Sunday, November 20, 2022

New CRS report (incompletely) reviews "Recent Developments in Marijuana Law" in Fall 2022

This notable new five-page Congressional Research Service report titled "Does the President Have the Power to Legalize Marijuana?". Here is how it gets started:

Marijuana and other products derived from the cannabis plant are regulated under both federal and state law.  In recent years, a significant divide has developed between federal and state regulation.  Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is strictly regulated and may not legally be used for medical or recreational purposes.  In contrast, a substantial majority of states have relaxed state law prohibitions on medical or recreational marijuana.

The fall of 2022 saw two key developments in federal and state marijuana regulation.  In October 2022, President Joe Biden granted clemency to certain low-level federal marijuana offenders and directed the Attorney General to review the status of marijuana under federal law.  While some observers consider President Biden’s grant of clemency to represent a significant change in federal marijuana policy, as a legal matter it did little to alter the growing disparity between federal and state marijuana regulation.  Then, in November 2022, voters in five states considered ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana at the state level, two of which were adopted.  Legislators and commentators have proposed a number of legal reforms that would alter federal marijuana regulation and potentially reduce the divergence between federal and state law.

This Legal Sidebar provides an overview of the legal status of marijuana under federal and state law, then discusses recent developments including the grant of clemency for federal marijuana possession offenses and November 2022 state ballot initiatives related to marijuana.   The Sidebar concludes with an overview of selected legislative proposals related to marijuana.

This CRS document is dated November 16, 2022, so it only makes a brief reference/link to the federal research bill that was passed by Congress on that very day, the "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act." As of this writing (Nov 20, 2022), that bill is still awaiting the President's signature.

November 20, 2022 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Mixed results for marijuana reform ballot measures on Election Day 2022

The approval of marijuana legalization in the two biggest states considering ballot initiatives this election cycle — Maryland and Missouri — means that a lot more people voted for than against legalization this Fall. But reform opponents are surely pleased that voters in three other states — Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota — rejected legalization initiatives. This MJBizDaily piece, headlined "US marijuana industry wins in Maryland and likely Missouri but suffers losses elsewhere," reviews the details and starts this way:

Marijuana legalization’s yearslong winning streak finally stopped at a red wall in conservative states in the South and West on Tuesday, but the 2022 election still brought a solid win in Maryland – and legalization advocates declared victory in Missouri early Wednesday, too. Together, the two states could lead to nearly $2 billion in adult-use sales within a few years of their launch.

Voters in Maryland approved the 20th adult-use market, one that is projected to generate as much as $600 million in its first year and up to $1 billion by year four.

Recreational marijuana legalization in Missouri was too close to call for most of election night, but with yes votes ahead by about 6 percentage points with more than 90% of the votes counted, both the statewide campaign and national advocacy groups claimed victory. First-year sales of an adult-use marijuana market in Missouri could reach up to $550 million, according to MJBizDaily estimates, with fourth-year sales projected to be $800 million-$900 million.

Elsewhere, recreational legalization measures in Arkansas as well as in North Dakota and South Dakota were defeated.

November 9, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Rounding up helpful resources on another Election Day full of importance for marijuana reform

I have sensed that marijuana reform ballot meansures and related topics have received more mainstream media attention than usual this election cycle.  Consequently, I will not try to round up here all the mainstream press coverage and instead will just highlight a set of resources I find useful that readers might also find useful.

Of course, I need to start with the "Drugs on the Ballot: 2022" resource put together by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC).  That resource page not only includes a detailed accounting of the measures on the ballot in 2022, but the page also has a set of terrific interactive graphics mapping out both "Marijuana Ballot Measures Over Time" and "Marijuana Legalization Over Time."

Next, I want to flag the great work of the folks at Bolts, a relatively new "digital magazine that covers the nuts and bolts of power and political change, from the local up."  Bolts covers lots and lots of ground extremely well, and it recently has a piece reviewing the ballot measures headlined "Six States Are Voting on Legalizing Weed or Psychedelics."

Moving from an election site to  a marijuiana one, MJBiz Daily already has lots of election coverage and has a lot more promised.  Here are a few of their recent election pieces that caught my eye:

And, staying in the marijuana news space, Marijuana Moment will also be sure to keep delivering great election-related coverage. Here are some of its recent notable postings:

November 8, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2022

DEPC event: "Cannabis on the Ballot: Lessons Learned from the Marijuana Reform Movement"

I am pleased to spotlight a great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event taking place later this month focused on ballot initiatives as marijuana reform.  Here is how this event is described on this event page (where you can find this registration link):

Ever since California voters legalized medical marijuana via ballot initiative in 1996, many advocates in the U.S. have embraced direct democracy as a means to bypass reluctant legislatures to advance marijuana legalization and broader drug policy reforms.  But reforms advanced through ballot initiatives can raise distinct political and policy challenges, and recent initiatives have sometimes produced legal uncertainty about regulatory regimes and even new limits on the availability of direct democracy.

On the eve of another major election, please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and our panel of experts as they discuss the pros and cons of efforts to enact and implement drug policy reforms via the ballot box and these efforts’ impact on direct democracy more generally.

Panelists:

Burrel Vann Jr., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs, San Diego State University
Daniel Orenstein, Independent Researcher
Tamar Todd, Legal Director at New Approach PAC; Lecturer at Berkeley Law

Moderator:

Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law; Executive Director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

October 13, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Legalization ballot initiative sidelined by state Supreme Court in Oklahoma, while initiative cleared to go forward in neighboring Missouri

Kansas-missouri-oklahoma-arkansas-map-vector-23600096As students in my marijuana seminar know (too) well, I find the modern history of marijuana reform throughout the United States to be a fascinating legal and political story.  And sometimes I view some of the regional variations in these stories to be especially remarkable, and one such recent example comes from the center of our great nation.  Specifically, I am referencing here the notably different outcomes of legal challenges to state ballot legalization initiatives in neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri.  Though these states share a (small) border, they are not sharing the same outcomes in lawsuits challenging efforts to put marijuana legalization before votes, as reported in this Marijuana Moment articles:

"Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Will Appear On November Ballot After State Supreme Court Rejects Prohibitionists’ Challenge"

An initiative to legalize marijuana in Missouri is officially cleared for ballot placement following a month-long legal back-and-forth between the campaign and prohibitionists.  A lawsuit filed last month sought to keep the Legal Missouri 2022 reform proposal off the ballot after it was certified by the secretary of state.  But after two lower courts dismissed the challenge, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered the final word that the legal battle is over.

"Oklahoma Supreme Court Says Marijuana Legalization Won’t Be On November Ballot, But Will Be Voted On In Future Election"

Oklahoma voters will not get the chance to vote on a marijuana legalization initiative in November, with the state Supreme Court on Wednesday rejecting the campaign’s lawsuit that sought to secure ballot placement this year.  However, justices also dismissed two separate legal challenges to the ballot title, clearing the initiative’s path for a vote during the state’s next general or special election.

Legal battles over initiatives are never unusual, and a range of legal tripwires can often attend efforts to bring ballot measures directly to voters on any topic.  But I surmise that these kinds of challenges to marijuana reform measure have found growing success, perhaps unsurprisingly, as initiative move from bluer to redder states. Judges and other legal actors in bluer states can often seem more welcoming of ballot initiatives in this arena (and we have seen politicians in Maryland and New Jersey place marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot), whereas these actors in redder states sometime seem far more keen to keep voters from having a chance to directly weigh in on these issues.

September 22, 2022 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Reviewing just some of the dynamic marijuana reform stories from the states

The stories of marijuana reform in the United States are still mostly dynamic state stories, and here is just a handful of state stories from big states making headlines in just the last few days:

From California, "The casualties of California legalizing pot: Growers who went legal"

From Florida, "Florida Gov. DeSantis wants pot companies to pay more"

From Michigan, "Marijuana growing moratorium?: Supply and demand could lead to changes in Michigan"

From New York, "New Yorkers with pot convictions will now be the first to get to sell it"

From Virginia, "Inside the ‘wild, wild west’ of Virginia’s marijuana market"

And, of course, there are at least a half-dozen additional states with marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot this fall.  This Hill article provides an overview of these state stories under this full headline: "Voters in these states may soon decide whether to legalize marijuana: Six states could have ballot measures up for vote in the November midterm elections, and should they pass, will join 19 others in legalizing recreational marijuana."

August 28, 2022 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

"Why Now? Medicine, Media, and Mysticism in Past and Present American Thought on Psychedelic Drugs"

With the Spring semester coming to a close, this space will no longer be needed to highlight all the research topics and presentation plans of students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar.  And so, I can now return to, and catch up on, posting a lot of recently produced papers that are part of the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  To that end, the title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Aaron Roberts, a third-year student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

The public perception of psychedelic substances has become considerably more favorable in recent years.  This shift can be seen in decriminalization measures passed in several U.S. cities as well as Oregon’s commitment to establish a state-licensed psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy program.  These dramatic developments beg the question: Why now? Three particular aspects of psychedelic drugs have shaped the public response to them in the modern era: the established medical potential of psychedelics, the shift in media treatment of these substances, and their “entheogenic,” or spirituality-inducing, properties.  This paper examines these three factors historically.  Additionally, this paper relates ayahuasca specifically to each of the three areas. Ayahuasca is a useful case study due to its intense psychoactive effects, its onetime popularization, and its longer history of ritualistic, shamanic use. 

April 27, 2022 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Initiative effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio advances to legislative consideration, on track for Nov 2022 vote if Ohio General Assembly does not act

Ohio-marijuana-1280x720As reported in this local article, headlined "Recreational marijuana proposal clears another hurdle, heads to Ohio legislature before November ballot," an interesting reform effort in the Buckeye State is now one step closer to getting recreational marijuana on Ohio ballot this year.  Here are the details:

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose told state legislative leaders in a Friday letter that a proposed initiated statute that would legalize recreational marijuana obtained enough signatures to get on the November ballot, and now the General Assembly has four months to consider passing the measure. State law requires at least 132,887 valid signatures to get on the ballot, which the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol obtained. County boards of election recently finished verifying the signatures, and LaRose sent the letter to lawmakers.

But before the proposal makes the Nov. 8 ballot, the General Assembly gets to take a stab at passing the measure or passing it in an amended form. According to the Ohio Constitution, if lawmakers fail to pass a proposal, the coalition can circulate more petitions, demanding it appears on the ballot in the next general election.

The coalition, made up of businesses in Ohio’s medical marijuana industry, prefers the legislature to pass a law expanding the program to Ohioans age 21 and older. However, it also said that it has polling showing that marijuana is no longer a partisan issue in Ohio, and it believes the initiated statute would pass at the polls. “We are ready and eager to work with Ohio legislators over the next four months to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Ohio,” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a statement. “We are also fully prepared to collect additional signatures and take this issue directly to voters on November 8, 2022, if legislators fail to act.”

Under the proposal, adults would be allowed to purchase, possess and grow marijuana at home. Existing Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries could expand their businesses to sell to adults 21 and older, and new marijuana businesses could be added to accommodate recreational demand. Marijuana purchasers would be taxed 10% at the point of sale for each transaction. The coalition estimates recreational marijuana revenues could generate $400 million a year in new revenue.

Sensing the pressure from the Just Like Alcohol proposal, the legislature has advanced several marijuana bills lately. But none of them have moved across the finish line. On Tuesday, the Ohio House Health Committee advanced a bill to legalize marijuana for people on the autism spectrum. On Dec. 16, the Ohio Senate sent to the House a bill that would legalize marijuana to any patient whose symptoms ‘may reasonably be expected to be relieved by the drug. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also introduced bills that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Those of us working at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, which is based at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, have been closely following this initiative and all the other marijuana reform proposals being actively discussed in the Buckeye State.  DEPC has created a set of materials to aid in understanding the Ohio initiative process as well as the substantive particulars of different legislative reform proposals.  These Ohio materials are collected here under the heading "A Comparison of Marijuana Reform Proposals in Ohio." 

A few prior recent related posts:

January 29, 2022 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 3, 2022

"Cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession"

The title of this post is the title of this encouraging new research in the January 2022 issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine.  This piece is authored by Christian Gunadi and Yuyan Shi, and here is its abstract:

Rationale

Minorities often bear the brunt of unequal enforcement of drug laws. In the U.S., Blacks have been disproportionately more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than Whites despite a similar rate of cannabis use. Decriminalizing cannabis has been argued as a way to reduce racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests. To date, however, the empirical evidence to support this argument is almost non-existent.

Objectives

To examine whether cannabis decriminalization was associated with reduced racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession between Blacks and Whites in the U.S.

Methods

Using FBI Uniform Crime Report data from 37 U.S. states, cannabis possession arrest rates were calculated separately for Blacks and Whites from 2000 to 2019.  A difference-in-differences framework was used to estimate the association between cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in cannabis possession arrest rates (Blacks/Whites ratio) among adults and youths.

Results

Cannabis possession arrest rates declined over 70% among adults and over 40% among youths after the implementation of cannabis decriminalization in 11 states. Among adults, decriminalization was associated with a roughly 17% decrease in racial disparity in arrest rates between Blacks and Whites.  Among youths, arrest rates declined among both Blacks and Whites but there was no evidence for a change in racial disparity between Blacks and Whites following decriminalization.

Conclusions

Cannabis decriminalization was associated with substantially lower cannabis possession arrest rates among both adults and youths and among both Blacks and Whites.  It reduced racial disparity between Blacks and Whites among adults but not youths.  These findings suggested that cannabis decriminalization had its intended consequence of reducing arrests and may have potential to reduce racial disparity in arrests at least among adults.

January 3, 2022 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 20, 2021

Initiated statute effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio advances with submission of signatures to prompt legislative consideration

Ballot Initiative Process Diagram_final_16Dec202_webAs reported in this local article, headlined "The Just Like Alcohol campaign submits signatures to state, one step closer to getting recreational marijuana on Ohio ballot next year," a notable effort to advance marijuana reform in the Buckeye State advanced a bit today.  Here are the basic details:

A group of Ohio medical marijuana businesses with a proposal placing recreational cannabis on the ballot said they submitted 206,943 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office Monday.  The submission of signatures is just the latest step in the winding process to get the issue on the November 2022 ballot....

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign needed 132,887 signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by Dec. 27.  The campaign’s spokesman, Cleveland attorney Tom Haren, said campaign workers also verified signatures as they came in.  “The success of our petition drive shows just how eager Ohioans are to end prohibition and legalize the adult use of marijuana,” Haren said. “We look forward to receiving the results of the Secretary of State’s review, and are eager to begin working with legislators on this important issue.”

If county election officials verify the signatures, the proposal will go before the Ohio General Assembly, which gets to first stab at creating a law based on it.  If the legislature fails, the proposal will go on the ballot as an initiated statute.  Haren said the campaign would prefer if the legislature passed a law.

Under the proposed law, Ohioans ages 21 and older could buy and use marijuana.  They could grow up to six plants per person and 12 plants per residence.  It would create a Division of Cannabis Control under the Ohio Department of Commerce to license, regulate, investigate and penalize adult-use cannabis operators, testing laboratories and individuals who would be required to be licensed.

Existing Ohio medical marijuana growers could expand their cultivation areas once they receive an adult-use cultivator license, the proposal says.  Nine months after the proposed law goes into effect, the state would have to issue recreational licenses for existing medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, processors and testing laboratories if they complied with other provisions of the proposed law....

People who buy recreational marijuana would be taxed 10% at the dispensaries, and have to pay any other state and local sales taxes at the time of the purchase.  Of that, 36% of tax revenues would go to communities with recreational dispensaries; 36% to a social equity and jobs fund that would seek to “redress past and present effects of discrimination and economic disadvantage” for communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, such as the more severe criminal penalties for Black men in comparison to white men possessing the same levels of marijuana; 25% to substance abuse and addiction efforts; 3% to the Division of Cannabis Control to support the costs of regulation....

To head off the initiated statute, the legislature is considering a few bills to broaden marijuana access.  Last week, the Ohio Senate passed and sent to the House a bill that would expand medical marijuana to anyone with a condition that would “reasonably be expected to be relieved” by the drug. It would increase cultivation areas and changes the medical marijuana regulation scheme, which currently is divided among three state agencies, to one under the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Those of us working at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, which is based at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, have been closely following this initiative and all the other marijuana reform proposals being actively discussed in the Buckeye State.  DEPC has created a set of materials to aid in understanding the Ohio initiative process as well as the substantive particulars of different legislative reform proposals.  These Ohio materials are collected here under the heading "A Comparison of Marijuana Reform Proposals in Ohio."  That page includes this link to the original graphic appearing above that we have created to follow the Ohio initiative process, and here is just a sampling of some of the original Ohio materials to be found at the page:

December 20, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

"An Overview of Decriminalization Efforts in Regard to Psychedelic Plants in the United States, 2019-2020"

The title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Aaron Roberts, 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 paper's abstract:  

This paper examines the recent developments made in psychedelic-related drug policy in the United States.  The paper gives an overview of the decriminalization efforts made at the state and local levels.  The paper also looks at the historical, cultural, political, and public health factors that have shaped psychedelic policy throughout American history and into the current day.  Lastly, the paper shares some concerns about discrimination and unequal access present in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

November 23, 2021 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical community perspectives | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Oregon Narcotics Decriminalization: Example or Outcast?"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Blake Gerstner, a recent graduate of 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:  

In November 2020, the people of the State of Oregon spoke loudly and clearly by passing Ballot Measure 110, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of narcotics across the board, from cocaine to heroin to methamphetamine.  As a state with a recent, large increase in overdose deaths, Oregon now stands at the forefront of the U.S. decriminalization effort, setting an example for, or becoming an outcast among, its sister states. While only time will tell the long-term implications of this pioneering initiative, such legislation has long been sought by doctors, care specialists, and legal professionals across the United States as a compassion-driven step toward reversing the consequences of a lost war on drugs.  By focusing on ending the cycle of addiction among narcotic users, rather than penalizing and ostracizing those trapped in said cycle, its supporters have high hopes for greatly reducing drug addiction and overdose deaths, ending the mass incarceration of narcotics-addicted individuals, and terminating the illicit drug trade by refocusing attention on those who perpetuate the narcotics black market. From the criminal justice system, to mental health and addiction support, and to broader sociological and political understandings, the effects of Oregon’s initiative will almost certainly be vast and far-reaching, likely changing forever how the U.S. government, its institutions, and its citizens view drug use and addiction.

We can begin to grasp the amplitude of Ballot Measure 110 by looking to Oregon’s specific drug problems and how the measure could solve them.  The purpose of this article is to provide a bird’s-eye view of Oregon’s new model by exploring two interrelated topics.  First, I provide an in-depth explanation of the Measure’s intent and purpose, analyzing its language, original objective, and subsequent developments to comprehend exactly what Oregonians voted for and what can be expected.  Second, I offer a brief presentation of one Oregon-specific problem, methamphetamine addiction, and how the initiative could change meth use, enforcement, and criminalization.  In doing so, I hope to expound upon potential future implications of the Oregon measure as a whole, with the hope of imparting some idea of decriminalization’s future in the Beaver State.

November 23, 2021 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Noting a dozen states that may be voting on marijuana and other drug reforms in 2020

20200803-160721-ballot with pot leafKyle Jaeger at Marijuana Moment has this helpful article about developing drug reform ballot initiatives under the headline "These States Could Have Marijuana And Psychedelics Legalization On The Ballot In 2022."  I recommend the full piece, and here are the highlights (with links from the original):

Marijuana reform has advanced in numerous state legislatures in the first half of 2021, with lawmakers enacting four new legalization laws so far this year. Now, activists in roughly a dozen states are moving to put cannabis legalization proposals directly before voters in 2022.

Across the country, advocates are in the early stages of drafting proposals, collecting signatures and engaging in public outreach to build support for medical and recreational cannabis legalization measures that they hope to see voted on next year. In at least one state, activists are working to qualify a measure to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for next November’s ballot. And in others, lawmakers may take it upon themselves to put cannabis referendums up for the general election without the need for citizen petitions....

Here’s a breakdown of where cannabis legalization and other drug policy reforms could be decided by voters in 2022, as well as a look at a handful of local efforts to enact marijuana policy changes via municipal ballot initiatives this year.

Arkansas

Arkansas activists are collecting signatures to place adult-use marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot....

California

California psychedelics activists recently filed a petition for the 2022 ballot to make the state the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for any use....

Idaho

Advocates in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales....

Maryland

Maryland’s House speaker recently pledged that lawmakers will pass legislation to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters as a referendum on the 2022 ballot....

Mississippi

No initiatives have been filed for the 2022 ballot so far, but advocates say it’s possible a campaign could launch if the legislature fails to enact medical cannabis legalization during a special session this year or ends up passing a bill that has less robust patient protections than they want....

Missouri

A group of Missouri marijuana activists recently a number of separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot, a move that comes as other advocacy groups are preparing separate efforts to collect signatures for cannabis ballot petitions of their own....

Nebraska

Nebraska marijuana activists are gearing up for a “mass scale” campaign to put medical cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot after the legislature failed to pass a bill to enact the reform this session....

North Dakota

After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot....

Ohio

Ohio marijuana activists recently unveiled a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state via the ballot as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation....

Oklahoma

Oklahoma advocates are pushing two separate initiatives to legalize marijuana for adult use and overhaul the state’s existing medical cannabis program....

South Dakota

South Dakota activists recently filed four separate legalization measures with the state Legislative Research Council — the first step toward putting the issue before voters next year if the state Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that overturned the legal cannabis measure that voters approved last November....

Wyoming

Activists are seeking to put separate measures to legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize adult-use marijuana before voters next year — and the secretary of state’s office recently approved the latest version of their proposed ballot language, freeing up advocates to gather a requisite 100 signatures per initiative in order to proceed to the next step.

August 15, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 30, 2021

Notable and dynamic marijuana legalization efforts in bellwether (or deep red) Ohio

Download (19)Perhaps because I live and work in Ohio, I still tend to consider the state a national bellwether politically.  But, in recent elections (due in part to gerrymandering as well as to other factors), the state has been quite red politically with  GOP candidates winning the vast majority of statewide and local elections.  Whether now considered a bellwether or a deep red state, recent developments on the marijuana reform front strike me as quite interesting and worth watching in the months ahead.  Here are the basics from two great Marijuana Moment articles:

From July 15, "Ohio Lawmakers To File First-Of-Its-Kind Marijuana Legalization Bill As Activists Pursue Local Reforms":

Ohio lawmakers are preparing to file a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. This would mark the first time such a proposal to allow recreational cannabis commerce has been introduced in the legislature. Rep. Casey Weinstein (D) is sponsoring the legislation alongside Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D). While the text of the measure has not yet been released, the lawmakers circulated a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues on Thursday to shore up support for the effort in advance of its formal introduction....

The bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It will also include provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.

A 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementation and then being divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).

From July 27, "Ohio Marijuana Activists Launch Ballot Campaign To Push Lawmakers To Enact Legalization":

Ohio marijuana activists have a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation.  Voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative, and advocates suspended a campaign to place another measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.  But on Tuesday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched a new effort to implore legislators to enact the policy change.

The group submitted the requisite 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday.  Officials now have 10 days to review the summary and text to ensure that it is “fair and truthful” and approve it for circulation. Several existing medical cannabis businesses are backing the measure....

Unlike past efforts, the new measure is a statutory, rather that a constitutional, proposal.  If supporters collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters, the legislature will then have four months to adopt the measure, reject it or adopt and amended version.  If lawmakers do not pass the proposal, organizers will then need to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure before voters on the ballot in 2022.

The start of an statutory initiative campaign, which gives the Ohio General Assembly a chance to act on proposed reforms before the proposal goes directly to the voters, strikes me as especially shrewd and interesting.  This approach will likely keep the issue in the news in ways that ought to be helpful to reform proponents (e.g., they can discuss tax revenues and the need for Ohio to keep up with its reform neighbors); and this approach may require many state legislators to have to express a position on reform in a run-up to an off-year election in which a topic like marijuana reform could help turn out some extra voters.  Interesting times.

July 30, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | 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)

Monday, February 8, 2021

State judge declares South Dakota ballot iniative legalizing marijuana invalid for covering "multiple subjects"

This AP article, headlined "South Dakota judge strikes down voter-approved measure legalizing marijuana," reports on a notable state ruling from the Mount Rushmore State.  Here are the basics:

A South Dakota judge on Monday struck down a voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana.  Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled the measure approved by voters in November violated the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject.

Lawyers on both sides have said they expect the issue to be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

Two law enforcement officers, Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, sued to block legalization by challenging its constitutionality.  Miller was effectively acting on behalf of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who had opposed the effort to legalize pot.

Lawyers for the law enforcement officers argued that the ballot initiative violated a rule that constitutional amendments must only address one subject.  They also said that by giving the Department of Revenue the power to tax and regulate marijuana, it improperly elevated the department to a fourth branch of state government.

Lawyers defending legalization dismissed those arguments and said the lawsuit was an effort to overturn the results of a fair election.  About 54 percent of voters approved recreational marijuana.  Possessing small amounts of marijuana would have become legal on July 1, but that will not happen unless a higher court overturns the ruling.

The full ruling is available at ths link.

February 8, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

"Ensuring Marijuana Reform Is Effective Criminal Justice Reform"

The title of this article is the title of this new article that I wrote along with Alex Kreit that is now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

In less than a decade, marijuana legalization has gone from unthinkable to seemingly unstoppable.  This essay — written for a special issue on improving Arizona’s criminal justice system — discusses how Arizona should best advance marijuana legalization so that it can significantly improve Arizona’s criminal justice system.  Now that Arizona has legalized marijuana via ballot initiative, we do not wade too deeply into the arguments for and against legalization or the criminal justice impact inherent in the repeal of prohibition (such as reductions in marijuana arrests and sentences).  Instead, we focus on steps that Arizona policymakers and advocates who are interested in improving the criminal justice system can take to ensure that legalization best advances this goal.  First, we set the stage in Part I with a brief history of marijuana prohibition, its role in criminal enforcement today, and the movement to enact state legalization laws.  In Part II, we turn our attention to Arizona, beginning with a description of marijuana reform efforts in Arizona and key facets of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act.  We then provide recommendations for policymakers and other concerned parties about how to ensure modern marijuana reforms in Arizona (and elsewhere) can and should help build a reform infrastructure that could not only ensure record relief to redress past marijuana convictions but also address broader criminal justice issues that historically intersect with marijuana prohibition.

January 21, 2021 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | 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)

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What a difference a decade makes: recalling marijuana reform efforts in 2010 California and now in 2020 South Dakota

Talking to one of my favorite people about the greatness and unpredictability of democracy in the USA, I realized that it is worthwhile to put the amazingly consistent pro-reform marijuana election results of 2020 in a bit of historical context.  For now, I will leave it to true historians to write on a broader canvas, as I just want to highlight what a difference a decade makes. 

The first very significant and well-funded campaign for statewide marijuana legalization took place in deep blue California in 2010.  Then and there, California Proposition 19 lost pretty badly with 53.5% of California voters being against legalization, and only 46.5% being in favor.  Notably, among the folks in avowed opposition to this reform were US Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, then CA Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, then-Democratic Attorney General Candidate Kamala Harris, and then-Prez Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder and his drug czar Gil Kerlikowske

Fast forward only 10 years, and we have seen extraordinary political, legal and social developments on so many fronts related to marijuana prohibition, and perhaps this is no more clear than the results in deep red South Dakota in 2020.  This year the voters in South Dakota considered both Initiated Measure 26 to legalize medical marijuana, which passed by a vote of 70% for and only 30% against, and a state constitutional amendment for full legalization, which passed by a vote of 54% for and only 46% against.  To my knowledge, there were precious few political figures who spoke out in avowed opposition to either of these reforms, and I am certain that Prez Trump's Attorney General did not weigh in on these state marijuana reform ballot measures.

This is a truly remarkable political and legal story, though perhaps even more remarkable is that we have seen no formal federal legislative reforms in this arena even over a decade of extraordinary change.  I will (not-so-boldly) predict that we will see some form of federal statutory reforms over the next decade, but I am not at all confident about just when or what these reforms might look like.  I will predict that 2010 CA Democratic Attorney General Candidate Kamala Harris, who is now in 2020 Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, might end up having a lot of impact on this matter.

November 7, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Some (too early) speculations on the (uncertain) future of marijuana reform after big state wins Election Night 2020

Ballot-map-type2-minAs of Wednesday morning after a very long 2020 Election Night, there is a lot which remains uncertain politically, but one matter is quite clear: marijuana reform is very popular all across the United States.  As noting in this post last night, marijuana reform ballot initiatives prevails by pretty large numbers in states as diverse as Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.   This Politico article, headlined "1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal," provides some political context:

New Jersey and Arizona, with 8.9 million and 7.3 million residents, respectively, are the biggest wins for advocates this year.  Legalization in New Jersey is expected to create a domino effect for legalization in other large East Coast states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi, while much smaller, are significant in another way: As red states, the passage of marijuana measures illustrates the shift in Republican sentiment toward marijuana.

The impact of these ballot measures will be felt in Congress, especially if Democrats regain control of the Senate.  If all the measures ultimately pass, a third of House members will represent states where marijuana is legal, as will a fourth of the Senate.  If Democrats end up in control of both chambers next year, expect those legal state lawmakers to be called upon to vote on significant changes to federal marijuana policy — including removing all federal penalties for using it.

As of this writing, it is still unclear who will be in the White House for the next four years, but it seems increasing clear that Democrats will not be in control of the Senate.  This reality leads me to speculate that, despite the big 2020 state ballot wins, it will still be quite challenging for Congress to move forward with any significant federal statutory marijuana reforms.  Whether to pursue a modest or major form of federal reform already divides Democratic lawmakers in various ways, and I doubt that Republican leadership in the Senate will be eager to prioritize or even advance various bills on this topic.  If the person in the White House decides he wants to focus on this issue, these political realities could surely change.  But, at this moment, it seems to me unlikely that a large number of lawmakers at the federal level will be keen to prioritize these matters in the short term.

But continued non-action at the federal level could actually make even more space for state-level reforms to continue apace.  As the Politico excerpt highlights, the outcome in New Jersey should increase the likelihood of traditional legislative reforms in states like New York and Pennsylvania and maybe other northeast states.  Also, the big ballot wins in red states in 2020 also makes even more likely that there will be ballot initiatives for full legalization or medical marijuana reform in a half-dozen or more states in the coming years.  Just off the top of my head, I count Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma as all real possibilities for state initiatives perhaps as early as 2022.

November 4, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)