Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, April 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 6, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

New York to be the very latest (and one of the very biggest) states to legalize recreational marijuana

New-York-MarijuanaAs detailed in this Bloomberg article, headlined "New York Moves to Become Second Largest Pot Market In U.S.," a very big state is about to make marijuana use legal. Here are just some of the highlights:

New York moved toward creating the nation’s second-largest market for legal marijuana when the state Legislature passed Tuesday a bill that would impose special pot taxes and allow the licensing of dispensaries.

The measure (S.854A /A.1248A) would allow cannabis storefronts to open as soon as next year, and would let home growers start cultivating their own pot. It would limit the number of licenses for large corporations, and impose sales and excise taxes that are estimated to eventually bring in about $350 million a year.

The legislation would set in motion automatic expungement of records for people with previous convictions for activities that would no longer be criminalized when marijuana is legalized for use by adults 21 and older.

The Senate voted for the measure 40-23. The Assembly cleared the bill by a vote of 100-49. Both chambers’ votes were largely along party lines.... Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he will sign the bill, which he negotiated with lawmakers in a handshake deal last week.

Once New York’s program is fully rolled out, it’s anticipated to generate tens of thousands of jobs and about $4.2 billion in sales, surpassing Washington state and trailing only California, which had about $4.4 billion in sales last year.

Several lawmakers in both houses, mainly Republicans, brought up concerns with people under the influence of marijuana driving or going to work and using heavy machinery. “This legislation will be a liability,” said state Sen. Mario R. Mattera (R). “Our contractors are against this, the building trades are against this.”

Mattera, who voted “no” on the bill, also expressed concern over the dangers of drug use, particularly for youth. He described experiencing this problem in his own family, and called marijuana a “gateway” drug. “This is a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.

The legislation includes two kinds of new taxes: a 13% sales tax, with the money raised divided between the state (9%) and localities (4%), plus a distributor excise tax of as much as 3 cents per milligram of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, using a sliding scale based on the type of product and its potency.

Tax revenue would be used to run and oversee the state cannabis program, with the remaining money divided between programs that try to help people rebuild their lives after marijuana possession arrests, as well as their communities. The revenue would also go to education and drug treatment in the state. Cities, towns, and villages would have until the end of this year to opt out from having dispensaries and pot cafes in their communities.

Up to 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate would be legally permitted for personal possession outside of the home. Up to 5 pounds of cannabis will be allowed in a private residence, as long as it’s in a secure location out of the reach of those under age 21, according to the bill.

The proposal allows for the personal cultivation of cannabis, with an adult 21 or older permitted to have up to three mature plants and three immature plants. Per household, the limit would be six of each kind of plant. Home cultivation would become legal in six months for medical marijuana patients and legal for others no later than 18 months after the first shops open, dependent upon state regulations....

The bill would allow pot delivery services, with each licensee able to have the equivalent of up to 25 full-time employees. And it would allow for on-site pot consumption, as long as the cannabis cafes aren’t within 500 feet of a school, or 200 feet from a house of worship.

New York lawmakers also baked social and economic equity proposals into the legislation. A single company wouldn’t be allowed to handle all parts of a recreational transaction — cultivation, processing, distributing, and dispensing — with the exception of micro businesses. A cultivator or processor would be barred from having a direct or indirect financial interest in a retail dispensary.

A state Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management would be required to take small businesses into consideration and prioritize “social and economic equity” applicants from communities disproportionately impacted when marijuana was illegal. Priority for licenses also would go to those who make less than 80% of their county’s median income, and those convicted in the past of a marijuana-related offense.

The bill sets a goal of allocating half of the adult-use licenses to a minority- or woman-owned business, distressed farmers, service-disabled veterans, or “social and economic equity” applicants. The state would also create business incubator programs for social equity applicants, make low- and zero-interest loans available to them, and would be permitted to waive their licensing fees, according to the bill.

March 30, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Spotlighting that marijuana tax revenues hit new high in 2020 at over $3 billion

031521_cannabis_figure-1-1024x706I have been recently thinking about metrics used to assess marijuana reform, and this recent post at the Just Taxes blog from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy flags a new benchmark in a notable metric. The piece by Carl is titled "State and Local Cannabis Tax Revenue Jumps 58%, Surpassing $3 Billion in 2020," and here are excerpts:

Cannabis taxes are a small part of state and local budgets, clocking in at less than 2 percent of tax revenue in the states with legal adult-use sales. But they’re also one of states’ fastest-growing revenue sources.

Powered by an expanding legal market and a pandemic-driven boost in cannabis use, excise and sales taxes on cannabis jumped by more than $1 billion in 2020, or 58 percent, compared to a year earlier. In total, these taxes raised more than $3 billion last year, including $1 billion in California alone. These are the findings of an ITEP analysis of newly released tax revenue data from the 10 states where legal sales of adult–use cannabis took place last year.

About a third (36 percent) of the nation’s cannabis tax revenue growth occurred in California as the state’s relatively new adult-use market continued to gain its footing after a somewhat sluggish start. The next most significant source of new revenue was Illinois, which started legal retail cannabis sales on Jan. 1, 2020.

States with more established markets such as Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska also saw significant growth in revenue, likely driven in part by an increase in cannabis use during a time of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining. The slowest year-over-year growth, by contrast, occurred in Nevada as would-be tourists wary of COVID steered clear of Las Vegas. Nevada’s economy and state budget have been among the hardest hit in the nation during the pandemic. Even so, Nevada’s cannabis tax revenues rose 14 percent compared to a year earlier.

While the pandemic has taken a significant toll on state and local budgets overall, its impact on cannabis taxes (and alcohol taxes, for that matter) appears to have mostly been a positive one. Total excise and sales tax revenue from cannabis during the first six months of the pandemic (March through August 2020) shot up by 44 percent compared to the previous six-month period. That’s compared to 17 percent growth in the six months prior. The spike in revenue is clearly visible in the figure below. Notably, it occurred not just in the states with new markets like Illinois and Michigan where rapid growth would have been expected even under normal circumstances, but also across the five states with more established legal markets that launched between 2014 and 2017.

March 25, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 8, 2021

"The Problem of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs: The Views of Four Former 'Drug Czars'"

The title of this post is the title of a recent Heritage event that can now be heard in podcast form here.   Here is how the event is described:

People driving under the influence of drugs has been a major problem in America for decades, with alcohol being the most common drug used.  The recent opioid-abuse epidemic, along with the decision by a large number of states to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use, has made the problem of driving under the influence of drugs even more urgent.  To save lives, the issue must be understood and addressed.

Join us for a discussion with four former White House “Drug Czars” on the importance of this problem, potential new challenges as more states legalize cannabis and more individuals engage in polydrug use, and how the federal government and states should respond.

March 8, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Effective accounting (with great visuals) of marijuana "legalization in three degrees"

Figure 5This new and extended Law360 piece authored by Julie Werner-Simon provides an interesting accounting of the landscape of marijuana legalization.  The piece is titled "3 Degrees Of Legalization Show True Prevalence Of Cannabis," and merits a full review (in part because it has a number of original graphics of interest). Here are excerpts (along with one of the graphics):

Across the political spectrum and the wide swath of the U.S. — including far-flung territories — just shy of 7 million of America's almost 335 million inhabitants live in a place where marijuana usage is completely illegal.

Although marijuana has been federally illegal for 50 years since the administration of President Richard Nixon and the implementation of the Controlled Substances Act, that has not stopped U.S. states and territories from taking things into their own hands.

Marijuana legality across America is more endemic, with graduated levels of permissiveness than the binary state-legal adult recreational and medical marijuana delineations first reveal....

First-degree states and territories are those which have legalized adult recreational use.  In first-degree regimes, adults of the state or territory can legally purchase marijuana without the need to show any medical preconditions.

Second-degree states and territories are places that have legalized, implemented or established implementation dates for medical marijuana programs, which provide broad patient access to marijuana for the treatment of multiple medical conditions.  Second-degree programs vary enormously but, generally, second-degree states and territories permit patients at a minimum, to possess and smoke medical marijuana.

In America, second-degree regions ultimately evolve into places having coexisting adult use first-degree programs....

Rounding off the trifecta are the third-degree states that comprise an even smaller number of places with severely limited access, or SLA, to medical marijuana products.  This third category, which includes only states and no territories, typically permits restricted marijuana use to a limited number of universities or research institutions or for limited medical purposes by a patient population comprised primarily of those with incurable diseases, seizure disorders or epilepsy.

Some, but not all, SLA states cap the quantity of THC in any medical use of the marijuana product in that state, or restrict the amount a patient can receive in a set period, and some make it illegal to smoke medically authorized marijuana product.

SLA status, the third-degree designation, is often a precursor to becoming a second-degree medical use state. SLA communities can become accustomed to having restricted programs, with some even referring to their SLAs as medical marijuana programs....

There is no dispute about the distinctions between first-degree and second-degree states, but the muddled lines between what constitutes second-degree and third-degree regimes cause the variations in the answer to the question: Where is marijuana illegal?

From a visitor's perspective, the bulk of SLA states would reasonably appear to be fully illegal when, in fact, there are narrow legal grounds for some to use or study marijuana in those states.

Applying the three-degree analysis, there are only three states and one U.S. territory where marijuana is entirely illegal, that is, verboten for use in any form.  These are Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas and American Samoa. That's fewer than 7 million people in all of America living in places without some degree of marijuana legalization....

With all this activity on the state and territory level, the marijuana investment bonanza, as well as the advent of a new administration and an ever-so-slight Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, surely a thawing of the federal prohibition of marijuana is not far behind?

Not so fast and not tomorrow.  There will be no early groundhog spring[56] for marijuana in 2021.  The life and death consequences of COVID-19 have made it America's top priority; marijuana legalization has taken a backseat. Yet there will likely be incremental actions occurring after COVID-19 fiscal relief and increased vaccination levels and before the 2022 midterms....

Mandeep Trivedi, a well-regarded corporate valuator of marijuana businesses has said, where marijuana is concerned "[t]he almighty dollar is an almighty force."  It is the dollar that has caused inroads into the once impregnable view that supporting marijuana legalization is political suicide.

All economic indices show that marijuana legalization generates oodles of much-needed cash for governments.  The experiences of the legalized states, from the first- through the third-degree, prove this maxim. Federal government coffers depleted by COVID-19 costs, the payment of stimulus relief funds and the 2018 federal tax cuts are in need of replenishment. Marijuana can make this happen.

There are 20 months until the 2022 midterms.  The soil is tilled for receptivity to a more mature marijuana industry operating under coexisting federal and state regulation and taxation systems.  Even for the most conservative of political actors, this groundswell will be hard to resist.  Marijuana has gone mainstream; its tie-dye stigma has diminished while action from the federal government has been incentivized.  Federal marijuana legalization will ultimately have its day.

March 6, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 22, 2021

New Jersey becomes officially the (lucky?) 13th state to fully legalize marijuana for adult use

New-jerseyAs reported in this local article, "New Jersey on Monday officially became the 13th state to legalize marijuana, as Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law three bills putting into effect a ballot question overwhelmingly supported by voters last year." Here is more about a big deal long in development that finally became a reality:

New Jersey the first state in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic to eschew decades of arrests in favor of a program that would stop tens of thousands of arrests per year and kickstart a brand new cannabis industry that could be an economic boom for the state and region.  Currently, the only other states on the East Coast to legalize weed are Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.

"New Jersey's broken, indefensible marijuana laws — which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more," Murphy said in a press conference.  "In their place are laws that will usher in a new industry, based on equity, which will reinvest dollars into communities — laws which promote both public health by promoting safe cannabis products and public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.  And yes, we are fulfilling the will of the voters by allowing adult use cannabis, while having in place common sense measures to deter its use among kids," Murphy added.

The laws signed Monday allow the possession and use of marijuana by anyone over 21 years old within the state of New Jersey, who can have up to 6 ounces of weed on them without facing any penalty.  The laws also allow the purchase and sale of legal weed at state-licensed dispensaries, though it could be well over a year before recreational sales even began.

Some marijuana offenses will remain criminal, including drug distribution and growing cannabis plants without a license.  New Jersey is the only state with legal weed that doesn't allow at least its medical marijuana patients to grow, and joins Washington as the only states without some recreational home grow.  "We're going to go with the bills I just signed.  We'll leave it at that," Murphy said, deflecting a question about home grow.  "I appreciate the folks who have reached out on that front, but we're going to go with what we've got."...

The bill signings on Monday morning capped off three months of legislative debate over the rules and regulations for legal weed, most recently a weeks-long stalemate over penalties for marijuana users under the age of 21.  More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters backed a marijuana ballot question in November, but the constitutional amendment put forth by the referendum could not take effect until such rules and regulations were in place.

In New Jersey, the campaign to legalize marijuana was largely pursued as a social justice-driven mission.  The “vote yes” campaign, NJ CAN 2020, was led by officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, who ran digital advertisements — live events were dismissed due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic — educating voters on the negative effects of a simple low-level marijuana possession arrest and the millions in tax dollars spent on prosecuting such cases....

According to crime data from the FBI, New Jersey police departments made over 33,000 arrests for marijuana in 2017, the 9th highest marijuana arrest rate per capita in the country, according to the ACLU.  And in New Jersey, Black people were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite similar usage rates among races, the ACLU said.

“The failed War on Drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities and hurting families in New Jersey and across our nation," U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, said in a statement. "Today is a historic day."

Even Murphy, in his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, ran on a platform that included legalizing marijuana under a banner of social justice.  But advocates feared that such a mission had been lost in the shuffle since Election Day, as Murphy and legislative leaders negotiated the enabling legislation required to put the ballot question into action.

The ballot question’s constitutional amendment, for example, simply stated that the drug would be taxed at the state sales tax rate, currently 6.625%, to provide revenue for the state budget and defray the costs of police departments training officers to detect drugged drivers.

But advocates said that such a plan completely left out the largely Black communities where marijuana laws had been disproportionately enforced for decades.  The result was a unique two-tax structure that would send about 60% of tax revenue and 100% of revenue from a new “social justice user fee” to one of 20 “impact zones,” as decided by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the authority which will oversee not just legal weed for recreational use but the state’s growing medical marijuana program....

On Monday, lawmakers finally ended a six-week stalemate over how the state will penalize underage marijuana users, sending Murphy a “clean-up” bill designed to complement the pair already passed by the Legislature in December.  Those bills left open a major contradiction, with one stating that possessing marijuana under 21 years old was illegal while the other stated that no person — without age restriction — could face penalty for possession of up to 6 ounces of marijuana.

The resulting compromise, which passed the Legislature on Monday morning, put into place a three-tiered warning system for both underage marijuana and alcohol use. Both will be treated as virtually the same crime, with the most serious penalty capped at a simple referral to community service groups to teach the offender about substance abuse.  All civil penalties and fines, even from underage drinking citations, were removed.

February 22, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Cannabis Croynism"

DownloadThe title of this post is the title of this notable new report just released by the Government Accountability Institute.  Here is part of the report's executive summary:

Cannabis legalization in the United States has come a long way . In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use only.  This past November, five more states legalized marijuana, and 47 of the 50 states now allow its recreational or medical use.  While governments this Spring were imposing lockdowns and closures of most businesses, churches and schools to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, marijuana dispensaries joined pharmacies and liquor stores as “essential businesses” that must remain open in California.

While he was the first governor to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, Governor Gavin Newsom of California kept marijuana available.  Other states would soon follow: Thirty states in total that issued statewide stay-at-home orders would allow dispensaries of some kind, including recreational, to remain open.

While some claim that cannabis dispensaries were truly as important as pharmacies, which also remained open during statewide lockdowns, other factors may have contributed to this decision.  Whatever its medicinal and recreational benefits, cannabis has evolved into a nearly $21 billion industry that lobbies, pressures, and rewards politicians who look out for it.

In August 2019, the FBI announced it was investigating public corruption in the cannabis industry through pay-to-play bribery schemes. This announcement came at a time when the debate in the United States over the pros and cons of legalizing pot had mostly concluded. Officials in many states have routinely ignored federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana, effectively giving regulatory authority over marijuana to individual states.

There are now far more states where marijuana is fully legal than where it is illegal.  Twelve states have decided through referendum, and two states through legislative action, to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  Just three states – Nebraska, Kansas, and Idaho – still prohibit any use of marijuana, while the remaining forty-seven states have opted for legalization in some form.

With this new authority, state officials must now create specific regulations.  Where states have approved legal marijuana, politicians must make licensing rules for detailing which businesses may distribute such products, and who may purchase them. As with any new market, laws and regulations inevitably will pick the winners and losers in this emerging industry, whose value may be as high as $35 billion by 2025.

As with any economic activity regulated by the government, affected businesses seek an advantage by hiring insiders who have access to those close to the regulatory process.  They also make campaign contributions to well-positioned politicians.

And while most cannabis-related regulatory and legislative action is happening at the state level, some national level political figures have leveraged their positions to make money from cannabis legalization.  For example, in 2017, Paul Pelosi Jr., the son of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was named Chairman of the Board of Directors of Freedom Leaf, Inc., a consulting firm advising the budding marijuana industry.  The following year, the company entered the CBD distribution business, while Pelosi purchased more than $100,000 in company stock.

Former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, who staunchly opposed legalizing marijuana in Congress, is now bullish on the industry.  “This is one of the most exciting opportunities you’ll ever be part of,” he says in a video announcing his new National Institute for Cannabis Investors.  “Frankly, we can help you make a potential fortune.”  Boehner stands to earn an estimated $20 million if his group succeeds in persuading the federal government to legitimize marijuana.

Still, for now, the states are where most of the action on marijuana distribution is found, and where the greatest threat of political corruption exists.  The Government Accountability Institute (GAI), whose mission is to expose cronyism, reviewed the process related to legalizing marijuana in seven states.  For each state we reviewed, GAI focused on identifying the relationships between policy decisions that benefited advocates of marijuana legalization and the transfer of money and other benefits from marijuana-related businesses and lobbyists to elected officials.

While each state possessed a unique set of circumstances related to legalizing marijuana, our research found striking similarities in how cronyism in these states occurred.  For example, in several states, elected officials and government employees made decisions that ultimately benefited them financially.

February 9, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Virginia poised to become 16th state to fully legalize marijuana for adult use

Images (7)As reported in this local article, headlined "Marijuana will be legal in Virginia after historic vote, with dispensaries opening in 2024," the Old Dominion state is on track be become the newest marijuana reform state.  Here are the details:

Virginia, which for decades has sent thousands of people to jail for selling or using marijuana, is about to make it legal. In a historic shift for this traditionally conservative Southern state, the General Assembly voted Friday to allow its possession, manufacture and sale.

But while lawmakers in the House of Delegates and Senate agree on legalizing the substance, the chambers will have to work out differences in their proposed bills before a final version reaches Gov. Ralph Northam, who has signaled he will sign their legislation into law. Beginning in 2024, cannabis can be sold in regulated stores, with tax revenue going to pre-K and public health programs, addiction treatment and a fund to remedy the effects of the drug’s criminalization.

“There are more deaths from legal pharmaceuticals … sold at your local CVS and Walgreens that cause way more deaths than anything that marijuana — cannabis — will do,” said Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, stressing that the prosecution of marijuana use disproportionately harms Black and brown Virginians. “If you want to help marginalized communities, here is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to invest in those communities that have been decimated by the so-called war on drugs and to give us an economic leg up.”

A 2018 Daily Press investigation found Black Virginians were far more likely to be charged with marijuana possession and go to jail if convicted, even on a first offense. Half of those charged with first-offense possession were African American despite the state’s population being only about 20% Black, and despite surveys consistently showing white and Black people use marijuana at similar rates.

Under the Senate bill, passed Friday afternoon, simple possession would be legal starting in July, but retail sales would not start until 2024. The House of Delegates passed a similar bill earlier in the day.... Friday’s votes fell largely down party lines....

The state had already decriminalized marijuana last year. Being caught with up to an ounce of marijuana will land you a $25 civil fine, akin to a parking ticket. Before that, it could have resulted in a criminal conviction, a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for a first offense — and up to a year in jail for a second or subsequent offense. “It was a good first step, but more is needed,” Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said about last year’s change before Friday’s votes to legalize. “The (Senate) bill is the next step.”

From 2010 to 2018, there were almost 200,000 marijuana possession arrests in Virginia, and nearly 39,000 of those were in Hampton Roads, according to Old Dominion University’s 2019 State of the Region report.

About 68% of Virginia’s registered voters support legalizing marijuana, according to poll results released Tuesday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University.

February 7, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Interesting review of the incoming Cabinet with an eye on cannabis policy

This recent piece, headlined "We Know About Biden’s Cabinet on Cannabis," reports on the marijuana reform profiles of a number of members of the new Cabinet selection by Prez-Elect Joe Biden. The piece is an interesting read, and here is the start and conclusion to a focused discussion of some key nominees:

With Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden set for inauguration next week – and with his party in control of both chambers of Congress (albeit the narrowest of majorities in the Senate) – cannabis legalization could, finally, get at least a debate in both houses.  There are three measures that the 117th U.S. Congress could consider during Biden’s first term: the SAFE Banking and MORE Acts – which were approved by the Democrat-controlled House in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and the STATES Act, a measure which would give states control over cannabis laws without federal interference that never made it to the House floor.

Were any of the reforms approved by Congress, responsibility for enacting and enforcing provisions of the law would be the responsibility of several government agencies led by Biden’s Cabinet picks.  The SAFE Act, for example, would require regulation (and buy-in) from the Treasury Department; the MORE Act would likely involve a host of agencies, including but not limited to Health and Human Services, and the departments of Labor, Commerce, and Justice.  The STATES Act would also likely hinge on support from the Justice Department and perhaps Commerce.

Many of Biden’s picks are veterans of the Obama Administration – for which the former Senator from Delaware served as vice president – such as Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and Domestic Policy Council Chair Susan Rice. Others, including Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, HHS Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra (California), and Labor Secretary nominee Marty Walsh (Massachusetts), come from states that have legalized cannabis for adult use.

A host of nominees that could play a role were Congress to end federal cannabis prohibition simply have made no public statements on the issue....

If approved by the Senate, Biden’s cabinet would be the most diverse in the history of the U.S. and that diversity could be advantageous – rather than obstructionist – if Congress passes all (or some) of the major cannabis proposals. 

January 19, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"Guidance Documents: The Sirens of the Cannabis Odyssey"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Troy Sims recently posted to SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

The growing cannabis industry in the United States has presented both economic opportunity and legal complexity. States that allow medical or recreational cannabis conflict with federal regulations and lawyers who represent cannabis businesses are caught in an ethical maze.  This article discusses an often-overlooked cause of this complexity: guidance documents from the Department of Justice.  The rapid growth of the cannabis industry correlates with a series of memos issued by the Department of Justice, one of which is known as the “Cole Memorandum”, and all of which have been rescinded.  The ambiguities and shortcomings of current administrative law have played a large part in creating the confusing legal status of the cannabis industry.  Resolutions must reflect this reality to adequately address the ethical, financial, and legal problems in the cannabis industry. 

January 17, 2021 in 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)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Notable NORML accounting of marijuana reform highlights in 2020

I just came across this recent posting titled "2020 NORML Victories," which serves as a kind of year-in-review  of marijuana reform highlights in 2020.  Folks should click through to see the particulars as discussed by NORML, but here are heading flagging big developments in this post:

Historic: House Of Representatives Passes Legislation Repealing Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Cannabis Retailers Are Acknowledged To Be “Essential Businesses”

2020 Election Was A Clean Sweep For Legalization Ballot Measures

Virginia Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession, Calls For Legalization

Tens Of Thousands Have Their Criminal Marijuana Records Expunged

Vermont Legalizes Retail Marijuana Access

I now see that NORML has this additional new accounting of the marijuana reform year that was under the headline "2020 Year in Review: NORML’s Top Ten Events in Marijuana Policy." Here are the listed events:

#1: Advocates Run the Table on Election Day

#2: House of Representatives Votes to Repeal Federal Marijuana Prohibition

#3: Tens of Thousands Have Their Marijuana Records Expunged

#4: Sales of Retail Cannabis Products Reach Historic Highs

#5: No Uptick in Youth Marijuana Use Following Legalization

#6: Vermont Lawmakers Legalize Retail Marijuana Access

#7: More Seniors Report Using Cannabis to Improve Their Quality of Life

8: Cannabis Retailers Designated as “Essential Businesses”

#9: Studies Show Off-The-Job Cannabis Use No Threat to Workplace Safety

#10: Virginia Ceases Arrests for Marijuana Possession

December 27, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

"A History of United States Cannabis Law"

The title of this post is the title of this new article from the Journal of Law and Health authored by David V. Patton. Here is the first paragraph of its introduction:

Perhaps the best way to understand early-Twenty-First Century state and federal cannabis law in the United States is to examine the relevant history.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s statement is apropos: “[A] page of history is worth a volume of logic.”  This article begins by discussing the early history of cannabis and its uses.  Next, this article examines the first state and federal marijuana laws.  After a brief comparison of alcohol prohibition to cannabis prohibition, this article addresses cannabis laws from the 1920s to the early 1950s.  Then, this article takes up the reorganization of the federal drug regulatory bureaucracy since its inception.  Addressing the current era of cannabis laws and regulations, this article recounts how marijuana became a Schedule I drug.  The discussion then turns to changing social attitudes towards cannabis as reflected in presidential politics and popular culture.  Starting with the late-1990s, this article describes the development of state and federal cannabis laws and policies up to the present day.

December 8, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

How many House Republicans are going to vote in support of the MORE Act?

Capitolpot-largeA few months ago there was lots of excitement about the announced plans for the US House of Representatives to vote on H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE Act).  But House leadership put off the vote until after the 2020 election, and now excitement is growing again as a vote is being discussed again.  This new Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "House Leaders Propose Changes To Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Up For Floor Vote This Week," provides an effective accounting of where matters stand.  Here is how it starts:

A key House committee has scheduled a Wednesday hearing to advance a bill to federally legalize marijuana toward a full floor vote, which could then happen as soon as Thursday. Meanwhile, leaders in the chamber are proposing an amendment that would make several changes to the cannabis legislation.  Among the most significant revisions would be to the tax-related provisions of the bill.

The Rules Committee’s move to take up the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act follows Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announcement that the chamber would be holding a floor vote on the bill before the end of the year. 

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the lead sponsor of the bill, transmitted it to Rules with the series of modifications—many of them technical in nature. But beyond the tax changes, the newly proposed language also reaffirms the regulatory authority of certain federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and clarifies that cannabis can still be included in drug testing programs for federal workers.  Other members of the House are likely to file proposed amendments as well, though the Democratic majority of the Rules panel will determine which ones can be made in order for floor votes later this week.

Because there is zero chance that the MORE Act will move forward in the Senate during this Congress, this House vote may seem mostly symbolic.  (Indeed, this new Politico piece, headlined "Why the next Congress is unlikely to legalize marijuana," highlights why marijuana reform is likely to remain an uphill battle in the Senate even in 2021 and beyond.)  But Jacob Sullum has this new Reason piece, headlined "Will a Historic House Vote on Marijuana Legalization Nudge Biden Toward More Ambitious Reforms?," which rightly suggests the vote could have an impact on Joe Biden and the work of the incoming Biden Administration.  As Sullum puts it, any "historic House vote to repeal [the federal marijuana] ban would allow him to go further than he has so far without sacrificing his cherished reputation as a moderate."

I share Sullum's view that the House lame-duck vote on the MORE Act could prove to be consequential, though my take is that the answer to the question in the title of this post could and likely will prove to be the most important part of the story (perhaps along with how many Democrats vote against the MORE Act).  If the MORE Act passes with only D support, the discourse over federal marijuana reforms is likely to remain quite partisan for the months and years to come.  But if more than a handful of GOP Representatives vote for the MORE Act, it will become that much easier for reform advocates to portray future federal efforts as bipartisan.

Notably, Florida GOP Rep, Matt Gaetz was one of the original 29 co-sponsors of the MORE Act.  The Act now has 120 co-sponsors, but Rep. Gaetz is still the only GOP Rep among that number.  My understanding is that there may be a few more GOP Reps who would ultimately vote for the MORE Act.  But without more than just token GOP support, I doubt even a passing vote on the MORE Act will be as consequential as many reformers might hope.

 

December 1, 2020 in 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)

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Diving into Oklahoma's experience as "Hottest Weed Market"

6a00d8341bfae553ef0240a4b9776b200b-800wiIn a handful of prior posts (linked below), I have flagged Oklahoma as a red state to watch closely as a vanguard of modern medical marijuana reforms.  And so now I am pleased, but not surprised, to see this lengthy Politico magazine profile of deveopments in the Sooner state.  The piece's full headline highlights its themes: "How One of the Reddest States Became the Nation’s Hottest Weed Market; Oklahoma entered the world of legal cannabis late, but its hands-off approach launched a boom and a new nickname: ‘Toke-lahoma.’"  I recommend a full read, and here are excerpts:

Oklahoma is now the biggest medical marijuana market in the country on a per capita basis.  More than 360,000 Oklahomans — nearly 10 percent of the state’s population — have acquired medical marijuana cards over the last two years.  By comparison, New Mexico has the country’s second most popular program, with about 5 percent of state residents obtaining medical cards.  Last month, sales since 2018 surpassed $1 billion.

To meet that demand, Oklahoma has more than 9,000 licensed marijuana businesses, including nearly 2,000 dispensaries and almost 6,000 grow operations.  In comparison, Colorado — the country’s oldest recreational marijuana market, with a population almost 50 percent larger than Oklahoma — has barely half as many licensed dispensaries and less than 20 percent as many grow operations.  In Ardmore, a town of 25,000 in the oil patch near the Texas border, there are 36 licensed dispensaries — roughly one for every 700 residents.  In neighboring Wilson (pop. 1,695), state officials have issued 32 cultivation licenses, meaning about one out of 50 residents can legally grow weed.

What is happening in Oklahoma is almost unprecedented among the 35 states that have legalized marijuana in some form since California voters backed medical marijuana in 1996.  Not only has the growth of its market outstripped other more established state programs but it is happening in a state that has long stood out for its opposition to drug use.  Oklahoma imprisons more people on a per-capita basis than just about any other state in the country, many of them non-violent drug offenders sentenced to lengthy terms behind bars.  But that state-sanctioned punitive streak has been overwhelmed by two other strands of American culture — a live-and-let-live attitude about drug use and an equally powerful preference for laissez-faire capitalism....

Oklahoma has established arguably the only free-market marijuana industry in the country.  Unlike almost every other state, there are no limits on how many business licenses can be issued and cities can’t ban marijuana businesses from operating within their borders.  In addition, the cost of entry is far lower than in most states: a license costs just $2,500.  In other words, anyone with a credit card and a dream can take a crack at becoming a marijuana millionaire....

The hands-off model extends to patients, as well.  There’s no set of qualifying conditions in order to obtain a medical card.  If a patient can persuade a doctor that he needs to smoke weed in order to soothe a stubbed toe, that’s just as legitimate as a dying cancer patient seeking to mitigate pain.  The cards are so easy to obtain — $60 and a five-minute consultation — that many consider Oklahoma to have a de facto recreational use program.

But lax as it might seem, Oklahoma’s program has generated a hefty amount of tax revenue while avoiding some of the pitfalls of more intensely regulated programs.  Through the first 10 months of this year, the industry generated more than $105 million in state and local taxes.  That’s more than the $73 million expected to be produced by the state lottery this fiscal year, though still a pittance in comparison to the overall state budget of nearly $8 billion.  In addition, Oklahoma has largely escaped the biggest problems that have plagued many other state markets: Illegal sales are relatively rare and the low cost to entry has made corruption all but unnecessary.

Prior related posts:

November 29, 2020 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

MIght Donald Trump have won a second term by championing marijuana reform?

Four years ago, I suggested in a post, titled "Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform, that Hillary Clinton's close loss in the 2016 Presidential election migtht have had a different outcome if she had been a vocal and consistent advocate for major marijuana reforms.  Among other points in that post, I noted that third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had both advocated for full marijuana legalization and that Clinton might have prevailed in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin simply by peeling off some of their support voa support for marijuana reforms.

I am reminded of this now long-ago post, and prompted to ask the question in the title of this post, by this new commentary by Don Murphy of Marijuana Policy Project over at Marijuana Moment.  The piece, titled "Did Trump’s Failure To Embrace Marijuana Legalization Cost Him Votes?," is worth a full read and here are snippets:

As a candidate [in 2016], Trump said he was in favor of medical marijuana… “100 percent.” He also said he knew sick people who use marijuana for medical purposes and that, “it really does help them.” I knew then that he was sympathetic to patients and to our cause. And he thought legalizing marijuana should be left up to the states. I was dealt a pretty good hand....

Knowing he agreed with the policy and could witness firsthand the value of the politics, I was just waiting for executive action.  In August, in anticipation of an ‘October Surprise,’ MPP hand-delivered to the administration a list of what Trump could do to bring this civil war to an end.  Yet they never acted.

When it was apparent that the Democratic nominee would be the author of the ‘94 crime bill, Joe Biden, the RNC and the Trump campaign were quick to juxtapose Trump’s criminal justice reform efforts with Biden’s “lock ‘em up” history.  But it was difficult to make the case that Biden was bad on cannabis when Trump wasn’t yet good on cannabis.  Trump’s vocal support of STATES was negated by his nomination of Jeff “good people don’t smoke pot” Sessions as Attorney General and Sessions’ subsequent repeal of the Cole Memo.

Finally in August, the president blamed marijuana ballot initiatives for the defeat of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for bringing “out like a million people that nobody ever knew were coming out.”  I knew then that Trump understood the benefit of being on the right side of reform.  Yet he never acted.

Maybe Trump is right, maybe not.  According to an analysis by Marijuana Moment, one thing is certain: sharing your ballot with cannabis will embarrass you.  In the red states, in the blue states and in the battleground states, pot is more popular than the pols.  This year, medical cannabis beat the president in South Dakota and Mississippi. Adult-use bested all the Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates in Montana and beat both Trump and Biden in New Jersey and Arizona.

If Trump is correct, there is a certain irony that, less than three months after his remarks to Walker, cannabis got 60 percent, Trump 49 percent in battleground Arizona. His margin was razor thin. In a race where everything mattered, marijuana votes mattered.  Did being on the wrong side of cannabis not only embarrass Trump (and McSally) in Arizona, but also cost him the state’s 11 electoral votes and maybe the White House?  Based on his comments in Wisconsin, Trump must think so.

November 21, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Weed Ballots and the Constitution"

Cover-legal-talk-today-384x384The title of this post is the title of this segment to which I contributed at the Legal Talk Network.  I was quite gratified when folks from the Network reached out to me after my post-election post here titled "After big (red) marijuana reforms, is it time for a Raich 2.0 challenge to federal marijuana prohibition?."  It was an abosulte joy to speak at length with Laurence Colletti, producer at Legal Talk Network, about my (crazy?) ideas concerning possible constitutional challenges to federal marijuana prohibition. Here is how the segment is set up:

Is it unconstitutional for the federal government to ban marijuana? In 2005, it wasn’t according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich.  But with more states legalizing marijuana in the 2020 election, does that same analysis apply?
Professor Douglas Berman from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law breaks it down.

Especially because I fear that legislative action to reform federal marijuana laws may still be a long time off, I continue to believe would-be reformers ought not forget litigation as a means to advance overdue reforms.

A few prior related posts:

November 18, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

How might partisan perspectives on marijuana reform evolve as we enter a new political era?

Wee poll partisansIn this post four years ago, right after then Prez-elect Donald Trump had named then-Senator Jeff Sessions to be his first Attorney General, I highlighted various political and practical reasons why I did not expect AG Sessions or the broader Trump Administration to dramatically thwart the state-driven momentum toward marijuana reform.  I think that post has aged pretty well, as marijuana reform proved in the 2020 election cycle to be quite popular in blue, purple and red states.   Results in in Arizona, which voted on full legalization initiatives in both 2016 and 2020, is perhaps especially informative: marijuana legalization was voted down 51% to 49% in 2016, and then was approved 60% to 40% in 2020.

Notably, as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions perhaps hoped to slow the state marijuana reform momentum by rescinding in early 2018 the Justice Department's "hands off" enforcement memos of the Obama era (basics here and here).  But that move, by triggering backlash of various sorts and not really amounting to much, may have actually helped the state-level reform cause.  And, of course, AG Sessions was fired before the end of the year, and the 2018 election cycle brought important initiative reforms in the midwest and western states of Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah.  Whenever the definitive history of modern US marijuana reform gets written, it will be valuable to note that Prez Trump, by essentially ignoring the issue for his entire time in office, allowed bipartisan momentum for reform to continue growing at the state level.

I am ruminating about these realities in reaction to seeing this piece from Gallup earlier this week headlined "Support for Legal Marijuana Inches Up to New High of 68%."  Here are excerpts:  

Americans are more likely now than at any point in the past five decades to support the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. The 68% of U.S. adults who currently back the measure is not statistically different from last year's 66%; however, it is nominally Gallup's highest reading, exceeding the 64% to 66% range seen from 2017 to 2019....

The latest data are from a Sept. 30-Oct. 15 poll, conducted before the election that saw marijuana legalization proposals on the ballot in several states. Voters in all of these states -- Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota -- authorized the legal use of recreational marijuana in the Nov. 3 election.  They join 11 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing pot for recreational purposes.  Additionally, voters in Mississippi and South Dakota join 33 states and the District of Columbia in passing laws legalizing or decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes....

Majorities of most demographic subgroups of Americans support legalizing marijuana, including by gender, age, education and household income.  Yet there is considerable variation in the extent of support within each group, as men, younger adults, college graduates and those in households with incomes of at least $100,000 are more likely than their counterparts to favor legalization....

Most politically left-leaning and middle-of-the-road Americans remain supportive of legalizing marijuana, while less than half of those who lean right favor it.  Over eight in 10 Democrats and liberals, and more than seven in 10 independents and moderates, back legalization, but just under half of Republicans and conservatives do.

Views of legalization also differ greatly depending on frequency of attendance at religious services.  A slim majority of those who say they attend weekly oppose legalization. Yet, about three in five of those who attend nearly weekly or monthly, and about four in five who attend less frequently, favor legalizing marijuana.

The 83% of Democrats and 72% of independents who prefer legalization are the highest readings in the trend for both groups, but Republicans' current 48% is down slightly from slim majorities in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

One could seek to draw lots of political lessons, past and future, from these data.  For now I am content to just capture this polling snapshot while also recalling that social and political views on marijuana have been quite variable over time throughout US history.  Anyone who thinks certain trends are inevitable, either short- or long-term, has not learned some of the key lessons from our history.

November 11, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Potus and Pot: Why the President May Not (and Should Not) Legalize Marijuana Through Executive Action"

The title of this post is the title of this essay authored by Robert Mikos.  The essay was written and posted to SSRN months before the November election, but it is arguably even more timely today.   Here is the piece's abstract:

Could the President legalize marijuana, without waiting for Congress to act?  The 2020 Presidential Election has shown that this question is far from hypothetical.  Seeking to capitalize on frustration with the slow pace of federal legislative reform, several erstwhile presidential candidates promised they would bypass the logjam in Congress and legalize marijuana through executive action instead.  This Essay warns that such promises are both misguided and dangerous, because they ignore statutory and constitutional constraints on the President’s authority to effect legal change.  It explains why supporters of marijuana reform should be wary of legalizing the drug through executive action, even if that means having to wait for Congress to pass new legislation.  To be clear, this Essay is not a defense of our current federal marijuana policy.  That policy is a mess, regardless of one’s views towards legalization.  But proponents of reform need to recognize that Congress made this mess, and only Congress is capable of cleaning it up.

November 11, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)