missing, however, is a treatment of the argument that Congress should leave decisions regarding the recreational use of marijuana to the states, but not whether it has legitimate medical uses. For 80 years the nation has entrusted the Food and Drug Administration with the responsibility to decide what is a “drug” and what drugs are “safe” and “effective.”  There is no good reason to treat cannabis differently.

April 28, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

DEPC event: "Social Equity 2.0: Lessons From Recent State Developments"

Social-Equity-2.0-Lessons-from-the-States_for-socialI am pleased to spotlight a great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event taking place tomorrow afternoon titled "Social Equity 2.0: Lessons From Recent State Developments."  This is how this event is described on this page (where you can register):

In recent years, social equity has become a routine part of conversations surrounding cannabis legalization.  Yet, despite the stated goals of political leaders and various efforts of multiple states, challenges with implementing robust social equity programs persist.

Join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center for a virtual panel event that brings together experts from states whose recent cannabis legalizations include social equity provisions.  Panelists will discuss their state’s experience, lessons learned, and focus areas for federal legislators and regulators as they begin considering cannabis legalization nationwide.

 

Speakers:
Dianna Houenou, senior policy advisor and associate counsel, Office of the Governor, State of New Jersey, and incoming chair, New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission
Toi Hutchinson, senior advisor for cannabis control, Office of the Governor, State of Illinois
Jason Ortiz, president, Minority Cannabis Business Association, and board member, Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Shaleen Title, distinguished cannabis policy practitioner in residence, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, and vice-chair, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition

Moderator:
Natalie Fertig, federal cannabis policy reporter, POLITICO

April 27, 2021 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Notable working group releases new "Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform"

As detailed in this new Drug Policy Alliance press release, today "the Federal Cannabis Regulations Working Group released its Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform," outlining what a federal regulatory framework — grounded in justice and social equity—should look like." Here is more from the DPA release:

The working group was convened by the Drug Policy Alliance at the beginning of this year.

Throughout a series of meetings and in-depth conversations, the group — made up of cannabis state regulators, public health professionals, criminal justice reform advocates, civil rights attorneys, people working with directly impacted communities in the cannabis industry, re-entry advocates, academics and an expert involved in Canada’s cannabis regulation — has identified key principles that should guide the development of federal cannabis regulation policies.  The principles document encourages and provides guidance on issues related to racial justice, equity, preventing underage use, elimination of lifelong consequences, medical use, taxation, research and more.  This release precedes the group’s continued effort to develop and roll out a more comprehensive set of recommendations for Congress on crucial issues such as — but not limited to — which federal agency should regulate cannabis (and to what extent), what kind of product should cannabis be regulated as, expungement, workforce development, medical use, non-commercial activity, and enforcement.

It will be very interesting to see if how forthcoming federal marijuana reform bills meet up with this two-page statement of principles.

April 20, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Hitting the Trip-Wire: When Does a Company Become a 'Marijuana Business'?"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Lauren Newell recently posted to SSRN.  Here is its a abstract:

Like the alcohol industry during Prohibition, the marijuana industry is a profitable one.  And, like bootlegging was then, selling marijuana in the United States now is illegal.  Despite the number of states that have legalized or decriminalized the sale of marijuana for medical or recreational use under state law, marijuana sales remain illegal as a matter of federal law under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA).  Individuals and entities that violate the CSA face substantial potential criminal and civil liability, including prison time and fines, alongside a host of additional negative consequences arising in business law, tax, bankruptcy, banking, and other sources.  The negative consequences marijuana businesses face have been discussed in detail elsewhere.  This Article asks a different question: not, what are the negative consequences, but rather, when do those negative consequence attach?  In other words, when does a company become a “Marijuana Business”?

For purposes of this discussion, a Marijuana Business is an entity that participates, contributes, or assists, directly or indirectly, in the retail and/or medical marijuana industry to an extent that exposes it, its owners, and its agents to potential criminal and civil liability and other negative business consequences.  In short, these are the companies that should be worried about the fact that they are engaging in an industry that is illegal under federal law.  To identify the circumstances that result in a company’s being a Marijuana Business, this Article analyzes seven hypothetical companies that directly participate in the marijuana industry or support others that do.  For each, it asks whether the facts are sufficient to establish criminal liability either directly under the CSA or indirectly under criminal conspiracy or aiding and abetting liability theories.  Part I briefly introduces criminal liability under the CSA, along with the two complicity theories.  Part II analyzes the hypothetical companies’ actions and determines whether they are Marijuana Businesses.  Part III concludes with factors that courts and companies can look toward to determine whether those companies are indeed Marijuana Businesses.

April 20, 2021 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)

Monday, April 19, 2021

After strong bipartisan approval in US House again, will US Senate finally take up SAFE Banking Act?

1555342460244A big week for discussion of marijuana reform got off to a big start thanks to a vote in the US House of Representatives.  This effective Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "U.S. House Approves Marijuana Banking Bill For Fourth Time, Setting Up Senate Consideration," provides these details:

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill to protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.  After receiving an initial voice vote earlier in the afternoon, members passed the legislation by a final recorded vote of 321-101.

The legislation, which was reintroduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and a long bipartisan list of cosponsors last month, was taken up under a process known as suspension of the rules, which does not allow for amendments and requires a 2/3rd supermajority to pass....

Because marijuana businesses are largely precluded from accessing traditional financial institutions and have to operate on a mostly cash-only basis, that makes them targets of crime — a point that advocates, regulators and banking representatives have emphasized.  “Even if you are opposed to the legalization of cannabis, you should support this bill,” Perlmutter added.  “American voters have spoken and continue to speak — and the fact is, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.  Prohibition is over.”...

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) spoke in opposition to the legislation, stating that “regardless of your position on this bill, I do think the fact remains that cannabis is a prohibited substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act — and let me further state, by enacting this legislation, we’re effectively kneecapping law enforcement enforcement and legalizing money laundering.”

But in a sign of the bipartisan nature of this reform, Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) took to the floor to defend the legislation. He said “I’m proud to help lead this common sense and overdue effort.”

“At a time when small businesses are just beginning to recover from the economic destruction caused by COVID-19, the federal government should be supporting them, not standing in their way,” he said.

McHenry was the only lawmaker to rise against the bill on the floor, yielding all additional opposition time to other Republican members who actually spoke in support of it.

Just before the debate started on Monday, the governors of 20 states and one U.S. territory — as well as bankers associations representing every state in the country and a coalition of state treasurers — sent letters to House leadership, expressing support for the reform legislation.

The vote marks the fourth time the House has approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. Lawmakers passed it as a standalone bill in 2019 and then twice more as part of coronavirus relief legislation.  At no point did the measure move forward in the Senate under Republican control last session, however.

But this time around, advocates and industry stakeholders are feeling confident that the bill’s path will not end in the House.  With Democrats now in control of both chambers and the White House, there are high expectations that the proposal will make its way through the Senate and onto the president’s desk.

I am hopeful, but not at all optimistic, that this bill will move forward in the Senate with Democrats now in control of the chamber.  Senate leader Chuch Schumer is expected to release a comprehensive marijuana reform bill "soon" and that bill will likely be a priority for Senators and advocates most eager to see federal marijuana reforms.  Senators and others backing broader reforms could potentially view the SAFE Banking Act as an insufficient reform that could undercut momentum for bigger reforms.

April 19, 2021 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)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upholds employer obligation to reimburse medical marijuana for workplace injury

The New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday issued a unanimous decision that serves as a reminder of just some of the legal questions that continue arising amid continued marijuana reforms.  Specifically, in Vincent Hager v. M&K Construction, No. A-64-19 (N.J. Apr. 13, 2021) (available here), the top NJ court ruled that medical marijuana expenses were fairly covered under the state's workers' compensation act and that the federal Controlled Substances Act did not preclude or preempt the employer's reimbursement obligations.  Here is how the extended opinion gets started:

Vincent Hager injured his back in a work-related accident in 2001 while employed by M&K Construction (M&K).  For years thereafter, Hager received treatment for chronic pain with opioid medication and surgical procedures to no avail.  In 2016, he enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program both as a means of pain management and to overcome an opioid addiction.  Thereafter, a workers’ compensation court found that Hager “exhibit[ed] Permanent Partial Total disability” and ordered M&K to reimburse him for the ongoing costs of his prescription marijuana (the Order).  The Appellate Division affirmed.

Before us, M&K contends that New Jersey’s Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (Compassionate Use Act or the Act) is preempted as applied to the Order by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  Compliance with the Order, M&K claims, would subject it to potential federal criminal liability for aiding-and-abetting or conspiracy.  M&K also asserts that medical marijuana is not reimbursable as reasonable or necessary treatment under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA).  Finally, M&K argues that it fits within an exception to the Compassionate Use Act and is therefore not required to reimburse Hager for his marijuana costs.

We conclude that M&K does not fit within the Compassionate Use Act’s limited reimbursement exception.  We also find that Hager presented sufficient credible evidence to the compensation court to establish that the prescribed medical marijuana represents, as to him, reasonable and necessary treatment under the WCA.  Finally, we interpret Congress’s appropriations actions of recent years as suspending application of the CSA to conduct that complies with the Compassionate Use Act.  As applied to the Order, we thus find that the Act is not preempted and that M&K does not face a credible threat of federal criminal aiding-and-abetting or conspiracy liability.  We therefore affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division.

April 14, 2021 in Court Rulings, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 12, 2021

"Nowhere to Now, Where? Reconciling Public Cannabis Use in a Public Health Legal Framework"

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

States continue to legalize recreational cannabis, but most have heavily restricted where consumption of newly licit cannabis is permitted.  Every legalizing state has thus far prohibited open, outdoor public use, either limiting lawful use to private property or allowing a small number of licensed indoor venues for consumption outside of public view, an approach borrowed from alcohol control.  In contrast, some non-U.S. jurisdictions have adopted a tobacco control approach, allowing limited outdoor public use while prohibiting indoor public use.  Each approach presents individual and population health risks that reflect the complex intersection of health, social inequities, and community norms.

Cannabis consumers face uncertain but potentially significant health risks from use, and the relative availability of use locations also implicates existing inequities in policing practices and housing.  Those who do not use cannabis but are exposed to others’ use face possible harms from secondhand smoke and from intoxicated behavior, with such risks likely to be inequitably distributed due to existing employment and housing patterns.  Communities as a whole also face risks, including that changing cannabis norms may increase use prevalence or intensity and that concentration of cannabis outlets in under-resourced communities may prove as detrimental as the concentration of other disfavored businesses has been.

Each public use approach carries attendant risks, but a regulatory framework based on the tobacco control model best balances the protection of public health and the promotion of equity and social justice.  This model recognizes the parallels between cannabis and tobacco (in addition to those between cannabis and alcohol).  This approach also provides a pathway to mitigating the public health risks of cannabis legalization by leveraging an approach that has proven effective at reducing secondhand exposures and denormalizing smoking behavior in the tobacco context.

April 12, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

With New Mexico now officially the latest legalizer of marijuana, which state might be next?

Marijuana-new-mexicoAs reported in this new Hill piece, "New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Monday signed legislation to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state, as well as to expunge the records of people with prior, low-level cannabis convictions." Here is more:

"The legalization of adult-use cannabis paves the way for the creation of a new economic driver in our state with the promise of creating thousands of good paying jobs for years to come,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.  “We are going to increase consumer safety by creating a bona fide industry.  We’re going to start righting past wrongs of this country’s failed war on drugs.  And we’re going to break new ground in an industry that may well transform New Mexico’s economic future for the better,” Lujan Grisham said.

The governor noted that the sentencing component of the law could impact up to tens of thousands of New Mexicans, and make possible the potential early release of low-level convicted cannabis offenders who are currently incarcerated.

The governor’s signature launches an administrative process that will culminate in the launch of commercial sales for adults no later than April 1, 2022. Issuing licenses to conduct commercial cannabis activity will begin no later than Jan. 1, 2022.

Under the legislation, recreational marijuana sales would initially be taxed at 12 percent, eventually rising to 18 percent.  Medical marijuana would be exempt.  Adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis concentrates and 800 milligrams of infused edibles.  Home growers will be allowed six plants per person, with a cap of 12 plants per household....

The governor said legalization will generate needed tax revenue to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic. "As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers,” Lujan Grisham said.

The legislation makes New Mexico the third state in recent weeks to pass legislation legalizing recreational marijuana.  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill at the end of March, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week convinced lawmakers to move up the effective date of legalization by three years.

As the end of this article notes, 2021 has already been a banner year for marijuana legalization.  I am inclined to include New Jersey in the list of 2021 legalizing states (though perhaps the state formally came aboard the legalization train in 2020 when voters approved a ballot initiative that the state legislature operationalized in 2021). 

With three+ states already legalizing marijuana through traditional legislation, 2021 will go down as a historic year even without any other states (or the federal government) acting in this arena.  But this new Marijuana Moment article, headlined "Four More States Could Still Legalize Marijuana This Year After New Mexico, New York And Virginia," reviews the prospects for additional state action in the coming months in Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island.

April 12, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

"New Market Entrants and Uncertain Drug Policy in the United States"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Nathaniel Wilson, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  (This paper is yet another in the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:  

This article covers two substances that are becoming particularly prevalent in consumer markets across the country, Delta-8 THC and kratom.  It introduces each substance and provides an analysis of the legal landscape that each substance currently faces in the United States, including an overview of relevant statutory law and regulatory efforts at both the federal and state level.  Finally, the article provides policy concerns that legislatures and regulatory agencies should take into consideration when approaching the regulation of these substances, as well as, other novel substances that share similar qualities.

April 11, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"American Edibles: How Cannabis Regulatory Policy Rehashes Prohibitionist Fears and What to do About It"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper now available via SSRN authored by Jay Wexler and Connor Burns.  Here is its abstract:

Why can’t we buy a cannabis muffin with our morning coffee?  For much of the past century, the answer was simple: cannabis was illegal.  Now, however, with more and more states legalizing cannabis for adult use, the answer is far less clear.  Even in those states that have legalized cannabis, the simple action of buying and eating edibles at the same location has somehow remained a pipe dream despite consumer demand.  Digging a little deeper, we can see how contemporary alarmism, by rehashing the same prohibitionist rhetoric demonizing cannabis for over eighty years, has once again arisen with a new target: cannabis-infused edibles.  From journalists to policymakers to legal scholars, the rekindling of prohibitionist arguments against edibles has had real world impacts on the regulation of cannabis edibles, to the harm of all involved.

This Article explores contemporary cannabis edibles regulation using historical, scientific, and legal frameworks to explain why current edibles regulation is so problematic, and what to do about it.  By delving into the history of cannabis prohibition, this Article shows how the very same arguments propping up prohibitionist edibles policies are rooted in bad-faith arguments made decades ago that themselves were merely thin veils for racism.  Applying this historical perspective and a rational understanding of contemporary cannabis edibles, this Article explores how states have used prohibition-inspired regulations to address two main concerns — overconsumption and inadvertent consumption — and how such regulations need to be revisited and revised.  This Article then argues that social consumption sits at the crux of edibles regulation, and that states must implement social consumption imminently to address the harms that current regulations do not address, or even worse, perpetuate.

April 7, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Notable new group, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, seeks to advance end of marijuana prohibition

Cannabis-freedom-allianceAs discussed in this new Politico piece, headlined "Koch, Snoop Dogg join forces to push marijuana legalization," there is another notable new advocacy group focused on marijuana reform.  Here is how the Politico article gets started:

What do you get when weed-loving rapper Snoop Dogg, right-wing billionaire Charles Koch and criminal justice reform advocate Weldon Angelos walk into a Zoom room?   The Cannabis Freedom Alliance, a new coalition launching Tuesday that could change the dynamics of the marijuana legalization debate, as first reported by POLITICO.

The organization includes Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers; the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank; marijuana trade organization the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce; and The Weldon Project, a nonprofit that advocates for the release of individuals incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

The movement for marijuana legalization has long been dominated by left-leaning organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  And despite a handful of congressional Republicans supporting the issue, most legalization proponents in Congress are Democrats.  “We can’t cut with one scissor blade.  We need Republicans in order to pass [a legalization bill],” said Angelos, founder of the Weldon Project. Angelos served 13 years of a 55-year sentence for marijuana trafficking charges, and got a full pardon from former President Donald Trump last December.

The background: The idea for the Cannabis Freedom Alliance sprouted from a Zoom call between Angelos, Snoop Dogg and Koch last summer.  Koch expressed support for legalizing all drugs, to the surprise of Angelos. “I had known that his position on drugs was very libertarian,” Angelos said. “I just didn't know that he supported the legalization of all drugs.”

Angelos connected with the Koch network for its help in advocating for legalization at the federal level, which he believes is now more important than ever with Democrats in control of Congress. Prior to flipping the Senate, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was a barrier to any marijuana legislation coming to the floor. But now with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushing the issue as a priority, a marijuana bill could very well come up for a vote. “We need 10 to 12 Republican senators,” Angelos said. “With Koch’s influence, I think that's likely a possibility.”

The website for the Cannabis Freedom Alliance is available here, and its one-page Statement of Principles can be found here. (Disclosure: The Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC), which I help run, was founded with a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, and a long time ago I served as co-counsel for Weldon Angelos as he pursued relief through a 2255 motion.  But I have never met Snoop Dogg.)

April 6, 2021 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 (1)

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Senate majority leader shrewdly emphasizing "freedom" in his push for federal marijuana reform

11119_Weed_Legalize_Freedom_Decal_Sticker_DM__26064.1538472841.1280.1280The federal marijauan reform bill that passed through the US House late last year was the "Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act" (the MORE Act).  But the marijuana reform bill that Senator Chuck Schumer first introducted in the US Senate in 2018 was called the "Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act."  I find the names of these bills particularly notable upon seeing this new Politico interview with now-majority-leader Schumer headlined "Schumer: Senate will act on marijuana legalization with or without Biden."  As highlighted by these excerpts, Senator Schumer seem especially eager to play up the freedom theme in explaining his reasons for supporting reform (my ephasis added):

Schumer: In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition.  I'm sure you ask, “Well what changed?” Well, my thinking evolved.  When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up.  Drug use would go up.   Everything bad would happen.

The legalization of states worked out remarkably well.  They were a great success.  The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.

I think the American people started speaking with a clear message — more than two to one — that they want the law changed.  When a state like South Dakota votes by referendum to legalize, you know something is out there.

Was there a specific moment or a specific experience that you can point to and say, “This is when I started to see this issue differently?”

A while back — I can't remember the exact year — I was in Denver.  I just started talking to people, not just elected officials, but just average folks.

[They said] it benefited the state, and [didn’t] hurt the state.  There were tax revenues, but people had freedom to do what they wanted to do, as long as they weren't hurting other people.  That's part of what America is about.  And they were exultant in it.

Perhaps because it plays well to my libertarian instincts, I find this focus on "freedom" to be appealing and shrewd as a central part of a pitch for federal marijuana reforms.  I find the freedom focus appealing because I like the general notion that the federal government generally ought not be prohibiting personal freedoms, and especially ought not be using the weighty tools of the federal criminal justice system to advance prohibitions, unless and until we can be generally confident that federal prohibition is doing more good than harm.

Perhaps more importantly, I find the freedom focus shrewd because it lines up with a lot of the smaller-government rhetoric, past and present, often coming from GOP policians and activists.  Whether it is the congressional Freedom Caucus or opposition to gun control or COVID rules or a host of other issues, there are lots of Republican who loudly claim to be ever eager to shrink the size and power of the federal government in order to increase the freedom of individuals (and/or states and localities). Against this political backdrop, I think Senator Schumer is already trying to position any vote against federal marijuana reform as a vote against freedom.

April 3, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

New Mexico on the verge of marijuana legalization only hours after New York legalized

New-mexico-300x199Though we sometimes have to wait until 4/20 for a lot of marijuana discussions, this week is proving historic as the New Mexico legislature last night passed two big marijuana reform bills just hours after New York's Governor officially signed that state's historic marijuana legalization bill (NY basics here).  This AP piece, headlined "New Mexico primed to join US recreational pot wave," reports on the basic details of the new laws just passed in the Land of Enchantment (yes, that is the official NM nickname):

New Mexico is joining a wave of states that are legalizing recreational marijuana as its Democrat-dominated Legislature sent a package of cannabis bills Wednesday to a supportive governor. Lawmakers used a marathon two-day legislative session to push through marijuana legalization for adults over 21 and a companion bill that automatically erases many past marijuana convictions, overriding skeptical Republicans.

By signing the bills, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would extend legal recreational pot sales in the American Southwest by April 2022, when the New Mexico legislation kicks in, and join 16 states that have legalized marijuana, mostly through direct ballot initiatives. California and Colorado were among the first in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, with Arizona becoming one of the latest in the region to follow suit earlier this year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a legalization bill Wednesday, and a proposal in Virginia is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The New Mexico initiative would reconsider criminal drug sentences for about 100 prisoners, and give the governor a strong hand in licensing the industry and monitoring supplies.

New Mexico flirted with cannabis legalization in the 1990s, when then-Gov. Gary Johnson challenged taboos against decriminalization in defiance of Republican allies. The state’s medical marijuana program founded in 2007 has attracted more than 100,000 patients. The Legislature was reticent to legalize until now. Several hardline opponents of legalization in the state Senate were voted out of office by Democrats in 2020 primary elections, in a shift that paved the way for Wednesday’s historic vote.

Under the advancing legalization package, New Mexico would levy an initial excise tax on recreational marijuana sales of 12% that eventually rises to 18%. That’s on top of current gross receipts on sales that range from roughly 5% to 9%. Possession of up to 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana would cease to be a crime, and people would be allowed six plants at home — or up to 12 per household. The reforms would eliminate taxes on the sales of medical marijuana and seek to ensure adequate medicinal supplies.

“The United States of America is in the midst of a sea change when it comes to this,” said Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez of Albuquerque, lead sponsor of the legalization bill. “This bill begins to repair the harms of prohibition.”

State oversight would largely fall to the governor-appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department that would issue licenses for a fee to marijuana-related businesses. The agency initially would have the authority to limit marijuana production levels by major producers — a lever over market supplies and pricing.... The legalization bill creates a cannabis control division to oversee 10 types of industry licenses. Those include micro-licenses with low annual fees for small producers to grow up to 200 marijuana plants and also package and sell their products.

Bill sponsor Martinez says that provides an important measure of equity, within a bill designed to support communities that suffered from criminalization of marijuana and tough policing. Past drug convictions don’t automatically disqualify applicants for marijuana business licenses. The odor of marijuana or suspicion of possession are no longer legal grounds to stop, detain or search people.

Legalization bill co-sponsor Rep. Deborah Armstrong says New Mexico will respond to early pitfalls of legalization in other states as it mandates child-proof packaging for marijuana products. Public health advocates condemned provisions that allow public consumption lounges for recreational cannabis, citing the dangers of second-hand smoke and vapor to workers and patrons.

Lawmakers discarded a Republican-sponsored bill from Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell that emphasized low taxes in an effort to stamp out illicit weed and would have provided low-cost licenses to small pot farmers by linking fees to the number of plants in cultivation. Local governments cannot prohibit pot businesses but can regulate locations and hours of operation, under the proposal. Bill sponsors say that sheriffs and police want consistency from town-to-town on rules and enforcement.

Republican state Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs voted against legalization and said she was amazed that legislative colleagues would support the freedom to buy mind-altering drugs amid New Mexico’s struggles with poverty and opioid overdoses. “I just think it’s terribly unfair to impose this kind of significant change in our way of life and areas of the state that clearly do not welcome this,” Kernan said.

April 1, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)