Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, January 24, 2022

Notable accounts of current politics and practicalities surrounding marijuana reform

I have recently seen two good new press reviews of the essential politics of federal marijuana reform as of January 2022 and of a key practical issue that has been a concern since the start of modern state marijuana reforms.  Here are full headlines, links and excerpts from these pieces:

From Politico, "Big Weed is on the brink of scoring big political wins. So where are they?: Competing agendas have stifled the effectiveness of the burgeoning industry on Capitol Hill."

Marijuana advocates are stuck in the weeds. Cannabis policy has never had a rosier outlook on Capitol Hill: Democrats control both Congress and the White House, seven new states just legalized recreational marijuana, and the cannabis industry has gained powerful new allies in companies like Amazon and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity that are backing federal reform. The industry has even lured powerful advocates like former GOP House Speaker John Boehner and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to help push its agenda.

But nearly one year into this Congress, not one piece of cannabis legislation has been sent to the president's desk. There is growing fear among advocates that the window to act is closing. Industry lobbyists and legalization advocates say the movement has been stymied by a lack of consensus on the legislative strategy. Liberal advocacy groups are pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of federal cannabis policies with the aim of helping people harmed by criminal enforcement, while industry groups are seeking any piecemeal policy victory that could provide momentum toward more sweeping changes.

“There are certain people who are willing to forgo any of it if they don’t get all of it,” said one marijuana lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to candidly discuss the industry’s struggles. The lobbyist noted that such a viewpoint is not universally shared, causing a disagreement “that’s stunting the legalization effort.”

From Bloomberg, "U.S. Grapples With How to Gauge Just How High Cannabis Users Are"

“Everybody wants a cannabis breathalyzer — something like what we have for alcohol where you breathe into a device and it tells a THC level and whether that means you’re impaired or not,” said Jodi Gilman, an associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the imaging study.  “But that’s not how it works for cannabis, we need a new paradigm.”

Companies have been trying to crack the stoned-test for a while.  Hound Labs, which makes a marijuana breathalyzer, said in September it had raised $20 million to scale its product.  Cannabix Technologies Inc. recently reported it had made headway creating a more portable device, while Lifeloc Technologies Inc. said it was finalizing the platform for a rapid marijuana breathalyzer that could be used for roadside testing.

There are concerns, however, that tests based on THC levels may be unfair to those who have it in their system but aren’t actually impaired.  This can be the case for some who consumed cannabis days ago, or with frequent users who’ve built up a tolerance — who may use it for medical reasons.  “You wouldn't want to penalize that person,” Gilman told me. “What this technology will do is differentiate impaired from not-impaired, which is different than distinguishing cannabis from no-cannabis.”

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2022/01/notable-accounts-of-current-politics-and-practicalities-surrounding-marijuana-reform.html

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