Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Later tonight or early tomorrow I expect I will be blogging about the results of today's initiative vote on the full legalization of marijuana in Ohio. And, as voters head to the polls in the Buckeye State and in some other states, I am tempted to make the case that cannabis reform politics may be at an inflection point. But maybe not, especially when possible federal reforms may be looming. I suspect I will opine a bit on marijuana politics after seeing some actual outcomes on this intriguing off-off-year election day, but for now I will lean on recent Marijuana Moment coverage of both state and federal politics in this arena:
Happy Election Day to all who celebrate!
November 7, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
As reported here by Marijuana Moment, the "Senate Banking Committee has approved a bipartisan marijuana banking bill with amendments, sending it to the floor." Here are some details:
On Wednesday, members voted to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), in a 14-9 vote. This comes one week after it was filed with revisions that were meant to bolster its bipartisan buy-in....
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the lead GOP sponsor of the SAFER Banking Act, emphasized that he does not view the legislation as a step toward legalization, which he opposes. But “the current all cash model of legal cannabis businesses makes him targets for theft, for tax evasion and for organized crime,” he said. “The key to addressing this risk is by ensuring that all legal businesses have access to the banking system,” Daines said....
The road to Wednesday’s vote has been bumpy. While the House has passed earlier versions of the legislation several times, this marks the first time the Senate has taken the lead—and bipartisan negotiations have proved trying.
Leadership aimed to move the bill through committee in July, but disagreements over provisions related to broad banking regulations shot that timeline down. Then, over the August recess, lawmakers drafted a revised version, with a slightly updated title and new language that earned some praise from both sides of the aisle.
But the amended SAFER Banking Act that was finally released last week is likely not in its final form. Beside amendments adopted during Wednesday’s markup, there are additionally plans to amend it on the floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to use that opportunity to incorporate legislation on incentivizing state-level cannabis expungements, as well as protecting gun rights for marijuana consumers.
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
I was asked to post this call for papers, which I am happy to do:
Tulsa Law Review, in conjunction with the University of Tulsa College of Law and the University of Tulsa, is hosting a Symposium on Cannabis Law and Policy on March 1, 2024.
Theme: Contemporary Cannabis: Wading Through a Post-Prohibition Era
Tulsa Law Review invites interested parties to write and submit relevant articles for publication consideration in our 2024 Symposium Issue. One panel will focus on evidentiary and interdisciplinary issues with the increasing legalization of cannabis at the medical and recreation level. The other panel will discuss legalization at the state level and its effects on corporate and banking spheres.
With the recent announcement of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III substance, we are excited to facilitate a thoughtful discussion and a variety of papers surrounding this timely topic.
Questions and paper proposals should be submitted to Cameron Skinner, Tulsa Law Review symposium editor, [email protected]
September 12, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
"A Prescription for Progress? Would a Schedule III Reclassification of Psychoactive Cannabis Help or Hurt State Operators?"
The title of this post is the title of this timely new paper now on SSRN and authored by Benton Bodamer, who is a member of Dickinson Wright PLLC and an Adjunct Professor of Law at OSU and affiliated with the Drug Enforcement Policy Center. Here is its abstract:
On August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concluded a scheduling review of psychoactive cannabis and recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration “reschedule” psychoactive cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. The next 6 to 12 months could be among the most transformative for the U.S. cannabis industry, but progress is unlikely to come without regulatory confusion, conflicts of federal laws, and unintended consequences. This paper aims to answer major questions that remain following the release of HHS’s statement, including why psychoactive cannabis was on Schedule I given its medical uses, whether a move to Schedule III effectively legalizes existing state-compliant cannabis companies, if relief from 280E tax or advertising restrictions are likely, and whether a move to Schedule III opens up banking for existing cannabis companies. The paper ends with a look at the road ahead.
September 12, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
As noted in this prior post, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is officially recommending that marijuana be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III under federal law. A number of media outlets and other sources have done useful reviews of what this means for marijuana law and policy, and here is a round up of some pieces:
From Foley Hoag, "The Cannabis Rescheduling Recommendation: What it Means and What’s Next"
From Harris Bricken, "Three Myths and Three Facts on the HUGE Marijuana Rescheduling Recommendation"
From the Washington Post, "Possible easing of marijuana restrictions could have major implications"
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
This new Marijuana Moment piece report that "the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is officially recommending that marijuana be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III under federal law — a historic development that means the top health agency no longer considers cannabis to be a drug with high abuse potential and no medical value." Here is more on this significant federal marijuana reform news:
After completing a scientific review into cannabis under a directive from President Joe Biden last year, HHS is now telling the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that it believes marijuana should be placed in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The recommendation is not binding, and DEA has the final say, but the scientific analysis combined with growing political support for cannabis reform may well influence DEA to make the change.
As a Schedule III drug, cannabis would still remain federally prohibited. However, the rescheduling would have major implications for researchers who’ve long criticized the Schedule I classification that creates significant barriers to access for studies. Moving cannabis to Schedule III would also unlock marijuana industry tax opportunities that are currently unavailable.
“We can confirm DEA received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to President Biden’s request for a review,” a DEA spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under HHS led the scientific review that led to the Schedule III recommendation. According to Bloomberg, which first reported the development, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, who advocated for medical cannabis as Pennsylvania’s health secretary before joining the Biden administration, sent a letter to DEA on Tuesday about the Schedule III recommendation that referenced FDA’s review. The development comes two months after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Marijuana Moment that his agency was aiming to wrap up the review by the end of the year.
A White House spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that the “administrative process is an independent process led by HHS and DOJ and guided by the evidence,” so president’s team will not be commenting on the agency’s recommendation at this time....
There would be both practical and political implications of a Schedule III reclassification if DEA goes along with HHS’s recommendation. For researchers, this would mean that they would no longer need to go through the onerous registration process with DEA in order to access cannabis for studies as a Schedule I drug.... For the industry, the reclassification would allow them to make federal tax deductions that are currently prohibited for businesses involved in the sale of Schedule I or II drugs. Because of this prohibition, the cannabis industry has faced a significantly higher effective tax rate, and state governments have taken it upon themselves to provide state-level tax relief for their regulated markets.
Politically, moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III would allow the president to say that he’s helped accomplish a major reform, facilitating an administrative review that may result in rescheduling more than 50 years after cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category as the federal government launched a war on drugs. This could also bolster momentum for congressional efforts to further reform federal cannabis laws. As lawmakers come back from the August recess and continue to try to pass cannabis banking legislation, they will be able to point to the HHS recommendation as evidence of the urgency to normalize the industry....
Of course, advocates’ highest hopes for the HHS review was that it would lead to a descheduling recommendation, where marijuana would be completely removed from the CSA and treated the same as alcohol in the eyes of the government. Some have also voiced concerns that a Schedule III reclassification could negatively impact state markets, with FDA potentially assuming a more hands-on role with respect to cannabis.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
"A Second Amendment Angle of Cannabis Prohibition: Are State-Compliant Marijuana Users Being Denied the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?"
I continue to be excited to post some the latest papers from the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center in order to highlight great work by OSU law students and recent graduates on many important and cutting-edge topics. The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Katie Schaefer, who is in her final year as a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is its abstract:
Although individual states have not necessarily legislated that possessing a gun is unlawful for state compliant marijuana users, cannabis’s federal illegality produces this result. The process for obtaining a gun – regardless of what state the individual resides in – requires the individual to fill out the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ Form 4473. Form 4473 question 21g, as mandated by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), disqualifies cannabis users from purchasing a firearm.
Consequently, individuals who are fully in compliance with the marijuana laws in their home state are being stripped of their Second Amendment right, regardless of if the plant is being used for medicinal or adult use purposes. Therefore, marijuana users who wish to possess a gun have three options: stop using marijuana entirely, stop using state compliant marijuana and instead obtain it from an illicit source, or lie. Although ATF agents and prosecutors report that due to limited resources, they are not inclined to prioritize the nonviolent crime of lying on a form over more serious charges, lying on the form and obtaining a gun while being a cannabis user remains a federal felony offense.
In the wake of Bruen, litigation on this matter has so far been leaning in favor of gun rights activists. But there remain many unanswered questions in this area. The implications of either a legitimization of state-legal marijuana use on the federal level (while the plant remains on schedule I), or of an acknowledgement that the gun control/background check process can be changed, could be massive.
Thursday, August 24, 2023
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Scott Bloomberg, Alexandra Harriman and Shane Pennington. Here is its abstract:
In October 2022, President Biden requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General initiate a procedure to review how marijuana is scheduled under the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). The announcement was historic. After more than fifty years of federal prohibition, decades of advocacy and litigation from reform groups, and dozens of stalled efforts in Congress, a President finally decided to wield the Executive Power with an eye towards rescheduling or descheduling marijuana. But just how far does that power go?
That question has been severely underexplored in legal scholarship. Indeed, our Article is the first to fully navigate the thicket of statutory and administrative law that dictates the scope of the President’s power to unilaterally reschedule or deschedule marijuana. In doing so, we conclude that the CSA’s administrative drug-scheduling procedure is much broader than prior scholarship has led on. We identify several avenues for the President to move marijuana to a less restrictive schedule and highlight a narrower pathway to deschedule marijuana entirely.
These findings are of immediate relevance. They can help guide the Executive Branch as it reconsiders how marijuana is scheduled and will prove useful to courts when the Biden Administration’s eventual decision is, inevitably, subjected to judicial review.
Saturday, July 1, 2023
The title of this post is the title of this new Forbes commentary by Will Yakowicz that provides an astute review of justice some of the reasons not to be very bullish about federal cannabis reform. I recommend the piece in full, and here are a few excerpts:
Marijuana is still illegal federally for a very simple reason. “Politicians just don't really care,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of nonprofit legalization advocacy group NORML. “It's just not on their priority list. If it were, they would address it. They don't because it isn't. It’s simple stuff.”
Over the last 30 years, 23 states have legalized recreational use and 38 now allow some form of medical marijuana, but the Senate has never held a single vote on legislation to decriminalize — or legalize — cannabis, despite the fact that some 88% of the American public believe it should be legal.
As for President Biden’s request for HHS to review marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I narcotic, Armentano says he’s been through multiple re-scheduling petitions, which have all been denied by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has final approval over any rescheduling petition.
It gets more bureaucratically tangled from there. One of the key benchmarks marijuana must pass is whether it has recognized medical use in the United States. The only acceptable definition of medical utility in the U.S., according to the federal government, is approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “That's the federal government's position: no medical utility absent FDA approval,” Armentano says. “There's not going to be FDA approval of cannabis, at least not botanical raw plant cannabis.”
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
I am pleased to spotlight another great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event that is part of our summer 2023 Cannabis Regulatory Deep Dive. This event is scheduled for June 22 at 12noon and is titled "Changes in Federal Approaches to Cannabis: Process and Impact" This is how this event is described at this website (where you can register):
In 1971, marijuana was designated as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it “has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” After decades-long efforts by advocates and researchers, President Biden announced in October 2022 that he instructed “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.” In January 2023, the FDA issued a statement saying that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products with the regulatory oversight required to manage risks. Although these actions illustrate that the federal government is shifting its approach on cannabis, the mechanics of the scheduling review and the implications of such shift are not well understood.
Please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and a panel of experts as they discuss the role of other federal agencies in the scheduling review process and the legal implications of marijuana’s status as a controlled substance and the potential impact of rescheduling marijuana or descheduling it entirely. This panel will consider impacts on criminalization, research, medical access, and the medical and adult use cannabis industries currently regulated by states.
Cat Packer, Director of Drug Markets and Legal Regulation, Drug Policy Alliance
John Hudak, Director of the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy
Robert Mikos, LaRoche Family Chair in Law, Vanderbilt University Law School
Khurshid Khoja, Principal, Greenbridge Corporate Counsel
Fatima Afia, Attorney, Rudick Law Group, PLLC,
Shane Pennington, Partner, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
Patricia Zettler, Associate Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
As federal marijuana reform remains stalled, new coalition formed to advocate for rescheduling under CSA
As many of my students should recall, I have long stressed in many of my marijuana classes that a complicating question in the debates over possible federal reforms concerns whether advocates should prioritize rescheduling or descheduling of marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Most reform advocates certainly have a clear preference for removing marijuana entirely from the CSA (descheduling), which would mean marijuana is treated the same legally as alcohol and tobacco. But rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III or lower would seem to be more politically viable in the short term and would at least soften some of the legal problems created by the current conflict between state marijuana reforms and the drug's federal status.
Though the rescheduling versus descheduling debate has been long simmering, it has gotten some renewed energy since Prez Biden in October 2022 directed his Administration to review the Schedule I status of marijuana under the CSA. In addition, with Republicans in control of the US House of Representatives and perhaps poised to take back control of the US Senate in 2024, robust descheduling marijuana reforms from Congress may not be a realistic possibility for many years to come. Consequently, it perhaps make sense that folks still eager for descheduling would, at least in the short term, now be open to supporting rescheduling.
Against this backdrop, it is not to surprising to see this news from Marijuana Moment under the headline "New Coalition Of Major Marijuana Groups Launches Push For Scheduling Reform, Even If It Falls Short of Legalization." I recommend this lengthy piece in full, as it effectively highlights various aspect of the rescheduling versus descheduling debate. And here is how the story starts:
As federal agencies work to complete a marijuana scheduling review at the president’s direction, a new coalition of major cannabis companies and advocacy organizations has launched, aiming to advance the conversation in a way that embraces the potential benefits of an incremental rescheduling move even as they push for broader legalization.
The Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform (CCSR), which detailed its plans exclusively to Marijuana Moment ahead of an official launch on Tuesday, will be working with advocates, stakeholders, lawmakers and administration officials to promote education about the need to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Unlike other leading advocacy groups focused on full descheduling and legalization, however, its members are also united around the idea that moving cannabis to Schedules III, IV or V of the CSA would represent “historic progress” that shouldn’t be discounted.
But while there’s general agreement that such a move would resolve key federal tax issues for the industry and ease research restrictions, some advocates have cautioned against anything short of complete removal of marijuana from the CSA, insisting that a mere rescheduling would effectively capsize existing state markets and give way to further big business control of the industry.
Thursday, May 18, 2023
"An Equity Action Plan for Marijuana: The Biden Administration’s Opportunity to Advance Equity Through Cannabis Reform"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Cat Packer now available via SSRN. (Note: Cat is my former student and also is now serving as a Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at the The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.) Here is its abstract:
This paper examines the Biden Administration’s executive orders on equity, its position on marijuana reform before and after President Biden’s related October 2022 statement, and it's repeated statements acknowledging both cannabis criminalization’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities and marijuana reform as an opportunity to advance equity. Moreover, this paper critiques the omission of marijuana reform within the Biden Administration’s Equity Action Plans and highlights the opportunity for the Biden Administration to use its existing executive orders on equity as a framework to understand and address how marijuana laws and policies create barriers for underserved communities through the development of an equity action plan for marijuana reform.
May 18, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Gearing up for US Senate hearing on "Examining Cannabis Banking Challenges of Small Businesses and Workers"
As detailed at this official site, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has a hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning titled "Examining Cannabis Banking Challenges of Small Businesses and Workers." Among the topics to be discussed is surely to be the SAFE Banking Act, and there are scheduled witnesses who will be supportive and who will be oppositional to this bill. Here are the listed witnesses:
The witnesses on Panel I will be:
- The Honorable Jeff Merkley, United States Senator (D-OR); and
- The Honorable Steve Daines, United States Senator, (R-MT).
The witnesses on Panel II will be:
- Mr. Ademola Oyefeso, International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action Department, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW);
- Ms. Michelle Sullivan, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer, Dama Financial;
- Dr. Kevin Sabet, PhD., President and CEO, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and Fellow, Yale University; and
- Ms. Cat Packer, Vice Chair, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition.
Some witness written tesimony is already available at the hearing website.
As is so often the case, the folks at Marijuana Moment hav lots of coverage on this topc, and here are links to some of its relevant pieces:
- "Key Senate Committee Officially Schedules Hearing On Marijuana Banking Bill For Next Week"
- "Schumer Says Marijuana Banking Bill Will Go To Senate Floor — With Expungements And ‘Social Justice’ Attached — At NYC Cannabis Rally"
- "American Bankers Association Calls For ‘Swift Passage’ Of Marijuana Banking Bill Ahead Of Senate Committee Hearing"
- "Senate Committee Adds New Witnesses For Marijuana Banking Hearing This Week"
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
I am always excited by the wide range of diverse topics that students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar focus upon for their research and class presentations. But, because I was brought to this topic through my long-standing interest in criminal justice reform, I get extra excited when a student digs into criminal law stories. And the second presentation slated for this week is in this space, and the topic is described by my student this way (along with background readings):
Efforts to change marijuana law at both the state and federal level are never-ending. With so much excitement around the prospect of new laws, the passing of new laws, and the possibility of new business, one group appears to be left behind more often than not: the people who have already been affected by the criminalization of marijuana and are currently serving time in prison.
At the federal level while marijuana is not legal, Biden pardoned roughly 6,500 people convicted of simple possession of marijuana in October of 2022. This step showed so much promise of change, but what wasn’t accounted for was how simple possession charges can affect the sentences of other people within the federal sentence. Maybe someone is convicted of heroin possession, but they have two previous marijuana possession charges — their criminal history increases, increasing their sentence. How do we account for these disparities? One person is pardoned, no longer serving time for marijuana possession while another gets months tacked onto their sentence for that same offense.
At the same time, simple possession marijuana offenders are not the only group facing disparities. People serving longer sentences in federal prison for trafficking marijuana also face disparities in sentence lengths due to mechanisms like compassionate release. A system set up to help people — and it does — does not reach every person equally in prison. Depending on your judge, you may have an order granting your motion for compassionate release because the judge understands the marijuana landscape has changed over the last 20 years. However, on the other hand, you may receive an order from your judge denying your motion for compassionate release because to them trafficking marijuana is still a crime at the federal level, despite what states are doing. How do you remedy one person receiving relief because of changes in marijuana law while another person being denied compassionate release because changes in marijuana law does not warrant a sentence change?
Maybe there is no good answer — but one thing is for sure, this group of people, feeling the impacts of antiquated marijuana law, cannot be left behind.
US Sentencing Commission, "Weighing the Impact of Simple Possession of Marijuana" (January 2023)
From CNBC, "Biden pardons thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession, orders review of federal pot laws" (October 2022)
Congressional Research Service, "Recent Developments in Marijuana Law" (December 2022)
Monday, March 27, 2023
Students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar often focus on cutting-edge issues in their class presentations on the research topics of their choice. The second presentation slated for this week could not possibly be more cutting edge, as my student will be discussing gun possession and marijuana use. Here is how she has described her topic along with background readings she has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):
Although individual states have not necessarily legislated that possessing a gun is unlawful for state compliant marijuana users, cannabis’s federal illegality seems to produce this result. The process for obtaining a gun – regardless of what state the individual resides in – requires the individual to fill out the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ Form 4473. Form 4473 question 21g states:
"Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreation purposes in the state where you reside."
Consequently, individuals that are fully in compliance with the marijuana laws in their home state are being stripped of their Second Amendment right, regardless of if the plant is being used for medicinal or adult use purposes. Therefore, marijuana users who wish to possess a gun have three options: stop using marijuana entirely, stop using state compliant marijuana and instead obtain it from an illicit source, or lie. Although ATF agents and prosecutors report that due to limited resources, they are not inclined to prioritize the nonviolent crime of lying on a form over more serious charges, lying on the form and obtaining a gun while being a marijuana user remains a federal felony offense.
In the wake of the 2022 Bruen holding, litigation on this matter seems to (so far) sway in favor of gun rights activists. But there remain many unanswered questions in this area. The implications of either a legitimization of state-legal marijuana use on the federal level (while the plant remains on Schedule I), or of an acknowledgement that the gun control/background check process can be changed, could be massive.
Links to Background Reading:
From the Washington Post, "Lying to ATF on gun-purchase form yields few prosecutions, data shows"
From the US Attorney's Office in the Western District of Oklahoma, "Federal Prosecutors Aggressively Pursuing Those Who Lie in Connection With Firearm Transactions"
From the Reason Foundation, "Medical Marijuana Patients Are Being Denied Gun Rights"
From US Congressman Alex Mooney, "There Are Two Sides Of The Fence, Use Marijuana And Give Up Gun Ownership Or Give Up Marijuana And Be A Gun Owner."
March 27, 2023 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, February 25, 2023
The title of this post is the title of this new article recently posted to SSRN authored by Erik M. Jensen. Here is its abstract:
This article considers several issues affecting Internal Revenue Code section 280E, which denies income-tax deductions and credits to businesses trafficking in controlled substances. Even though marijuana is legal in an increasing number of states, it remains a controlled substance under federal law and section 280E therefore applies to marijuana businesses. As a result, investing in a marijuana business is much less attractive than it would otherwise be. The article discusses issues of statutory interpretation but, more important, considers whether an almost complete denial of deductions and credits converts what is in form an income tax into something else. If the “income” tax as applied to a marijuana business is not on income, within the meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment, it may have to be apportioned among the states on the basis of population to be constitutional (the so-called direct tax apportionment rule). The article also argues, however, based on a 1911 Supreme Court decision, that the Sixteenth Amendment issues might go away if the business is conducted using a taxable corporation. Finally, the article includes a brief discussion about marijuana businesses conducted either directly by American Indian nations or through tribally created corporations. Those entities are not subject to the federal income tax; the limitations of section 280E therefore are irrelevant; and tribal businesses have a competitive advantage in the marijuana market. Because of section 280E’s application to businesses that are legal under state law but illegal under federal law — an untenable situation — federalism issues underlie all of the discussion.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
After extended study, the federal Food and Drug Administration has decided it cannot figure how to regulate cannabidiol (CBD). This FDA press release explains its decision, and here are excerpts:
Given the growing cannabidiol (CBD) products market, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened a high-level internal working group to explore potential regulatory pathways for CBD products. Today we are announcing that after careful review, the FDA has concluded that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products with the regulatory oversight needed to manage risks. The agency is prepared to work with Congress on this matter. Today, we are also denying three citizen petitions that had asked the agency to conduct rulemaking to allow the marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements.
The use of CBD raises various safety concerns, especially with long-term use. Studies have shown the potential for harm to the liver, interactions with certain medications and possible harm to the male reproductive system. CBD exposure is also concerning when it comes to certain vulnerable populations such as children and those who are pregnant.
A new regulatory pathway would benefit consumers by providing safeguards and oversight to manage and minimize risks related to CBD products. Some risk management tools could include clear labels, prevention of contaminants, CBD content limits, and measures, such as minimum purchase age, to mitigate the risk of ingestion by children. In addition, a new pathway could provide access and oversight for certain CBD-containing products for animals.
The FDA’s existing foods and dietary supplement authorities provide only limited tools for managing many of the risks associated with CBD products. Under the law, any substance, including CBD, must meet specific safety standards to be lawfully marketed as a dietary supplement or food additive.
The working group ... has closely examined studies related to the CBD-based drug Epidiolex, published scientific literature, information submitted to a public docket, as well as studies both conducted and commissioned by the agency. Given the available evidence, it is not apparent how CBD products could meet safety standards for dietary supplements or food additives. For example, we have not found adequate evidence to determine how much CBD can be consumed, and for how long, before causing harm. Therefore, we do not intend to pursue rulemaking allowing the use of CBD in dietary supplements or conventional foods.
This Washington Post article about the decision highlights some industry grumpiness and the broader context:
“When it comes to the safety of CBD, the FDA gets it wrong,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said in a statement. He called the agency’s intent to tighten regulations “unprecedented and unnecessary” but said he endorsed a legislative solution to allow marketing of CBD in dietary supplements and foods.
Alex Buscher, a Colorado-based lawyer who advises hemp companies, said that CBD doesn’t seem to be riskier than other dietary supplements on the market that have the potential for side effects if taken at higher-than-recommended doses. “The FDA is kicking the decision back to a divided Congress, which will take time to create a new regulatory framework,” he said. “We need actual regulation from the FDA.”Advocacy groups and food industry experts criticized the FDA decision.
Food safety experts have said that the FDA has been in an impossible situation as states have decriminalized marijuana — which remains illegal under federal law — and related products have gained popularity. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of this past February, 37 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have legalized medical use. As of Nov. 9, 21 states (plus D.C., Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) have decriminalized recreational use — a strong indication that public sentiment has shifted.
“I’m sure the FDA probably concluded that no matter which way they went, it would involve trying to fit a very big genie back into a very small bottle, and create a political firestorm,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “It’s not surprising that they would want to seek some cover from Congress.”
Monday, January 23, 2023
Highlighting the hazy "who" of marijuana reform with state reforms and persistent federal prohibition
In the classroom and also in some of my scholarship, I often lean into the questions relating to "who" takes the lead with various legal doctrines and reforms. In the marijuana space, of course, these "who" questions have the added complications from conflicting federal and state (and sometimes local) laws and regulations. Usefully, this lengthy new Grid piece provides something of an overview of the messy realities of discordant "whos" in the marijuana policy space. The full title for the piece highlights its themes: "Marijuana can be legal and illegal at the same time: How the hazy mix of state and federal laws is creating a mess: It’s hard to figure out when and where using or selling marijuana is a crime — and when it’s not." Here are excerpts:
America is a little dazed and even more confused when it comes to how legal (or not legal) marijuana is. State laws have been changing dramatically over the past decade — but they’re also inconsistent across state borders. Something legal in one state could get you arrested the next state over. It has created a dizzying patchwork of rules, regulations and exceptions made even worse by the federal government’s complete ban of the substance....
[J]ust because federal agents aren’t exactly arresting every single person with a cannabis plant on their windowsill (there aren’t enough agents for that) that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. In child custody cases, for instance, one party can cite marijuana use as a violation of federal law when arguing that someone shouldn’t get custody.
There are also no workplace protections at the federal level, even for workers who use cannabis legally or medicinally in a state. That means that workers can be fired if they fail a drug test, even if they’re in a state where it’s legal and they aren’t currently using or high. Some states have passed worker protections for off-duty use of marijuana to address the issue.
And then there is housing: Federally subsidized public housing bans cannabis use. An applicant or tenant who is found to be in violation of this law might be denied housing or evicted — even if it’s legal in the state they are living in....
Besides the matter of taxes and prices, the matrix of federal and state policies has allowed a thriving “gray market” to proliferate.... This market might take the form of storefronts offering marijuana as a “gift” accompanying a purchase in D.C., where buying and selling weed is illegal — but possessing it isn’t — because of congressional members opposed to legalization putting a rider in a budget bill nearly a decade ago....
The removal of a federal prohibition might result in consolidation. Any huge company, which would be able to ship the product across state lines, could buy out any smaller competitors and bring down prices for legal cannabis products. (For reference, Rand previously estimated that all the cannabis used in the U.S. could be grown on a few dozen industrial-size farms.)
January 23, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, January 13, 2023
"Building Solidarity in Support of Immigrants’ Rights in the Evolving Marijuana Legislative Landscape"
As I have mentioned before, after a very busy Fall semester, I am catching up on the posting of some recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. And now I have just started teaching a new semester of my marijuana seminar, it is especially enjoyable to be able to highlight some of the great work that was done by students in my last class. The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Charlotte Kalfas who was in my marijuaan seminar last year and who now completing her 3L year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is the abstract of her paper:
This paper attempts to raise the profile of and build solidarity among disparate groups on the issue of considering how immigration law should be amended or enforced in the wake of the move towards legalization, whether on a state-by-state or federal level. It goes into detail on perspectives and policy rationales for amending the INA to remove marijuana from disparate political perspectives -- those who are already committed to immigrants' rights, those who are already committed to marijuana legalization, and those who are less amenable to either.
For the first group, it's fairly self-explanatory: marijuana use is a deportable offense for immigrants whether or not it is legal, which makes little sense in the era of marijuana reform. For legalization supporters, I focus on economic developments and social justice. Allowing immigrants into the group of people who could purchase and use marijuana would both bring more revenue into the market and create a new group of folks who could work in both agricultural and retail ends of the business. Further, given the divisive history of the connections between marijuana criminalization and immigration, noncitizens should be a key consideration in legalization legislation and regulation just as social equity programs are now for women and other minoritized people. Finally, for those who aren't familiar or amiable to either perspective, the paper dives into arguments about justice and fairness from a legal perspective, and the assertion that supporting minoritized individuals such as immigrants and people of color is beneficial for all members of the U.S.
January 13, 2023 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
As I am gearing up for another exciting new semester of teaching my always exciting Marijuana Law and Policy seminar at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, I was especially drawn to this lengthy new op-ed by Justin Strekal at Marijuana Moment which has the same title as this post. I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts highlighting some of its main themes:
2022 was the best of times for marijuana policy reform in America—but if you read the headlines or (god forbid) log onto Twitter, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the worst.
This Orwellian doublethink is understandable if you look at it through the lens of a minute-by-minute analysis, or by only looking at the stock prices of the young, dominant players in the emerging cannabis industry. But we must keep the long game in mind when we think about ending the 85-year policy of marijuana prohibition and criminalization....
I have been a supporter of the SAFE Banking Act since I started at NORML in 2016, and I even took pro-SAFE meetings with groups that have since evolved their positions on the bill and are now demanding reforms to its underlying structure.
Back then, the purpose of the effort was to advance an aspect of legalization and the regulated marketplaces in Congress at a time when neither chamber had a leader who explicitly said they supported reform, be it SAFE or comprehensive. In other words, being for SAFE Banking was a form of harm reduction, not a cure.
Since the 115th Congress, a lot has changed. This includes the funding power of the reform movement, which has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the number of earnest advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project and Americans for Safe Access shrinking, for example. On the flip-side, K Street lobby shops are hiring new suits seemingly every month, many of whom never thought about marijuana prohibition before being paid by a private company or trade association to do so....
As for what the Republican flip in the House means for this reported agreement between Schumer and Daines? What about comprehensive reform? Well, I’m not going to give you a percentage likelihood because only snake oil salespeople treat Congress like a betting market.
Whatever comes next in the House majority, it’s important to remember that 51 percent of House Republicans already voted for SAFE in the last Congress, including leaders like Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Dave Joyce (R-OH), Bryon Donalds (R-FL), Kevin Hern (R-OK) and many others....
Because democracy is a verb and, as recent and ongoing events clearly show, things are not working well in America. But for the first time ever, there is actually a pathway to accomplish something pertaining to marijuana law reform — but only if the monied interests are willing to live up to the rhetoric they espouse.
January 10, 2023 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)