Wednesday, July 27, 2022

"Association of cannabis potency with mental ill health and addiction: a systematic review"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article published this week online at The Lancet Psychiatry authored by multiple researchers. Here is its summary:

Cannabis potency, defined as the concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has increased internationally, which could increase the risk of adverse health outcomes for cannabis users.  We present, to our knowledge, the first systematic review of the association of cannabis potency with mental health and addiction (PROSPERO, CRD42021226447).  We searched Embase, PsycINFO, and MEDLINE (from database inception to Jan 14, 2021). Included studies were observational studies of human participants comparing the association of high-potency cannabis (products with a higher concentration of THC) and low-potency cannabis (products with a lower concentration of THC), as defined by the studies included, with depression, anxiety, psychosis, or cannabis use disorder (CUD).

Of 4171 articles screened, 20 met the eligibility criteria: eight studies focused on psychosis, eight on anxiety, seven on depression, and six on CUD.  Overall, use of higher potency cannabis, relative to lower potency cannabis, was associated with an increased risk of psychosis and CUD.  Evidence varied for depression and anxiety.  The association of cannabis potency with CUD and psychosis highlights its relevance in health-care settings, and for public health guidelines and policies on cannabis sales.  Standardisation of exposure measures and longitudinal designs are needed to strengthen the evidence of this association.

July 27, 2022 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Weldon Angelos previews his testimony to US Senate on marijuana prohibition's harms

IMG_9480Over at my sentencing blog, I have spotlighted here what seems to be a truly historic congressional hearing taking place this afternoon, July 26, 2022, before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.   The hearing is titled "Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms," and the scheduled witnesses all seem likely to have something notable to say.  One of the scheduled witnesses is Weldon Angelos, and he previewed his testimony via this new Marijuana Moment commentary that is worth reading in full.  Here are excerpts:

Tuesday will be a historic day in the U.S. Senate. Members of a key subcommittee have invited me to testify at a hearing on cannabis reform and the harms of criminalization — a first-of-its-kind meeting in a chamber where marijuana policy and the lifelong consequences of prohibition have been swept under the rug for far too long.

My message to the panel will be simple: My name is Weldon Angelos, and I am living proof of the benefits of second chances.  But I’m far from the only person deserving of relief.  I plan to remind members that inaction will only continue to breed injustice, and there’s no more time to waste.

The topic of the hearing — the critically important issue of federal cannabis decriminalization — affects the lives of millions of Americans, from those who have interacted with the criminal justice system, to patients and veterans who get relief from cannabis....

National cannabis reform must include: (1) the release of federal cannabis offenders; (2) a true expungement and sealing of records; and (3) the creation of meaningful opportunities for the formerly incarcerated upon release.

With a comprehensive approach to cannabis reform, we could immediately assist many of the nearly 3,000 people serving federal prison time for cannabis offenses, as well as the tens of thousands of individuals whose lives and futures are haunted by records of cannabis arrests, convictions, and sentences.  Further still, Congress must provide the resources to address state-level cannabis arrests, convictions, and sentences, since each year hundreds of thousands of individuals become entangled in state criminal justice systems despite cannabis being legal in some form in 37 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

This is why I was excited and grateful to see the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act introduced last week.  This bill would deschedule cannabis, helping to end the harmful criminal justice impacts of prohibition and supporting the expungement and resentencing of cannabis convictions, all while allowing states the right to decide the direction their jurisdiction will take.

Congress must also address the residual effects of cannabis convictions.  Those with felony convictions can be politically disenfranchised, losing the right to vote or to serve on juries, for instance.  They lose other civil liberties like the right to possess a firearm legally, as well as lawful opportunities afforded to others in education and in public housing, among other things.  Cannabis convictions adversely impact credit scores too, and they can impede or entirely prevent employment, creating permanent barriers to true participation in society.

Even with a full presidential pardon, I still feel the stranglehold of my cannabis conviction.  In my home state of Utah, my prior conviction bars me from participating in the state’s legal medical cannabis industry.  The state refuses to issue licenses to individuals with felony cannabis convictions, even with a full presidential pardon.  In California — the other state I call home — my criminal history prevents me from accessing credit, capital, and financing despite having engaged in conduct that is now legal throughout the jurisdiction....

I realize that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am no longer inmate 10053-081.  I am Weldon Angelos, a reform advocate with the immense privilege of being invited to testify before a Senate panel. But my fortune is not universal.  I am reminded of all those left behind in prison — those who are still serving unjust sentences — many of whom are Black and Hispanic men and women who continue to serve time while predominantly white CEOs and entrepreneurs make millions from the recreational and medical cannabis industries around the country.  The cannabis industry should be able to grow and thrive, but not at the expense of those who are still incarcerated.

And as we think about federal cannabis reform and ensure the release of those who are still serving, we must also provide opportunities and resources to support reentry and create a pathway to expungement to stop the collateral consequences.

July 26, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 25, 2022

DEPC event: "Not a SAFE Bet: Equitable Access to Cannabis Banking"

FYhpMJQWAAA1N0AI am pleased to spotlight another great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event that is part of our summer 2022 Cannabis Regulatory Deep Dive.  (The first event in this series on "Interstate Commerce" can be watched at this YouTube link.).  This event is scheduled for August 17 at 12noon and is titled "Not a SAFE Bet: Equitable Access to Cannabis Banking."  This is how this event is described on this webpage (where you can register):

According to members of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, the SAFE Banking Act, as written, is not a safe bet to achieve fair and equitable access to financial services for those in the cannabis industry.

Please join us for another Cannabis Regulatory Deep Dive as our panel of experts shares their analysis of the SAFE Banking Act, why it would fall short of its goals, and recommendations to improve fair access to cannabis banking as detailed in their soon-to-be released paper, Not a SAFE Bet: Equitable Access to Cannabis Banking.

Panelists:
Cat Packer, Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, The Ohio State University
Rafi Aliya Crockett, Commissioner, Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
Dasheeda Dawson, Cannabis Program Manager, City of Portland, Oregon 
Shaleen Title, Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, The Ohio State University

July 25, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

"Changes in Traffic Crash Rates After Legalization of Marijuana: Results by Crash Severity"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs and authored by Charles M. Farmer, Samuel S. Monfort and Amber N. Woods. Here is its abstract:

Objective:

The objective of this study was to estimate the effects of marijuana legalization and the subsequent onset of retail sales on injury and fatal traffic crash rates in the United States during the period 2009–2019.

Method:

State-by-state quarterly crash rates per mile of travel were modeled as a function of time, unemployment rate, maximum posted speed limit, seat belt use rate, alcohol use rate, percent of miles driven on rural roads, and indicators of legalized recreational marijuana use and sales.

Results:

Legalization of the recreational use of marijuana was associated with a 6.5% increase in injury crash rates and a 2.3% increase in fatal crash rates, but the subsequent onset of retail marijuana sales did not elicit additional substantial changes.  Thus, the combined effect of legalization and retail sales was a 5.8% increase in injury crash rates and a 4.1% increase in fatal crash rates.  Across states, the effects on injury crash rates ranged from a 7% decrease to an 18% increase.  The effects on fatal crash rates ranged from a 10% decrease to a 4% increase.

Conclusions:

The estimated increases in injury and fatal crash rates after recreational marijuana legalization are consistent with earlier studies, but the effects varied across states.  Because this is an early look at the time trends, researchers and policymakers need to continue monitoring the data.

July 24, 2022 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Senator Schumer finally to introduce his Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

Caoa-display.pngAs reported in this new Politico article, "Senate leaders are introducing sweeping legislation Thursday meant to lift federal prohibitions on marijuana more than 50 years after Congress made the drug illegal."  Here is more about a long-in-development, unlikely-to-become-law marijuana reform bill:  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would decriminalize weed on the federal level and allow states to set their own marijuana laws without fear of punishment from Washington.

The bill has been a long time coming — Schumer, along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) proposed a discussion draft more than a year ago — and its odds of passing in this Senate are slim. But the legislation will shape the conversation around cannabis legalization going forward and portions of it are likely to find their way into other bills that could pass before the end of the year.

The legislation includes both Democratic and Republican priorities: It expunges federal cannabis-related records and creates funding for law enforcement departments to fight illegal cannabis cultivation. It also establishes grant programs for small business owners entering the industry who are from communities disproportionately hurt by past drug laws, requires the Department of Transportation to research and develop a nationwide standard for marijuana-impaired driving, and restricts the marketing of cannabis to minors....

While marijuana legalization has spread rapidly across the U.S. over the past decade, Capitol Hill has not transitioned as quickly. Nineteen states now allow anyone at least 21 years old to possess and use the drug, and 37 states have established medical marijuana programs. National polls have consistently shown that roughly two-thirds of Americans back marijuana legalization, and support is even higher among younger voters.

But the votes aren’t yet there to pass Schumer’s bill on Capitol Hill. That’s in part because many lawmakers from states with legal markets don’t yet support substantial changes to federal law. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, for example, represents a state where weed is legal — Montana — and says he does not support federal decriminalization. A handful of other Democrats told POLITICO that they are against legalization or are undecided, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Schumer would need all Democrats, plus ten Republicans, to get the bill over the finish line.

Cannabis legalization advocates have had success in the past framing it with Republicans as a states’ rights issue, but some pro-decriminalization Republicans will likely be unhappy with the bill’s expungement of cannabis-related criminal convictions and its equity grant provisions.

Further complicating matters is that the House has twice passed its own sweeping marijuana legalization package, known as the Mariuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act. That legislation does not include much of the regulatory structure that’s part of the Senate bill, and also has a different tax rate....

Instead, some Democrats and Republicans are considering a smaller cannabis bill later this year that could see one or more provisions from the CAOA added to the SAFE Banking Act, a more widely-supported bill that would make it easier for banks to offer financial services to cannabis companies. That plan is still in the discussion stage and nothing formal has been decided.

Many of the changes added to the final Senate bill echo requests regularly made by Republicans. Law enforcement grants, a nationwide youth prevention campaign and traffic safety research all correspond to concerns that legalization skeptics have frequently raised. Schumer has met with Republicans — including Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus — in recent months to discuss where the two parties could potentially come together on weed legislation. Whether the changes will be enough to get enough Republicans on board, however, seems doubtful at this point.

Marijauna Moment's extensive coverage of this long-awaited news can be found here, and includes these additional details (and much more):

[T]he main thrust of the now-filed 296-page legalization bill closely resembles that of the earlier version, which weighed in at a mere 163 pages—though the senators highlighted a number of changes, which generally expand on the draft.

For example, there are revisions concerning cannabis industry workers’ rights, a federal responsibility to set an impaired driving standard, banking access, expungements and penalties for possessing or distributing large quantities of marijuana without a federal permit.

The bill would also create a new federal definition for hemp that would increase the permissible THC by dry weight to 0.7 percent from the current 0.3 percent, but also make it so all THC isomers would be included in that total, not just delta-9 THC.

July 21, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Notable (and consequential?) news from Capitol Hill on federal marijuana reforms

-1x-1The back end of this week brought some news from Congress regarding federal marijuana reform efforts.  Marijuana Moment has the essential news and helpful context in two lengthy pieces, which are linked below and briefly excerpted:

"House Approves More Marijuana Amendments To Defense Bill, Including Banking And Veterans Medical Access"

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved several marijuana reform amendments as part of a large-scale defense bill, including proposals to protect banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses and allow U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations....

What remains to be seen is which, if any, of these amendments makes it through conference after the Senate advances its version of NDAA.  The chamber has generally been viewed as a barrier to enacting drug policy reform, especially with Republican minority leadership frequently challenging amendment germaneness.

"Senate Marijuana Legalization Bill ‘Could Come’ Next Week, But Congressional Sources Push Back On Report About Timeline"

The introduction of a long-awaited Senate bill to federally legalize marijuana is imminent, with two Senate sources telling Marijuana Moment on Thursday that the legislation could be filed “as early as next week.”

It’s been a year since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) first released a draft version of comprehensive legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition and promote social equity in the industry. And on Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the bill’s introduction would be coming next week....

The timeline for the introduction of CAOA has been repeatedly pushed back as leadership has worked to gather input on various provisions and build bipartisan buy-in.... Details about any changes to the bill since it was released last year are still being heavily guarded.  But it’s expected to contain the key components: removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, imposing a federal tax on marijuana sales, promoting equity in the industry and providing an avenue for relief for those who have faced federal cannabis convictions.

Once the measure is introduced, its path to passage is still murky.  There’s a fair level of skepticism about the prospects of reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to pass CAOA through the Senate.

July 16, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2022

DEPC event: "Cannabis Regulatory Deep Dive: Interstate Commerce"

FVYUCIvUsAERDOkI am pleased to spotlight a great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event taking place tomorrow afternoon titled "Interstate Commerce."  This is how this event is described on this webpage (where you can register):

July 11, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal court rulings, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Maximizing social equity as a pillar of public administration: An examination of cannabis dispensary licensing in Pennsylvania"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Alfred Lee Hannah, Daniel J. Mallinson and Lauren Azevedo published in the Public Administration Review. (For the record, this research was supported by funding from the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)   Here is the paper's abstract:

Public administration upholds four pillars of an administrative practice: economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and social equity.  The question arises, however, how do administrators balance effectiveness and social equity when implementing policy?  Can the values contributing to administrative decisions be measured?

This study leverages the expansion of medical cannabis programs in the states to interrogate these questions.  The awarding of dispensary licenses in Pennsylvania affords the ability to determine the effect of social equity scoring on license award decisions, relative to criteria that represent the other pillars.  The results show that safety and business acumen were the most important determining factors in the awarding of licenses, both effectiveness concerns.  Social equity does not emerge as a significant determinant until the second round of licensing.  This study then discusses the future of social equity provisions for cannabis policy, as well as what the findings mean for social equity in public administration.

July 11, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Two notable new missives to the Biden Administration about marijuana policy and practice

Marijuana Moment has effective coverage to two notable new letters sent recently to the Biden Administration.  Here are headlines, links and the ledes:

"Marijuana Regulators Coalition Pushes Biden Administration For Updated Federal Enforcement Guidance"

A coalition of current and former marijuana regulators is urging the Justice Department to instate updated guidance to federal prosecutors on cannabis enforcement priorities as an interim step while Congress considers broader legislation to end prohibition.

Ten members of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC) sent a letter to top DOJ officials, as well as the president and vice president, on Tuesday that addresses the urgent need to reinstate something like Obama-era guidance that generally recommended that prosecutors use discretion in marijuana-related enforcement for state-legal activities.

As the the coalition points out in the the letter, which was shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment, the 2013 guidance that was later rescinded by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the Trump administration came before any states had launched retail cannabis sales. Now, with 19 states that have legalized for adult-use and the vast majority permitting some level of medical marijuana access for qualified patients, there’s a need to bring back something akin to the so-called Cole memo, CRCC said.

The updated memo should advise federal prosecutors against going after people for “crimes related to cannabis when those activities accord with relevant state law and a reasonable set of regulatory principles intended to promote safety and fairness,” the letter says.

"Senators Blast Biden Administration’s ‘Extraordinarily Disappointing’ Marijuana Stance"

A coalition of six U.S. senators are renewing their call for the Biden administration to deschedule marijuana and grant mass pardons for people with federal cannabis convictions, calling the Justice Department’s response to an earlier request for action “extraordinarily disappointing.”

In a letter that was sent to President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday, the senators made a dual request: first, that the attorney general work independently to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and second, that the president issue mass clemency for people with non-violent federal marijuana convictions.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) signed the new letter. The senators said that DOJ took six months to respond to a previous October 2021 letter urging the attorney general to use his authority to unilaterally start the process of federally descheduling marijuana. The “half-page response” was “extraordinarily disappointing,” they wrote.

July 6, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, July 1, 2022

A reminder that cannabis clemency is ultimately up to the Prez

Marijuana Moment has this lengthy new article under the headline "It’s Up To Biden To Direct Mass Clemency For Marijuana Cases, U.S. Pardon Attorney Says." Of course, in every administration and for every type of federal defendant, grants of clemency are "up to" the President. Nevertheless, this piece serves as a useful review of the state of debate over clemency for federal marijuana offenders, and here are excerpts (with lots of links from the original):

It’s up to President Joe Biden to initiate a process of granting mass clemency for people with non-violent federal cannabis convictions, the recently appointed U.S. pardon attorney told Marijuana Moment on Thursday.

As a general practice, the Justice Department’s pardon office looks as petitions for relief on an individualized basis and then makes recommendations to the president, Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer said during an event hosted by the Justice Roundtable, a coalition of criminal justice reform organizations.

That said, a categorical pardon for people with federal cannabis records is still possible if the president takes action, the former public defender, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in April, said. “Right now, the Office of the Pardon Attorney reviews every individual clemency application on an individualized basis — and that could change at the direction of the president,” Oyer said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment about the feasibility of Biden issuing mass pardons and commutations for marijuana convictions in the way Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter did for people who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War. “Currently, what we do is we look at cases individually for the most part and not categorically,” Oyer said. But she left the door open that the president could issue a directive otherwise if he wanted to....

The pardon attorney said that when her office makes clemency recommendations, it does take into account “broad categories of policy objectives or criminal justice reform goals or racial justice objectives,” and marijuana cases represent an example of such a category because they have “some sort of cohesive common characteristics.”

“So we’re absolutely taking into consideration those categories and those policy objectives and those racial equity objectives, but we don’t look at cases in a batch without individualized review,” Oyer said. “We do look at every single case individually.”

At the event, the pardon attorney also offered advice to advocates on filing clemency petition applications and addressed the “backlog” of cases under review.

Late last year, there were signals that the administration might be moving toward clemency for certain people with federal convictions. The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) started asking eligible individuals to get the process started by filing out clemency applications.

Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakersadvocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.

Among those pushing for reform is Weldon Angelos, who received a president pardon from Trump in 2020 and has since become a key advocate for criminal justice reform who has worked with both the Trump and Biden administration of furthering relief.  “It’s up to President Biden to honor his campaign promise and instruct those involved in the clemency process to prioritize cannabis cases,” Angelos told Marijuana Moment on Thursday. “There is no other group more deserving of relief than those who are incarcerated for something that society no longer considers criminal.”...

At a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing last month, Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other Democratic lawmakers stressed the need for reforming the federal clemency process, calling for applications to be streamlined to make it easier for people with non-violent federal drug convictions to get relief.

Late last year, a coalition of congressional lawmakers introduced the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, a bill that would take clemency review away from the Justice Department and instead establish an independent board appointed by the president.

A report published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) last year affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.

July 1, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)