Saturday, December 31, 2022

NORML’s accounting "Top Ten" marijuana policy events in 2022

Aamcnews-top-stories-of-2022-resizedThe NORML folks have this effective and helpful new posting, titled "2022 Year In Review: Norml’s Top Ten Events In Marijuana Policy," which provides a useful review of 2022 reform highlights. I recommend the full post, for more of the details, but here are the headline "Top 10" items:

#10: Mississippi Becomes 37th State To Legalize Medical Cannabis Access

#9: Survey: Over 90% Of Pain Patients Report Reducing Their Opioid Intake Following Medical Cannabis

#8: Analysis: State-Legal Marijuana Industry Employs Over 428,000 Full-Time Workers

#7: Potus Signs Law Facilitating Clinical Cannabis Trials And Drug Development

#6: FBI Fails To Provide Comprehensive Marijuana Arrest Figures For The First Time

#5: Historic Percentages Of Americans Say Cannabis Should Be Legalized

#4: More Lawmakers Enact Workplace Protections For Cannabis Consumers

#3: Senate Fails To Move Safe Banking Act

#2: Tens Of Thousands Of Americans Receive Marijuana-Specific Pardons And Expungements

#1: Three More States Enact Adult-Use Legalization Laws

December 31, 2022 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Reviewing the latest stories of big federal marijuana reforms not getting done in this Congress

It has been an interesting couple of months for discussions of marijuana reforms at the federal level.  Prez Biden got the federal reform conversation amped up in early Fall when he pardoned low-level marijuana possession offenders and ordered administrative review of marijuana Schedule I status under the CSA (basics here).  Then, with the November midterm election giving control of the House to Republicans in the next Congress, formal and informal discussions of broad and narrow federal statutory marijuana reforms grew along with suggestions of including reforms in lame-duck bills (basics here and here).

This buzz did result in one tangible reform, as Congress in November passed and Prez Biden in December signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.  But, though historic and important, this research reform bill is unlikley to be all that impactful and consequential anytime soon.  And hopes for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act and other possible reforms were finally fully dashed this week, raising the possibility that we may not see big federal marijuana reforms coming from Congress for many, many more years.

Of course, Marijuana Moment has great coverage of all the action, and here are some of the pieces that discuss a significant failure in the modern marijuana reform movement:

"Marijuana Banking Left Out Of Federal Spending Bill, Congressional Sources Confirm"

"Congress Keeps Ban On D.C. Marijuana Sales While Failing To Act On Cannabis Banking And Expungements"

"Schumer Blames GOP For Marijuana Banking Failure, But Says He’ll ‘Go Back At It Next Year’"

"Democrats Blew The Opportunity For Federal Cannabis Reform (Op-Ed)"

December 21, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 9, 2022

"Solving a Drug Epidemic with More Drugs: A Discussion on the Expansion of Medical Marijuana in Ohio and its Impact on the Opioid Crisis"

As I have recently mentioned, during a very busy semester, I have fallen a bit behind posting some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  As I try to catch up in the days ahead, as I continue to relish the he chance to highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates.  The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Brianna Sweeney who is in the midst of her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  Here is its abstract of this paper: 

Ohio has suffered greatly at the hands of the opioid epidemic, but a new form of treatment could be on the rise for those who struggle with opioid use disorder (OUD).  As Ohio Senate Bill 261 has proposed “opioid use disorder” as a new qualifying condition for the recommendation of medical marijuana, the possibility emerges of medical marijuana’s positive impact on the opioid crisis.  This paper will explore the relationship between medical marijuana and the opioid epidemic, including the policy debate of medical marijuana’s advantages and disadvantages, particularly in comparison to prescribing opioids, and its ability to assist in opioid use disorder treatment.  Next, it will turn to the research on how medical marijuana laws have potentially affected opioid related death rates across the country.  Narrowing in on the pertinent issue, the research discussion will also cover how medical marijuana impacts OUD and OUD treatment.  Finally, the paper discusses the lack of conclusive research available, the need for further research, and a possible route for Ohio to take as this topic and the understanding of it evolves.  It is this paper’s hope that Ohio can provide another opportunity to prevent lives lost to opioids, contribute to the end of the epidemic, and promote future work and conversations on this topic.

December 9, 2022 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Is significant marijuana reform coming from Congress now very unlikely for now very many years?

-1x-1As mentioned in this post from the past weekend, lots and lots of folks had seeemingly come to believe that significant federal marijuana reform was quite likely to get enacted in Congress this month.  But this new Politco piece, headlined "How the plan to pass a weed package went awry, " not only explains why the prospects for reform are dim this month, but perhaps for many years to come.  Here are excerpts:

Democrats almost had a weed deal — for real this time.  For weeks, a bipartisan group of senators worked to negotiate a historic package in the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  The ideologically diverse crew included Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The bargain they ultimately reached represents the broad spectrum of cannabis issues: banking, guns and criminal record expungements.  The package gave progressives, libertarians and conservatives all something to be happy about.  But in the final days of negotiations over the National Defense Authorization Act, which they hoped would serve as a must-pass vehicle for the cannabis package, enthusiasm evaporated.  The unraveling of the plan was sparked by top Republicans attacking cannabis banking legislation that was the centerpiece of the deal....

The SAFE Banking Act, which the cannabis package revolves around, would allow banks to offer financial services to the weed industry....  SAFE was then paired with the HOPE Act — a bill introduced by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and progressive stalwart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that creates grants for expungements at the state level, lending it a “states rights” component.  Finally, the GRAM Act — introduced by late Alaska GOP Rep. and former co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Don Young — was thrown in. It would protect marijuana users’ right to own a firearm.

Support was there: At least 10 Republicans have co-sponsored or signaled they support the SAFE Act to date.  Co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in November he was open to SAFE and HOPE, especially if Daines was on board.  On Thursday, Daines said conversations were productive and Paul claimed that there were more than 60 votes for the package.

But the potential deal began to fall apart when key Republican senators took aim at the cannabis banking provision.  On Monday, staffers for Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other senators involved in the deliberations met with representatives from the Justice Department to discuss concerns about how agency officials would enforce the bill.  Following that meeting, Grassley’s office released a statement attacking the bill.

Then on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor to rip Democrats for trying to add extraneous proposals to the defense spending bill. “We’re talking about a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities, like making our financial system more sympathetic to illegal drugs,” he said.

Even stalwart supporters got cold feet about attaching the cannabis package to the NDAA. Cramer and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who both support the banking bill, said a defense spending package wasn’t the place for it.  “It dilutes the proper role of this place,” Cramer said, suggesting that the deal be given a full committee markup and floor time instead.

The NDAA isn’t the last piece of legislation that will likely be passed in the lame duck, but the same obstacles will apply to an omnibus funding package that’s being negotiated.  Simply put, if McConnell remains opposed to SAFE, it won’t make it into a major package.

But the bill isn’t dead yet: Paul is still bullish on its prospects, saying he is confident there are more than 60 senators in favor of SAFE if it were to receive a standalone floor vote.  Democrats left this until the last minute, though, and the chances that the Senate can find any floor time for a standalone SAFE “plus” package before the end of the year are slim....

Daines said he’s focused on getting something passed before the end of the year, but other GOP supporters, including Tuberville, said they may just need to deal with it in the next year.  Republicans are set to take over the House in January, dimming the chances for SAFE. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has voted in favor of the bill, but he hasn’t signaled that cannabis is something he wants to spend time on.

It may be that after more than three years of trying to see SAFE passed, Democrats took a gamble with the lame duck and ran out of time to get it passed.

Because I am not an expert in congressional procedure, I do not know if there would be a way in 2023 for a SAFE+ package of reforms to make its way through the new Congress as a stand alone bill.  But I do know that if Senate Minority Leader McConnell and and the future House Speaker McCarthy are not excited about moving forward any federal marijuana reform legislation, then no such legislation will move forward in the next Congress.   And, as political prognosticators know, there is a pretty good chance that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could become Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come January 2025.  Thus, an oppositional Senator McConnell could very well scuttle any federal cannabis reform efforts for the next four years and maybe longer.

That said, Prez Biden and his agencies can possibly move forward with reforms under the CSA without Congress involved.  And, like the research bill that became law recently, there may be smaller reforms (included needed criminal justice measures) that Senator McConnell and other marijuana skeptics may not aggressively oppose.  And, with the red states of Oklahoma and Ohio possibly embracing full legalization in 2023, the broad politics here are always in flux.  So, I do not think that all is lost with federal reform even as the plans and paths get much less certain.

Of course, 23 months ago, when Prez Biden was picking his cabinet and the Democrats won the Georgia run-offs to take control of the Senate, many believed federal marijuana reforms coming from a Democratic-controlled Congress would be right around the corner.  Fast forward to the end of 2022, and Congress in a few weeks will no longer be controlled entirely by Democrats, and they have remarkably little to show on cannabis reform for their time in full control.

December 8, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Cannabis lawyering makes the cover of the ABA Journal

12012223-COVER-750pxI was intrigued and pleased to see that the cover story of the latest issue (December/January 2022-2023) of the ABA Journal is all about cannabis lawyering.  This new piece is headlined "Lawyers are lighting up the budding cannabis industry: Justice Cannabis Co. is one of the biggest of the little guys in the rough-and-tumble, fast-paced and legally treacherous world of marijuana growing and selling."   

Becuase I do not see too many really good pieces broadly reviewing the state of cannabis lawyering, I was a little disappointed that the ABAJ article is almost entirely about the practice and experience of lawyers involved with Justice Cannabis.  Still, the ABAJ piece is an interesting read that covers a good bit of marijuana law along the way.  Here is an excerpt:

As of early February, 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia permitted the medical use of cannabis products.  And as of November, 21 states, two territories and D.C. had approved cannabis for adult nonmedical use.

The cannabis industry generated $25 billion in revenues from legal sales in 2021 and employs more than 400,000 people nationwide.  It was expected to reach $32 billion in annual sales in 2022 and could exceed $50 billion by 2030.

It can be a lucrative and fascinating area of practice, according to attorneys such as William Bogot of Fox Rothschild, who left the Illinois Gaming Board to take on cannabis work.  It also can be frightening, says Lisa Dickinson of the Dickinson Law Firm in Spokane, Washington, who is chair of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section's Cannabis Law and Policy Committee. “It's still the wild, wild west,” she says.

The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the production, distribution, sale, use or possession of cannabis--which is classified alongside heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug with a high likelihood of addiction and no safe dose.  The federal statute provides no exception for medical or other uses authorized or regulated by state law. The penalties for some offenses are severe.  The rapid bifurcation of state and federal law has woven deep contradictions into the legal system and American society, and it has created a thorny dilemma for cannabis businesses and the attorneys they need to help them.

For attorneys, there are two issues that have a chilling effect on their participation: The first is whether by representing a business that is breaking federal law they are violating the ethics of the profession, which could cost them their license to practice; the second is they could be charged with engaging in criminal activity, resulting in fines and prison.

December 5, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Notable new talk about SAFE Banking Act and HOPE Act getting added to "must-pass" defense bill

New reporting by Axios and Politico suggest that US Senators on both sides of the aisle are working to get notable marijjuana reform measures included in this year's (must-pass) National Defense Authorization Act.  The Politico piece, headlined "Senators push for SAFE Banking in defense bill," starts this way:

A landmark bill that would make it easier for banks and other financial institutions to service the cannabis industry could finally be poised for passage.  The SAFE Banking Act could be included in the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to take up next week.

Republican senators had a “productive” meeting about the legislation on Thursday with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told POLITICO. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said he "hopes" it is in the NDAA.

The final decision is likely to be made on Monday, when the House Rules Committee meets to tee up the compromise version of the NDAA for a vote on the House floor as early as Tuesday. A final version of the defense bill was expected to be filed Friday, but has been delayed as House and Senate leaders iron out last-minute issues around what outside bills should be attached.

The Axios piece adds these details:

The targeted legislation is the result of the pairing of two bills —Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act—that would attract both conservatives and progressives across Congress.

The latest changes to the bill ensure that the legislation does not unintentionally make it harder for law enforcement to prosecute other crimes involving other drugs or money laundering.

Schumer and the bipartisan group plan to attach this legislation to a must-pass year-end bill like the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Schumer and Sen. Jeff Merkley have been working with Republicans for months, including Sens. Steve Daines, Rand Paul, and Dan Sullivan.

December 4, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2022

Prez Biden formally signs into law new "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act"

Cannabis-research-1-1As reported in this Marijuana Moment piece, "President Joe Biden has officially signed a marijuana research bill into law, making history by enacting the first piece of standalone federal cannabis reform legislation in U.S. history." Here is more:

The bill cleared the House in April and the Senate last month, and a White House spokesperson confirmed to Marijuana Moment that the president intended to sign it. On Friday, he did just that.

The law gives the U.S. attorney general 60 days to either approve a given application or request supplemental information from the marijuana research applicant. It also creates a more efficient pathway for researchers who request larger quantities of cannabis....

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD) sponsored the House version of the research legislation, which is substantively identical to a Senate bill from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that previously cleared that chamber....

The four co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus — Blumenauer and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Brian Mast (R-FL) — released a joint statement following the president’s signing.

“For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws,” they said. “The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis.”...

In a press release, Schatz said that “the medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits.” “Our new law will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options,” he said.

Blumenauer and Harris previously championed a separate cannabis research bill that advanced through their chamber in April. Unlike that legislation, however, the newly approved bill notably does not include a provision that scientists had welcomed that would have allowed researchers to access cannabis from state-legal dispensaries to study.

The research legislation further encourages the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines. One way it proposes doing so is by allowing accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration to cultivate their own cannabis for research purposes.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now mandated to approve applications to be manufacturers of marijuana-derived, FDA-approved drugs under the bill. Manufacturers will also be allowed to import cannabis materials to facilitate research into the plant’s therapeutic potential.

Another section requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look at the health benefits and risks of marijuana as well as policies that are inhibiting research into cannabis that’s grown in legal states and provide recommendations on overcoming those barriers.

The bill further states that it “shall not be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for a State-licensed physician to discuss” the risk and benefits of marijuana and cannabis-derived products with patients.

December 2, 2022 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)