Thursday, July 29, 2021
Decades ago before modern marijuana reforms became mainstream, the stories and headlines linked below might have seemed like a midsummer night's dream. But now, reform stories are common every time of the year, and these midsummer stories are almost par for the course. But they still caught my eye and seemed blog-worthy for various reasons:
From the AP, "High profile: Cannabis chemical delta-8 gains fans, scrutiny"
From Courthouse News Service, "You can smoke it but you can’t study it: Cannabis researchers get creative"
From Forbes, "Billionaire Charles Koch On Why Cannabis Should Be Legal"
From High Times, "Study Finds Cannabis Use Not Related to Loss of Motivation"
From Marijuana Moment, "House Approves Marijuana Banking, Employment And D.C. Sales Provisions In Large-Scale Spending Bill"
From MJBiz Daily, "Boom or bust? Marijuana execs see more sales gains as COVID-19 lockdowns ease"
From MJBix Daily, "Proposed tax rates in Schumer’s marijuana reform bill elicit ‘sticker shock’"
From the New York Post, "More than 3,500 marijuana-related warrants tossed by Brooklyn DA"
From the Washington Post, "Medical marijuana saved me and other veterans. Why does the military punish us for it?"
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Highlighting all the great content in BULR's issue on "Marijuana Law 2020: Lessons From the Past, Ideas for the Future"
I just noticed that all the terrific written products of a terrific symposium at Boston University School of Law have now been posted online here. Specifically, the May 2021 issue of the Boston University Law Review has these contributions from the event titled "Marijuana Law 2020: Lessons From the Past, Ideas for the Future"
July 15, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Great early coverage of US Senate Leader Chuck Schumer's "discussion draft" of new Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
Since nearly the start of this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker , has been talking up the introduction in the US Senate of a new comprehensive federal marijuana reform bill. That talk has suggested that reform efforts from these Democratic Senators would be similar to, but still quite distinct from, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, that has moved forward in the House of Representatives in recent years.
Today, in mid July 2021, these Senators have scheduled a press conference to unveil what is being described as a "discussion draft" of a lengthy federal bill titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The full text of this CAOA "discussion draft" is available here and it runs 163 pages(!). In other words, CAOA give marijuana reform advocates (and opponents) a whole lot to discuss. Helpfully, the cannabis press core is already doing great job covering the basic:
From Marijuana Moment, "Here Are The Full Details Of The New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill From Chuck Schumer And Senate Colleagues." Excerpt:
Perhaps the most immediately consequential provision would be a requirement that the attorney general to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act within 60 days of the bill’s enactment. But it’s important to keep in mind that this legislation—like other federal legalization bills moving through Congress—would not make it so marijuana is legal in every state. The proposal specifically preserves the right of states to maintain prohibition if they way. It stipulates, for example, that shipping marijuana into a state where the plant is prohibited would still be federally illegal.
However, the measure would make it clear that states can’t stop businesses from transporting cannabis products across their borders to other states where the plant is permitted. FDA would be “recognized as the primary federal regulatory authority with respect to the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products, including requirements related to minimum national good manufacturing practice, product standards, registration and listing, and labeling information related to ingredients and directions for use,” according to the summary.
From Politico, "Schumer launches long-shot bid for legal weed." Excerpt:
The discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act includes provisions that cater to both “states rights” Republicans and progressive Democrats. While the proposal seeks to remove all federal penalties on weed, it would allow states to prohibit even the possession of cannabis — along with production and distribution — a nod to states’ rights. It would also establish funding for a wide range of federal research into everything from drugged driving to the impact cannabis has on the human brain. The measure aims to collect data about traffic deaths, violent crime and other public health concerns often voiced by Republican lawmakers.
On the flip side, the proposal also includes provisions that are crucial to progressives. That includes three grant programs designed to help socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as those hurt by the war on drugs and expungements of federal non-violent cannabis offenses. States and cities also have to create an automatic expungement program for prior cannabis offenses to be eligible for any grant funding created by the bill.
A few of many prior recent related posts:
- Senate majority leader shrewdly emphasizing "freedom" in his push for federal marijuana reform
- Red state marijuana reforms not yet leading to GOP Senator support for federal reform
- Key Democratic Senators pledging to soon "release a unified discussion draft" to advance "comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the 117th Congress"
- Cannabis Freedom Alliance releases "Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis"
- Notable new GOP bill for ending federal marijuana prohibition
- Notable working group releases new "Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform"
- US Senate caucus releases notable new report, "Cannabis Policy: Public Health and Safety Issues and Recommendations"
July 14, 2021 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, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, July 5, 2021
I mentioned in this post a few months ago the launch of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, which is a prominent coalition with a stated mission to "end the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis in the United States in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market." I was now pleased to see that, right around the traditional July time we celebrate our nation's deep commitments to freedom, this Alliance has released this new white paper titled "Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis." Here is part of the start of this notable 14-page document:
If major marijuana reform legislation is to be taken seriously in Congress this year, there are many aspects it must address. These include everything from federal regulation and tax issues to financial services, clinical research, the contours of interstate commerce and technical barriers to trade, social equity, criminal justice, and respect of states’ reserved powers. There is a danger that federal legalization, done incorrectly, could produce outcomes even more adverse than the status quo.
This analysis provides an overview of each of these subtopics and provides general recommendations to help guide the effort toward federal legalization of marijuana that will achieve the following goals:
• Establishing a regulatory framework that promotes public safety while allowing innovation, industry, and research to thrive.
• Ensuring individuals previously involved in the illicit market can effectively secure a second chance and contribute to the legal market.
• Creating low barriers to entry and non-restrictive occupational and business licensing so that large companies and new entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field.
• Imposing a total tax burden – federal, state, and local combined – that does not incentivize the continuation of gray or black markets and ensures competitive global footing for a vibrant, novel U.S. industry.
Sunday, July 4, 2021
In a 1788 letter to James Madison, George Washington had a wonderful quote that seems especially fitting to highlight on a marijuana blog on Independence Day 2021: “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” I have long thought that one of many reasons marijuana prohibitions have proved unsuccessful is because cannabis is itself a "plant of rapid growth" and so is readily cultivated in so many places by so many people no matter when the law formally provides or permits.
Of course, this quote strikes me as especially fitting circa July 4, 2021 after the 2020 election in which adult-use ballot initiatives passed handily in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota while medical marijuana initiatives passed overwhelmingly in Mississippi and South Dakota. And in the first half of 2021, we have already seen four more states legalize fully adult use of marijuana (Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Virginia) and also seen Alabama enact medical marijuana reform. The liberty to use marijuana, once it took root after the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington in 2012, has seen a decade of growth that has been even more rapid than anyone might have reasonably predicted.
That said, though fans of marijuana freedom certainly have plenty to celebrate today, the recent suspension of US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson serves as a reminder that we are still a very long way from being fully free from marijuana prohibitions. Most fundamentally, blanket prohibition of marijuana for any and all uses is still the federal law of the land in the Land of the Free, and there is little reason to be optimistic that this will change before we celebrate Independence Day 2022. Though many consider access to cannabis fundamental to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," there is still much work to do before we can truly declare independence from laws that make it a crime to grow and consume this particular "plant of rapid growth."
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Since you are reading this blog, you probably know that the answer to the question in the title of this post has to do with marijuana law. policy and reform. Specifically, this new article from The Hill, headlined "Activists see momentum as three new states legalize marijuana," explains:
New laws legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use take effect in three states on Thursday, significantly expanding the number of Americans who will have access to consumable cannabis products. The new laws may give new momentum to the push to legalize marijuana across the country as supporters begin circulating new ballot petitions and legislators drop their historical reluctance to marijuana reform.
Residents in Virginia and Connecticut will be allowed to legally possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes after lawmakers in those states approved new measures earlier this year. In South Dakota, a voter-passed ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana takes effect.
The newly effective laws bring the number of states where recreational marijuana is legal to 18. Sixteen other states allow marijuana use for medical purposes, but not for recreational purposes....
Regulators in both Virginia and Connecticut still have work to do before legal retail sales of marijuana products begin. Lawmakers in Virginia plan to debate the outlines of the retail market when they return to session in Virginia, including provisions that would promote minority ownership of marijuana-related businesses. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he plans to name the first executive and the first board members of the newly created Virginia Cannabis Control Authority in the coming days. Legal sales are likely to begin by 2024, said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project.
In Connecticut, the first retail dispensaries are expected to open in 2022. Until then, sales remain illegal, though possession of anything under 1.5 ounces in public — or 5 ounces in a protected container — is now legal. Connecticut residents must wait another year before they are legally allowed to grow their own marijuana. Residents will be limited to six plants, including three that are mature and three that are immature.
South Dakota voters approved ballot initiatives to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, but only the medical regime will take effect Thursday after a state judge struck down the recreational measure on constitutional grounds. Residents of South Dakota will only be able to possess marijuana if they have a valid registration card. State regulators have until Nov. 18 to start issuing those cards. State-licensed dispensaries are expected to open by next year....
Supporters of legal marijuana say they now intend to turn their focus to the two remaining New England states where recreational pot is not yet legal, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The Rhode Island legislature, controlled by Democrats, has made moves toward a recreational regime, while the New Hampshire legislature, run by Republicans, has been more reluctant. Backers are also eyeing North Carolina, where a state Senate committee voted for the first time to advance a measure legalizing medical marijuana.
In Florida, supporters were blocked from circulating petitions to qualify a measure for the 2022 ballot after the state Supreme Court ruled the ballot language was misleading, though those supporters are likely to try again. Ballot measures are in various stages of circulating petitions for marijuana legalization measures in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.
“I would not be surprised that by the end of 2022 we could be seeing half of the states in the country having adopted cannabis for full use,” Hawkins told The Hill.
But opponents of legal marijuana expansion say supporters are reaching the limit of states where they can make progress, either through the ballot initiative process or through the legislature. Legal marijuana bills died this year in states like Delaware and Maryland, in spite of large Democratic majorities that run both legislatures. “I think the marijuana industry is running out of states to pass legalization in,” said Kevin Sabet, author of "Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know" and head of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization. “The easy wins for the pot industry are beginning to dry up.”
Monday, June 28, 2021
One of many interesting stories of modern marijuana reform has been the relative lack of Supreme Court engagement with the issue in modern times (which, of course, is partially a function of the relative lack significant federal reforms passed by Congress to date). Against that backdrop, it was especially surprising and exciting that Justice Thomas today decided to pen this five-page statement respecting the denial of cert in a tax case, Standing Akimbo v. US, in order to question whether the Raich decision upholding federal power to prohibit all marijuana activity is still good law. The whole statement is a must read, and here are just a few passages that I especially enjoyed (cites and footnotes removed):
Whatever the merits of Raich when it was decided, federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning. Once comprehensive, the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary....
though federal law still flatly forbids the intrastate possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana, Controlled Substances Act, the Government, post-Raich, has sent mixed signals on its views. In 2009 and 2013, the Department of Justice issued memorandums outlining a policy against intruding on state legalization schemes or prosecuting certain individuals who comply with state law. In 2009, Congress enabled Washington D. C.’s government to decriminalize medical marijuana under local ordinance. Moreover, in every fiscal year since 2015, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from “spending funds to prevent states’ implementation of their own medical marijuana laws.” That policy has broad ramifications given that 36 States allow medicinal marijuana use and 18 of those States also allow recreational use.
Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana. One can also perhaps understand why business owners in Colorado, like petitioners, may think that their intrastate marijuana operations will be treated like any other enterprise that is legal under state law.
Yet, as petitioners recently discovered, legality under state law and the absence of federal criminal enforcement do not ensure equal treatment....
Suffice it to say, the Federal Government’s current approach to marijuana bears little resemblance to the watertight nationwide prohibition that a closely divided Court found necessary to justify the Government’s blanket prohibition in Raich. If the Government is now content to allow States to act “as laboratories” “‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’” Raich, 545 U. S., at 42 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), then it might no longer have authority to intrude on “[t]he States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.” Ibid. A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal approach.
Of course, Justice Thomas dissented in Raich, so perhaps it should not seem lke a big surprise that he would be inclined to talk up the possibility that it is no longer good precedent. Still, I do not think the tax issue in Standing Akimbo directly called for considering Raich's standing and status. And, of course, Justice Thomas "had me at hello," given that a mere eight months ago I was talking up in this post the prospects of "Raich 2.0" challenges to federal prohibition because so much has changed in the 16 years since the original Raich ruling. (In my prior post, I suggested a number of new Justices might not only be inclined to join Justice Thomas to reconsider the Commerce Clause ruling in Raich, but also might be inclined to breathe some life into the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in this unique context. And one could further speculate that Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor might be open to considering Fifth and Eighth Amendment challenges to the modern functioning of federal marijuana prohibition.)
Disappointingly, none of Justice Thomas's fellow Justices joined his statement, and so it is unclear whether there could be others inclined to now reconsider Raich. But I am hopeful that perhaps this statement by Justice Thomas alone could fuel some more lower court litigation and discussion, perhaps on a number of different grounds, concerning whether blanket federal marijuana prohibition now functions in constitutionally problematic ways. I think it is only a matter of time before we start to see more Supreme Court engagement with marijuana reform issues, and broadside constitutional issues always make for an interesting place to start.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
I flagged in this post the great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event that took place earlier this month titled "Social Equity 2.0: Expanding Horizons." Though I may be a bit biased, I think this 90-minute event was a terrifically interesting discussion of different ways to think about equity in the marijuana reform space But do not take my word for it, and everyone can now watch the full event via the video link on this page. In addition, Alyson Martin of Cannabis Wire authored this effective review of the panel discussion under the headline "What’s the Future of Cannabis Equity?" Here is how the review gets started:
Today, there is no uniformity in how states with legal cannabis approach equity. In other words, within the state-by-state patchwork of cannabis laws, there exists an equity patchwork, though lessons learned are emerging.
Last week, the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law hosted regulators and policymakers to discuss how cannabis law reform and subsequent rules can be centered on equity and can “lift” communities harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of prohibition. Panelists discussed how regulators can achieve economic empowerment and restorative justice, and how best to reinvest in communities.
Prior related posts on prior related events:
- DEPC event: "Social Equity 2.0: Lessons From Recent State Developments"
- DEPC event: "Social Equity 2.0: Expanding Horizons"
- Equity getting lots of attention, but still much work to do, as social justice becomes centered in marijuana reform efforts
Thursday, June 17, 2021
As reported in this local article, headlined "A bill legalizing marijuana cleared the Connecticut House of Representatives on Wednesday; the measure could receive final approval in the Senate on Thursday," it looks like the Nutmeg State is now getting very close to legalizing marijuana fully for adult use. Here are the basics:
Following more than seven hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives avoided a threatened gubernatorial veto and approved a revised bill that would legalize marijuana in the state.
The measure cleared the House by a largely party-line vote of 76 to 62. Twelve Democrats joined all but one Republican -- Rep. Rick Hayes of Putnam -- in voting no. The bill could come up for a final vote in the Senate as soon as Thursday.
“Connecticut’s time has finally come,” declared Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport, who helped shepherd the bill through the House. “We take the next step as this chamber in recognizing the war on drugs has failed us and the criminalization of cannabis was the wrong course of action for our state and for our nation.”
Rep. Juan Candelaria, a New Haven Democrat who has been advocating for the legalization of cannabis for years, said the bill has one of the nation’s strongest social equity provisions. “We’re able to repair the wrongs of the past and ensure that these communities who have been disproportionately impacted are made whole,’' Candelaria said.
The sweeping, 300-page bill, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, contains a number of provisions, from setting limits on THC content to funding programs to address addiction and mental health. But for many lawmakers, the most vexing part of the legislation is the equity section, which is designed to provide those hurt by the criminalization of cannabis would have an expedited opportunity to enter the potentially lucrative market.
Paul Mounds, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief of staff, said an earlier version of the bill did “not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted.”
At a briefing before the debate began, House Speaker Matt Ritter said most members of the Democratic caucus are comfortable removing the language Lamont finds objectionable. After all, he said, it was not part of the original bill that lawmakers crafted in coordination with Lamont’s office.
The bill’s equity provision was a key sticking point, but it wasn’t the only issue some lawmakers found objectionable. Republicans expressed opposition to the very notion of a legal marijuana market, saying it would lead to a rise in crime, a spike in addiction and a host of other societal ills. Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, said his criticism of the measure is based on science. He cited a study by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that found marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds rose in states that legalized cannabis. “Youth use will increase,’' he said.
Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, noted that much of the marijuana debate focused on equity and the marijuana marketplace. “I know there are good people in this chamber,’' she said. “I know this is motivated by wanting to right the wrongs of the past ... please, this is not the way.”...
Not all of the opponents were Republicans. Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a moderate Democrat from Westport, said he has long struggled with marijuana legalization. “This is a tough vote,’' Steinberg said. “Frankly no state to date has done well in their first pass in introducing marijuana. ... I’m still uncomfortable. I fully expect we will be back next year and the year after that making needed changes to ensure safety and reliability and equity.” Steinberg introduced and later pulled an amendment that would have barred “home grown” cannabis in Connecticut. He ultimately voted yes on the bill....
Debate over the question of social equity unfolded over the past few days, creating chaos at the Capitol and at one point, throwing the fate of legalization into question. The earlier version of the bill backed by Lamont contained a geographic definition of equity, giving preference to people from cities that have borne the brunt of the war on drugs. But late Tuesday, right before the Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill, the equity provision was changed to include people with prior marijuana convictions.
At a press conference Wednesday, Jason Rojas, the House majority leader who helped craft the legislation, said it makes sense to him that people who have been hurt by the criminalization of cannabis are among those who are first in line for a license. “I think it’s appropriate to consider someone’s criminal history in terms of defining an equity applicant,” Rojas said. Ritter, however, echoed some of Lamont’s concerns. “Do I think that you should get a leg up because you got pinched [for] marijuana at 19 at Wesleyan? No, I don’t,” he told reporters before the House session began.
The marijuana legalization effort has stalled for at least five years at the Capitol. But this year, it appeared to have fresh momentum and Lamont’s strong support. Despite that, the bill only came up for debate in the Senate for the first time last week. The Senate approved the bill but because time ran out before the House could vote, the legislature convened in a special session this week to take up the bill.
June 17, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
When I started this blog nearly eight years ago, it was often pretty big (and blogworthy) news whenever any single state would move forward with any kind of marijuana reform in the usual legislative process. Back then, adult-use reform by traditional legislation was almost unthinkable and only a few state legislatures had enacted modest medical programs via standard legislation (as opposed to a ballot initiative). But fast forward less than a decade, and here is a round-up of news accounts of notable legislative developments in just the first week of June 2021:
Of course, all this mid-year action comes on the heels of already historic legislative developments in the first part of 2021 with four states (New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Virginia) legalizing adult-use of marijuana and one deep south state (Alabama) legalizing medical marijuana through the traditional legislative process.
June 8, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, May 28, 2021
The title of this post is the title of this notable new report and accounting from folks at the Marijuana Policy Project. Here is how it gets started (with my highlight):
Legalizing marijuana for adults has been a wise investment. Since 2014 when sales began in Colorado and Washington, legalization policies have provided states a new revenue stream to bolster budgets and fund important services and programs. As of May 2021, states reported a combined total of $7.9 billion in tax revenue from legal, adult-use marijuana sales. In addition to revenue generated for statewide budgets, cities and towns have also generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue from local adult-use cannabis taxes.
Eighteen states have enacted laws legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis for adults 21 and older. Eight of the laws passed in 2020 or 2021, and in seven of those states, licensing and tax collections have not yet begun. This document reviews each state’s adult-use cannabis tax structure, population, and revenue from legalization. It does not include medical cannabis tax revenue, application and licensing fees paid by cannabis businesses, additional income taxes generated by workers in the cannabis industry, or corporate taxes paid to the federal government.
The report provides a helpful overview of all the basic tax structures in place for adult-use marijuana as of May 2021, as well as reports on total collections in these states to date. Notably, while Colorado is often thought about as the first legalization state and California is rightly seen as the biggest legalization state, this report details that Washington is as of now the richest state in tax revenues with over $2.5 billion collected. (But California's tax revenue in 2020 was nearly twice that of Washington's according to this report, so by 2022 we should expect the Golden State to have collected the most tax gold from adult-use marijuana legalization.)
May 28, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
The question in the title of this post is my initial reaction and worry in response to this press release from the office of House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler. Here are some basics from the release:
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.
"Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana. Our federal laws must keep up with this pace," said Chairman Nadler. "I’m proud to reintroduce the MORE Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. I want to thank my colleagues, Representatives Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, as well Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, and Nydia Velázquez for their contributions to this legislation, and I look forward to our continued partnership as we work to get this legislation signed into law."...
Following efforts led by states across the nation, the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level. The bill also aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders....
In the 116th Congress, Chairman Nadler led the House of Representatives in passing the MORE Act by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164.
Because the MORE Act is a very ambitious bill, it has lots of support from many advocacy groups and long-time supporters of marijuana reform. But because the MORE Act is a very ambitious bill, it got no traction in the Senate in the last Congress and there is little reason to be confident it will get any traction in the Senate in this Congress.
This Politico article last month, headlined "Senate Democrats split over legalizing weed; Several told POLITICO they’re opposed to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's legalization push," highlighted that not even all Senate Democrats are inclined to support federal marijuana legalization. That article also rightly noted that there are some particular provisions in the MORE Act that are especially likely to turn off libertarian-leaning GOP Senators who might be inclined to support another kind of federal reform.
Because I have never work on the hill, I am not sure if a bill like the MORE Act with little chance of actual passage can still help advance the reform cause. But I am sure that the current President and the current Congress seem generally disinclined to do anything all that big in this arena. The MORE Act is not only big, but it also presents the possibility of indirectly thwarting smaller efforts garnering needed support and momentum going forward.
In this post last month, I suggested that Senator leader Chuck Schumer may have a shrewd view of how best to advance marijuana reform legislation in his chamber. But I remain worried that there really is neither a will nor a way for big federal marijuana reforms like the MORE Act to become law anytime soon.
May 28, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The title of the title for this great new resource page from the the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (which I help direct). The page provides data and discussion concerning decades of state and local marijuana decriminalization experiences. The subtitle of the page highlights a key theme of this new resource page: "Exploring the limited and disparate impact of fragmented reforms." I highly recommend folks check out all the data and original visuals on this page. Here is some of the page's introductory text:
The topic of drug decriminalization has gained considerable attention in the United States after Oregon voted in November 2020 to decriminalize all drugs in that state. While we consider the possible impacts of broader drug decriminalization efforts, it is useful to look back at the five decades of marijuana decriminalization for lessons on effects and implementation.
In 1972, the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, known as the Shafer Commission, issued a report advocating a “social control policy seeking to discourage marihuana use” but asserting that criminal law was “too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in efforts to discourage use.” In 1973, Oregon became the first state to implement the recommendations of the Shafer Commission by decriminalizing marijuana statewide. Ten states followed suit in the next five years: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio in 1975; Minnesota in 1976; Mississippi, New York and North Carolina in 1977; and Nebraska in 1978. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter even urged Congress to consider marijuana decriminalization. The decriminalization movement stalled throughout the 80’s and 90’s with President Reagan’s focus on the war on drugs, but the 2000’s brought a sustained attention to the issue with a wave of decriminalization efforts, medical-use and adult-use cannabis legalizations across 35 states, and a rapidly changing public opinion....
By our count, at the end of 2010, roughly only one-third of Americans lived in a jurisdiction with full or partial decriminalization laws. By April 2021, over 75% of people in the United States lived in a jurisdiction that has passed some form of decriminalization or legalization....
These numbers can mask the fact that not all decriminalization initiatives are created equal and that some forms of decriminalization do not ensure significant reduction in criminal justice encounters for marijuana users. Despite the growth in the number of states that have fully legalized cannabis for all forms of adult use (17 states, the District of Colombia and three U.S. territories), residents of 14 states (29% of the U.S. population) continue to be barred from using cannabis lawfully even for medical purposes and many others are subjected to a patchwork of decriminalization statutes, which can differ from a city to city if full decriminalization is not adopted on statewide basis.
Saturday, May 15, 2021
In a post last month, titled "Senate majority leader shrewdly emphasizing "freedom" in his push for federal marijuana reform," I explained why I viewed Senator Chuck Schumer's focus on "freedom" in his marijuana reform pitch to be appealing and shrewd given that it lines up with a lot of the smaller-government rhetoric often coming from GOP politicians and activists. Consequently, I was not surprised to see this past week that part of the pitch for a notable new GOP-sponsored bill to end federal marijuana prohibition includes an emphasis on greater liberty for individuals and states concerning marijuana practices.
This new 14-page marijuana reform bill is available at this link, and it is formally titled the "Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act." This press release from Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), one of the sponsors, provides these details:
Through his work with the Cannabis Caucus and his position on the House Appropriations Committee, Joyce has helped lead the effort to reform the federal government’s outdated approach to cannabis and protect the rights of states across the country, like Ohio, that have voted to implement responsible cannabis policies. Specifically, the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses and Medical Professionals Act, which has been applauded by several organizations, would:
- Remove cannabis from the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
- Direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to issue rules to regulate cannabis modeled after the alcohol industry within one year of enactment.
- Create a federal preemption to protect financial institutions and other businesses in non-cannabis legal states so that they can service cannabis companies.
- Allow the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans.
- Direct the National Institutes of Health to conduct two studies on cannabis as it pertains to pain management and cannabis impairment and report to Congress within two years of enactment.
And here is some of the media coverage that provides a review of this bill:
- From Marijuana Moment, "Congressional Bill To Federally Legalize Marijuana Filed By Republican Lawmakers"
- From MJBizDaily, "Two US House Republicans pitch federal marijuana legalization bill"
- From Newsweek, "Republicans Push for Federal Legalization of Marijuana to Ensure 'Individual Liberty'"
May 15, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Alexa Askari, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. (This paper is yet another in the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.) Here is this latest paper's abstract:
This paper compares the foundations of the Christiania commune in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the origins of the United States war on drugs, both phenomena of the anti-hippie sentiment of the 1970s. While the Danish took a relatively lax approach to the commune’s cannabis-related activities, in the U.S. crackdowns were widespread and disproportionately impacted people of color. Today, Christiania remains the focal point of the Danish cannabis trade, while the United States has become a patchwork of varying state-level permissive regimes fundamentally in conflict with federal prohibition. How both countries’ relationships with cannabis will continue to develop ultimately depends on the political will of those in power.
May 12, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
The PBS News Hour has this great new and lengthy piece about marijuana expungement laws and practices under the headline "As more states legalize marijuana, people with drug convictions want their records cleared." Regular readers know I have long been invested in these issues (see my 2018 article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices"), and I am especially pleased that folks at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center worked with folks at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center to create the national map found in the PBS piece and reprinted here. I recommend the PBS piece in full, and here are some excerpts:
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana over the last nine years, and industry advocates have applauded measures to de-stigmatize the substance and bring major revenue to state coffers. But for people with lingering drug convictions like Michael, the news has raised more questions about what legalization means for their criminal records.
Currently in Virginia, “you have to go through all these hoops and loopholes to actually have an expungement,” Michael said. This may soon change. Like many other states that recently legalized marijuana, Virginia lawmakers included provisions in their legislation that over several years will allow for the automatic expungement of certain marijuana convictions, meaning people like Michael may one day see their records cleared without having to petition to do so.
Such measures signal a broader effort by lawmakers to right the wrongs of the war on drugs, a decades-long campaign by federal and state governments to crack down on use of illegal drugs that also helped incarceration balloon in the U.S. States have begun to legalize substances like marijuana that have disproportionately imprisoned Black and brown Americans over the last 50 years, affecting their access to employment, education and housing. Racial justice advocates argue that state legislatures should not consider legalization bills unless they include proposals to help people easily expunge their records, as well as eliminate some of the barriers to entry Americans of color face when looking for work in the cannabis industry.
But just as states did not legalize recreational marijuana overnight, the lingering effects of the war on drugs are not likely to quickly disappear. Though Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pushed to make cannabis legal in the state by the beginning of July, for example, many expungement provisions in the legalization and record-sealing laws are not set to take full effect until 2025 as state police and courts need time to update their computer systems and processes.
As a result, many Americans with marijuana charges on their records are currently living in a grey area, cautiously optimistic about the wave of legalization taking place but unclear what it means for their future. “[Politicians] are making strides toward being really liberal and legalizing [weed], and that’s cool, but at the same time I served 10 years for this,” said Harry Kelso, another Virginia resident who served time in prison for possession and distribution. “So at some point, I feel like I deserve some reparations.”...
Pauline Quirion, director of the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) & Re-Entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services and an adviser to Mass CultivatED program participants, said she thinks it’s a good sign when she works with clients seeking to seal or expunge their records because it means they’re focused on securing a career. She said that the adverse effects of a criminal record are evident from their experiences with the job search process. “Some clients have applied for like 200 jobs and they’re rejected, but they keep applying,” she said. “So you have to have a lot of stamina to find employment.”...
David Schlussel, an expert on marijuana expungement with the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, said recent efforts to pass laws to expunge marijuana records in states such as Virginia, New Mexico, and Arizona signal a greater awareness of the harmful impact cannabis continues to have on communities targeted by the criminal justice system. He said that when states first began legalizing recreational marijuana 10 years ago, they rarely considered legislation that would help people clear their records. Campaign messaging to promote the new laws in states such as Colorado and Washington was usually driven by consumerism and tax benefits rather than racial justice. Schlussel said this began to change as lawmakers began to emphasize the necessity of racial justice in marijuana reform in their messages to voters, which in turn gave it more political capital.
More than 20 states have passed reforms related to marijuana expungement, Schlussel said, with outcomes ranging from automatic pardons for a broad range of offenses to the possibility of expungement for a narrower set of charges. But once these laws are on the books, states could very well face challenges getting a variety of marijuana charges expunged, he added. While states like New Jersey, New York, and New Mexico recently passed bills to automatically expunge a wide range of marijuana offenses from people’s records, others have pursued approaches that are resource-intensive and still include a number of hurdles for people who want their offenses cleared.
In Arizona, where recreational marijuana recently became legal, expungement is possible but not automatic. Julie Gunnigle, who ran unsuccessfully for Maricopa County attorney in the fall, said clearing Arizonans’ records is dependent on the support of county attorneys and the state’s attorney general, making it subject to the whims of politicians who may not necessarily be inclined to clear a broad swath of charges. Although Gunnigle praised the “first-of-its-kind” expungement law that recently passed along with legalization, she added that “it is now going to be incumbent on leaders to find the folks who are eligible or those who are eligible to come forward and file these petitions if they want to get justice.”
May 4, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 12, 2021
As 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.
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
As 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
As 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.