Tuesday, April 18, 2023
The final scheduled presentation during the final week of my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform class is focused on a topic that does not seem to get all that much attention even though it is at the intersection of two topics that get a whole lot of attention. Specifically, this presentation is examining how non-citizens in the US interact with the marijuana industry. Here is how the topic is described by my student (along with background readings):
Foreign nationals and immigrants to the United States participate in the U.S. marijuana industry in many of the same ways as U.S. citizens. Some consume marijuana for medical or recreational reasons, others work for marijuana dispensaries or farms, and others invest in the booming industry. However, unlike U.S. citizens, noncitizens may face serious consequences for engaging in the marijuana industry, regardless of individual state legalization of the drug.
The federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for strict consequences for foreign nationals who participate in the marijuana industry, such as inadmissibility, deportability, and bars to naturalization. And these consequences are unlikely to change with marijuana’s continuing status as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
From the Congressional Research Service, "Marijuana and Restrictions on Immigration" (2020)
From Christopher P Salas-Wright et al., "Trends in cannabis use among immigrants in the United States, 2002-2017: Evidence from two national surveys" (2019)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Policy Alert: Controlled Substance-Related Activity and Good Moral Character Determinations" (2019)
From ABC News, "Legal immigrants with jobs in the marijuana industry are being denied US citizenship" (2019)
From Politico, "‘Real People That We Care About Are Being Exploited’: Lured with false promises of high pay and decent labor conditions, immigrants are held against their will by outlaw farmers who withhold their wages." (2022)
From Harris Bricken, "Foreign Investment in U.S. Cannabis: A Continuing Love/Hate Relationship" (2020)
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Because there are so many domestic issues to cover in my seminar, I find that I never have time to talk about all the notable international developments in the marijuana reform space. Consequently, I am very excited that some of these wroldly topics are to be expored in the third presentation scheduled for this week in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar. Specifically, a student will be presenting on European cannabis reform and regulation, and here is how he has described his topic along with background readings:
On the international level, cannabis legalization is surprisingly sparse with less than 5% of countries having full legalization regimes. The lack of legalization in some regions garners no shock, however, Western Europe appears as an outlier. The traditional ideological front of Western Europe is one of progressive and left-leaning nature, however, cannabis legalization efforts are at least half a decade behind the United States. Common factors contributing to cannabis movements including use, interest, values, and access all of which appear to align with a pro-cannabis legalization in Europe. However, as of 2023 only one country has a semi-legalized regime, Malta. Are their explanations for the lag in cannabis legalization in Europe or is it a legislative anomaly?
Links of Particular Interest:
1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, "European Drug Report 2020: Trends and Developments" (2020)
2. Hanway Associates, "Recreational Europe" (2022)
3. Leafwell, "A Guide to Medical Marijuana Legalization Around the World" (2023)
4. United Nations, "Commentary on the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988" (June 1988)
5. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, "European Drug Report 2022: Trends and Developments" (2022)
Friday, March 3, 2023
Showcasing the diversity of issues covered when students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar "take over" the second half of the class by giving presentations, the third presentation scheduled for next week will look at sports. Specifically, my student will explore "reconceptualizing WADA’s 'spirit of sport' criterion," and here is how she has described her topic along with background readings:
Reconceptualizing WADA’s “spirit of sport” criterion:
In order to be placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substance list, two out of three criteria must be met: (1) posing a health risk to athletes, (2) potentially enhancing performance or (3) violating the spirit of sport. While the first two criterion are rooted in fact and science, the last criterion has raised controversy as a “catch-all provision” that is based on vague ideals with little operative force.
Last September, WADA announced that Cannabis would remain on the 2022 prohibited list. Interestingly enough, WADA only cited to this third criterion, “the spirit of sport”, in their explanation as to why cannabis remains on the list.
This presentation briefly explores why cannabis does not meet the first two criterion, and then moves to attack the use of the third criterion as an overreach of WADA’s power. After exploring the consistent drug use in sport dating back to 776 BCE, and then discussing the modern use of WADA’s therapeutic use exemption, it becomes clear that drug use is not the antithesis of “the spirit of sport”. Finally, this presentation makes procedural recommendations to WADA and questions whether the spirit of sport criterion should be abolished, edited, or left as-is.
From Athletes for Care, "It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Athletes for Using Marijuana"
From Leafly.com, "Cannabis in Sports: Unpacking Exemptions for Therapeutic Use"
From Scientific American, "Weed Shouldn’t Be Banned for Elite Athletes, Some Experts Say"
Thursday, October 27, 2022
As reported in this Washington Post piece, "Germany moves to legalize recreational cannabis," it appears that the biggest country in the EU is about to go all in on MJ. Here re the details:
Germany on Wednesday announced plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use. It was a move the country’s health minister said would make Germany Europe’s “most liberal cannabis legalization project” but also its “most tightly regulated market.”
Presenting a detailed cornerstone paper laying out a slate of regulations to Germany’s cabinet Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legalization of cannabis is necessary to end Germany’s “unsuccessful fight against drug-related crime,” and its flourishing black market. The goal of the change is to reduce consumption, especially for young people, he said in a tweet.
Under the government’s new plans, cannabis and THC will no longer be classified as narcotics. The substances will be able to be produced, supplied and distributed to people 18 or older, within a licensed and government-regulated environment — including specialist shops and, “if necessary,” pharmacies. Adults can possess 20 to 30 grams of recreational cannabis, both in private and in public. And Germans will be able to cultivate their own cannabis, to some extent....
Germany also plans to impose a “cannabis tax” and a potential upper limit on THC content for adults under 21. Advertising for cannabis will be completely prohibited, and neutral outside packaging will be required.
There is no set timeline for the plan, and the draft rules still need to be assessed by the European Commission and made into law. Medical marijuana, in limited circumstances, has been legal in Germany since 2017.
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Student presentation: "Putting Marijuana Back in the Bottle: FDA’s Role in Future Marijuana Regulation"
Continuing the Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students presenting on research topics of their choice. the second topic for this coming week's presentations will be focused on the role of the FDA. Here is how the student describes her take on the topic and some background readings:
So far, FDA has been fairly hands-off when it comes to the state-driven marijuana market even though marijuana falls under many of the agency’s statutory domains. “Marijuana” is a hot commodity as consumers can attest from the plethora of products purporting to contain marijuana derivatives. Many, if not all, of these products fall under FDA’s regulatory regime.
Although FDA has issued some warning letters regarding company actions within the marijuana space, the agency has not developed a consistent theme for regulation. Once it does, some state regulations may be preempted. This would throw the current regulatory landscape into question. Such entry may also change the dynamic of the marijuana industry. For example, as companies face federal regulation, entry into the marijuana space may become more expensive and push small sellers out of the market. Conversely, a dual marijuana marketplace may be established — one that establishes itself nationwide and another that attempts to maintain the current system by only selling intra-state.
FDA does not need to completely reinvent the wheel when it comes to marijuana regulation, although it statutorily may have to consider factors unique to current state regulations. However, given the history of introducing more robust regulations onto new industries, as FDA did with tobacco industry, systems states are already finding successful, and other nations’ marijuana schemes, there are many avenues for FDA to ensure the American public is protected from unsafe products without overly disrupting the current market.
Every year that the federal government declines to implement a regulatory scheme for marijuana products, states are creating their own processes — some more and some less permissive. This paper describes the statutory basis for FDA to regulate marijuana. It also describes how future FDA regulation might interplay with current state regulation or be preempted. Next, it analyzes possible industry challenges as federal regulation becomes more prominent. Finally, it recommends how FDA may enter the regulatory space in tandem with state regulation and avoid stifling an already robust market.
Law review article: "The Surprising Reach of FDA Regulation of Cannabis, Even after Descheduling"
Law review article (by own own Prof Zettler): "Pharmaceutical Federalism"
US Food & Drug Administration webpage: "FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)"
April 12, 2022 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, February 20, 2022
In the next few weeks, my Marijuana Reform seminar will be discussing different models for marijuana legalization. One model we will discuss is the so-called "Dutch coffee shop model" which allows only the retail sale of cannabis, but also the on-site consumption. (Most US state models of legalization allow for fully commercialized cultivation, distribution and sale, but also bars any on-site or other public consumption.) With these matters in mind, this new CNN article, headlined "What's happened to Amsterdam's cannabis coffee shops during Covid," caught my eye. I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts:
Dutch coffee shops never closed completely during the pandemic as they were classed as essential businesses, unlike restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.
But the cannabis cafes have been dealt a catastrophic blow due to a lack of the international tourists who were responsible for a large share of their revenue. And while some have adapted to a new way of life, there are fears from those who work in them that they're in danger of vanishing....
Pre-pandemic, the cafe was usually full during the week, noisy and buzzing with atmosphere as people socialized with each other while smoking a marijuana cigarette or eating a cannabis brownie. but on a Thursday afternoon in early February, there's just one person sitting inside, working on a laptop while sipping a cup of coffee and smoking a cannabis joint.
"In my coffee shop it's been very empty and boring," says Nick. "But other coffee shops [outside the center] are busier than ever due to takeaway demand. During coronavirus, everybody is sitting at home and smoking."Over half of the capital's 167 coffee shops are in the center and heavily reliant on tourism, says Joachim Helms of the coffee shop owners' association BCD. "The coffee shops in the center were really in survival mode [during the past two years]," he says. Government financial aid allowed them to stay afloat, but this only covered their rent and furlough for staff, and they struggled to make any revenue, Helms says.
When coronavirus overwhelmed Europe in March 2020, the Dutch government announced a strict lockdown and ordered all hospitality to close, including coffee shops. This decision was reversed almost immediately after people started buying cannabis illegally. "The government worried that if they kept the coffee shops closed, people would turn to the streets and illegal dealers," says Helms. The shops were allowed to stay open, even during the strictest lockdowns, for takeaway service....
"The takeaway business has been really good," says Maeve Larkin, who works in Hunters coffee shop in the center. "People tend to buy bigger amounts [than when they consume it in the cafe]."...
Even though the lockdown has ended, strict rules remain in place for the entire Dutch hospitality sector. All customers must show a vaccination pass, in the form of a QR code on their phones, to buy cannabis in a coffee shop, maintain a 1.5-meter distance while inside and wear masks while ordering. Coffee shops must stop serving at 10 p.m., but are allowed to stay open until midnight for takeout. These rules make it difficult for coffee shops to accommodate a large number of customers and encourage people to stay inside, instead of buying takeout.
Helms says that lockdown restrictions have changed the culture of Amsterdam's coffee shops. "The foundation of the coffee shop policy is that there are places where you can consume cannabis in a responsible and safe way and where you can meet people from all around the world," he says.
"The whole point of coffee shops in Amsterdam is the relaxed vibe and the culture of it. That's gone now," says Larkin, adding that the current situation reminds her of the US model, where in certain states people can buy cannabis from dispensaries. "Now there's two people at a table and there's no spontaneity anymore. This cafe and the surrounding area used to be packed all the time, now it's just dead."
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 (1)
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
This New York Times article, headlined "Mexico Set to Legalize Marijuana, Becoming World’s Largest Market," reports on the latest reform developments from south of the border. Here is how the piece gets started:
Lawmakers in Mexico approved a bill Wednesday night to legalize recreational marijuana, a milestone for the country, which is in the throes of a drug war and could become the world’s largest cannabis market, leaving the United States between two pot-selling neighbors.
The 316-to-129 vote in Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, came more than two years after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s ban on recreational marijuana was unconstitutional and more than three years after the country legalized medicinal cannabis.
The chamber approved the bill in general terms Wednesday evening before moving on to a lengthy discussion of possible revisions introduced by individual lawmakers. In its final form, though, the measure is widely expected to sail through the Senate before being sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has signaled support for legalization.
The measure, as of Wednesday night, would allow adults to smoke marijuana and, with a permit, grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses for producers — from small farmers to commercial growers — to cultivate and sell the crop.
“Today we are in a historic moment,” said Simey Olvera, a lawmaker with the governing Morena party. “With this, the false belief that cannabis is part of Mexico’s serious public health problems is left behind.”
If enacted, Mexico would join Canada and Uruguay in a small but growing list of countries that have legalized marijuana in the Americas, adding further momentum to the legalization movement in the region. In the United States, Democrats in the Senate have also promised to scrap federal prohibition of the drug this year.
For “Mexico, given its size and its worldwide reputation for being damaged by the drug war, to take this step is enormously significant,” said John Walsh, director of drug policy for the Washington Office on Latin America, a U.S. advocacy group. “North America is heading toward legalization.”
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
I am not at all an expert on international law, by I still think I know enough to regard actions today by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs regarding cannabis is a pretty big deal. This official press release provides the special details, and this NPR story provides a bit more context. Here are excerpts:
The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to reclassify cannabis Wednesday, taking it off the strict Schedule IV list that includes dangerous and highly addictive drugs such as heroin. The U.N. still deems cannabis a controlled substance. But the move, which the U.S. supported, could ease restrictions on research into marijuana's therapeutic use.
The 53-member commission approved the change in a close vote, by 27-25, with 1 abstention. Russia was a vocal opponent of the move, calling cannabis "the most abused drug globally."
The U.N. vote follows guidance from the World Health Organization and its expert committee on drug dependence, which had recommended deleting "cannabis and cannabis resin" from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The drug will now remain in Schedule I rather than appearing on both lists. The vote had been closely followed by marijuana activists and the burgeoning cannabis industry, as it could bolster arguments for easing legal restrictions on marijuana and establishing consistent regulations.
In its recommendation to the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the WHO committee noted that cannabis can have adverse effects and cause dependence. But it also cited the drug's benefits in reducing pain and nausea, as well as easing symptoms of medical conditions such as anorexia, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. And it noted that unlike opioids such as fentanyl, cannabis is not associated with a significant risk of death. The committee said, "the inclusion of cannabis and cannabis resin in Schedule IV is not consistent with the criteria for a drug to be placed in Schedule IV."
The WHO committee also said that despite "limited robust scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis," the drug has been shown to be different from Schedule IV substances that have little or no therapeutic use.
"This is a major win for cannabis advocates around the world with considerable symbolic and some practical implications for cannabis regulation," according to Conor O'Brien of Prohibition Partners, a global industry analyst group. Taking cannabis off of the list of most restricted substances, he added, means that the U.N. agrees with the WHO "that cannabis is not 'liable to produce ill-effects' on the scale of other drugs in Schedule IV, and that cannabis has significant potential therapeutic value."
It's up to each country to form their own drug policies and punishments. But international drug control treaties allow their parties to ban or limit the manufacture or import of the most dangerous substances. Under the 1961 convention, Schedule IV is reserved for drugs that are particularly liable to abuse and harm. "Such liability is not offset by substantial therapeutic advantages," the U.S. Justice Department says in its guide to complying with the treaties. With cannabis now classified differently, the calculus for studying its potential benefits is now likely to change.
The U.S. was represented at the session by Ethan Glick, counselor for U.N. Affairs at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, who said, "the legitimate medical use of a cannabis preparation has been established through scientific research, and cannabis no longer meets the criterion for placement in Schedule IV of the Single Convention." Glick cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval in 2018 of a purified cannabidiol extract for use in treating rare seizure disorders in children. And he cautioned that cannabis poses public health risks, particularly to young people and pregnant women.
But reclassifying cannabis in a less strict control category, Glick added, could spark new research into its medical benefits. "This action has the potential to stimulate global research into the therapeutic potential and public health effects of cannabis and to attract additional investigators to the field including those who may have been deterred by the Schedule IV status," Glick said.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this effective new Leafly article, which builds off the research noted in this prior post about the "right" minimum age for legal access to recreational cannabis. Here are excerpts:
When it comes to legal cannabis, the random collection of ages across North America is curious. Every US state that allows recreational cannabis sales requires customers to be at least 21 years old. In Canada the minimum age is 19, except in Alberta (where it’s 18) and Québec (which started at 18 but raised it to 21 earlier this year).
In most jurisdictions, medical marijuana is legal for people age 18 and older, with a doctor’s recommendation.
What difference does it really make if someone is 18, 19 or 21? A research team at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, recently investigated the question. Instead of looking at the immediate health and safety of young adults, they assessed later life outcomes — namely educational attainment, lifetime cigarette smoking habits, and general physical and mental health. In their study, the Memorial University team concluded that the ideal minimum legal age for cannabis was 19....
Health experts cite THC exposure in adolescents causes changes to the brain’s folding patterns, decreased neural connectivity, thinning of the cortex and lower white matter, among other symptoms. However, one recent study suggests any changes to brain structure caused by cannabis use in adolescence cleared up by the time subjects were in their 30s.
Another ongoing study in the Saguenay region of Quebec took MRI scans of over 1,000 adolescent brains in 2002, and the same subjects are currently being re-evaluated as adults — results pending.
If the serious nature of brain health is such a risk, why not just make cannabis illegal until a person’s mid-20s? In the real world, policymakers have to weigh human nature’s penchant for the forbidden with appropriate rules and consequences. In an ideal world, sure — and in this ideal world underage kids never go looking for cannabis from illicit sources, either. In the real world, though, policymakers have to weigh human nature’s penchant for the forbidden with appropriate rules and consequences. In an ideal world, alcohol would also be outlawed for health reasons, but we all know how Prohibition worked out.
Prior to the Oct. 2018 opening of legal cannabis sales in Canada, a government task force took a hard look at the best-legal-age question. That group found that the higher the minimum legal age, the more likely adolescents will seek out unregulated sources, risking both consumption of potentially more dangerous products and also incarceration.
Prior related post:
June 30, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, May 18, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new research by multiple authors now appearing in the journal BMC Public Health. Here is its abstract:
Choice of minimum legal age (MLA) for cannabis use is a critical and contentious issue in legalization of non-medical cannabis. In Canada where non-medical cannabis was recently legalized in October 2018, the federal government recommended age 18, the medical community argued for 21 or even 25, while public consultations led most Canadian provinces to adopt age 19. However, no research has compared later life outcomes of first using cannabis at these different ages to assess their merits as MLAs.
We used doubly robust regression techniques and data from nationally representative Canadian surveys to compare educational attainment, cigarette smoking, self-reported general and mental health associated with different ages of first cannabis use.
We found different MLAs for different outcomes: 21 for educational attainment, 19 for cigarette smoking and mental health and 18 for general health. Assuming equal weight for these individual outcomes, the ‘overall’ MLA for cannabis use was estimated to be 19 years. Our results were robust to various robustness checks.
Our study indicated that there is merit in setting 19 years as MLA for non-medical cannabis.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar continue "taking over" through presentations on research topics of their choice, and I will continue providing in this space background on their topics and links to relevant materials they provide. The first presentation this week will focus on the country to the north, and here is how the students working on this big topic describes their plans along with background readings they have provided:
The presentation will focus on medical marijuana in Canada. Like with the United States, the national attitude towards medical marijuana in Canada has evolved over the years. It was only four short years after California effectively legalized medical marijuana in 1996, that a Canadian court ruled Canadians had a right to use medical marijuana. It took almost two decades after that court ruling for marijuana to be fully legalized in Canada. Because marijuana is legal in Canada, there is much that can be learned from research conducted in the country. Research on illegal drugs is often met with push back from the government. Full legalization has opened the door for all aspects of research into the effectiveness of marijuana for treating all kinds of illnesses. This research is necessary to facilitate a better understanding of marijuana and it benefits world-wide.
Government of Canada, "For people registered or designated to produce cannabis for medical purposes"
Government of Canada, "Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids"
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this new "technical report" from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and authored by Bryce Pardo, Beau Kilmer and Rosalie Liccardo Pacula of the RAND Europe/RAND Drug Policy Research Center. The full 76-page report is worth reviewing in full, and here are some excerpts from the report's executive summary:
To learn more about these new cannabis regimes and their consequences, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) commissioned a review of the changes governing recreational cannabis policies in the Americas and an overview of preliminary evaluations. Findings from this research are intended to inform discussions about the development of a framework for monitoring and evaluating policy developments related to cannabis regulatory reform. Key insights include the following.
In addition to the populations of Canada and Uruguay, more than 25 % of the US population lives in states that have passed laws to legalise and regulate cannabis production, sales and possession/use for recreational purposes. In the US, allowing licensed production and sales is often at the discretion of sub-state jurisdictions, which may impose further zoning restrictions on cannabis-related activities. This variation can complicate analyses that attempt to compare legalisation and non-legalisation states, especially when the outcome data are not representative at state level.
The peer-reviewed literature on cannabis legalisation is nascent, and we observe conflicting results depending on which data and methods are used, as well as which implementation dates and policies are considered. It is important to remain sceptical of early studies, especially those that use a simple binary variable to classify legalisation and non-legalisation states. This scepticism should extend to the many studies that fail to account for the existence of robust commercial medical cannabis markets that predate non-medical recreational cannabis laws. Even if a consensus develops on certain outcomes, it does not mean that a relationship will hold over time. Changes in the norms about cannabis use and potentially other substances, the maturation of markets and the power of private businesses (if allowed) could lead to very different outcomes 15 or 25 years after recreational cannabis laws have passed. Evaluations of these changes must be considered an ongoing exercise, not something that should happen in the short term....
One insight arising from the evaluations of the regulatory changes in the Americas to date is the importance of the amount and range of data collected before the change; simply comparing past-month prevalence rates will not tell us much about the effect of the change on health. While US jurisdictions have been moving quickly to legalise the use of cannabis, the data infrastructure for evaluating these changes is limited. In contrast, Canada has made important efforts to field new surveys and create new data collection programmes in anticipation of legal changes. This highlights the importance of any jurisdictions that are considering changes to the regulatory framework for cannabis starting to think about improving data collection and analysis systems in advance.
While there is much to learn from what is happening in the Americas, policy discussions should not be limited to approaches that have been implemented there. There are several regulatory tools (e.g. minimum pricing, potency-based taxes) that receive very little attention — if any — that could have important consequences for health, public safety and/or social equity. It needs to be recognised that all decisions of this nature involve trade-offs and acknowledging that individuals (and governments) have different values and preferences for risk when it comes to cannabis policy is important for productive debates on this controversial topic.
February 25, 2020 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, January 27, 2020
I have started another semester of my Marijuana Law and Policy seminar at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and early in the semester I spend considerable time exploring the history of all sort of drug laws (including, of course, those dealing with alcohol and so-called harder drugs). Thus, I was very pleased this week to see this new extended posting at the MIT Press Reader authored by Ryan Stoa (the author of “Craft Weed”). I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts from the start and end of the great piece:
Before the war on drugs put marijuana farmers firmly in its crosshairs, cannabis was being grown openly and with commercial success on every continent on earth, much as it had been for centuries.
This ancient and extensive history of cannabis farming has given rise to the idea that prohibitions put in place in the mid-20th century were the first of their kind — a whirlwind of racial, political, and economic forces that successfully used marijuana prohibition as a pretext for suppression. By contrasting prohibition with our ancient history of cannabis farming, some historians make our modern-day drug laws appear irregular and shortsighted....
Yet, while unprecedented in scope, the United States’ war on drugs was not the first of its kind. The reality is that marijuana has been controversial for almost as long as humans have been farming it. Many societies throughout history have banned cannabis cultivation and use. What many of these crackdowns and prohibitions have in common is social and economic inequality, or a distrust of the unknown. When members of a minority or lower class embrace marijuana use, the ruling class moves to outlaw marijuana as a form of suppression and control. Marijuana is perceived to be a threat to the order of society, and stamping it out naturally begins with a prohibition on cultivation.
What many of these crackdowns and prohibitions have in common is social and economic inequality, or a distrust of the unknown. As a case in point, the ancient Chinese might have been the first cannabis farmers — and, as far as we know, were the first to write about psychoactive marijuana — and yet they may also have been the first to reject it as a socially acceptable drug. The rise of Taoism around 600 BCE brought with it a cultural rejection of intoxicants. Marijuana was then viewed as antisocial, and derisively dismissed by one Taoist priest as a loony drug reserved for shamans. The sentiment persisted into the modern era — to this day, marijuana struggles to disassociate itself with the stained history of opium in China....
The historical record illustrates that while many regions of the world have tolerated or embraced marijuana farming in the past, plenty of others have seen authorities attempt to exterminate farmers and their crops. Targeting the first step in the supply chain is a logical starting point for prohibitionists, and marijuana’s role as an agent of religious, political, or economic change has long made it a threat to the established social order.
Our marijuana-farming ancestors of the past could have told us, based on experience, that when prohibitionists come after cannabis, they will do so in predictable ways. They will use rhetoric to associate the plant with violence, depravity, and other more dangerous drugs, as the European temperance movement did in France and Great Britain. They will use a militarized show of force to eradicate crops, persecute farmers, and dissuade the next generation from growing marijuana, as the Ottomans did in Egypt. They will portray marijuana users as religious extremists or dangerous minorities, as Pope Innocent VIII did in Europe, Sunni Muslims did in the Middle East, or white South Africans did in South Africa. The best-case scenario, they might say, is that the authorities will turn a blind eye to the unstoppable forces of supply and demand, much as the Portuguese did in Brazil or the British did in India.
In telling us this, our marijuana-farming ancestors might as well have been writing the playbook for the 20th-century war on drugs. The cannabis prohibition era in the United States did not invent this “greatest hits” collection of tactics that prohibitionists have been using for centuries; it simply brought them all together in one place, and injected them with more financial and military resources than any prohibition movement in history has ever seen.
Monday, September 9, 2019
Old folks like me remember when one had to track down a hard copy of an issue of High Times in order to read about marijuana and policy reform. But times sure have changed, and the latest media marker of modern high times may be the new newsletter that was rolled out today by Politico, a highly respected inside-the-beltway media outlet covering politics and policy. This newsletter is described this way:
This newsletter launches at a historic moment for marijuana and cannabis policy. Marijuana is legal on some level in 33 states but illegal at the federal level, creating a bewildering and complex web of legal, regulatory and business questions that even the most expert policy makers and lawyers struggle to answer.
This newsletter offers a sneak preview of what we will do for our Pro subscribers starting next month. Our mission for Pro readers is to cover these policy issues with passion and expertise, to deliver exclusive news and analysis, and to report on cannabis from a neutral, unbiased point of view. We come to this issue with no pre-cooked narrative about what should happen on cannabis policy. Our stories will focus on what POLITICO Pro does best: explaining policy issues and the politics behind them and delivering the news in an easy to digest format so that you can use our content to make business decisions.
And here are two new stories from the Politico team about happenings inside and outside the Beltway:
This could be a big moment for marijuana and Congress. But Democrats are fighting Democrats over whether to focus on social justice issues or industry priorities like banking. Marijuana advocates are divided among themselves over whether to push for full legalization or settle for less far-reaching legislation. And many Republicans — some of whom are seeing the benefits of cannabis legalization in their home states — are still decidedly against any legalization on the national level, even for medicinal uses.
At the same time that Congress is in gridlock, there is growing national support for cannabis, which is illegal at the federal level but at least partially legal in 33 states. In addition, public opinion is shifting rapidly, with nearly two-thirds of Americans supporting legalization according to Gallup — double the level of support two decades ago. That’s led to a steadily growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who represent states with legal cannabis markets, making them more sympathetic toward legislation aimed at helping the burgeoning industry — which brought in roughly $10 billion in sales last year.
These conflicts between state and federal law have created a rash of problems for cannabis companies, including lack of access to banking services, sky-high federal tax rates and bewildering questions about exactly what business practices are legal.
The United States is feeling some North American peer pressure to get in on the cannabis boom. Producers in Canada, where marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational uses, are already planning for a future where pot is a globally traded commodity, and some are setting themselves up to profit if it is legalized in the U.S.
In Mexico cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes, and the landscape could shift further: The country's new president, whose party controls a majority in the national legislature, sent a proposal to the Mexican Senate late last year to legalize recreational use.
September 9, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, August 30, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article just published via the journal Contemporary Drug Problems and authored by Tobias Kammersgaard. Here is its abstract:
Several drug policy researchers have noted that the concept of harm reduction could be applied to the field of drug policing in order to assess the negative consequences and potential benefits of policing in this area. However, the application of harm reduction principles to drug policing has only been realized to a limited extent in the current responses to drug use and markets. Accordingly, studies that empirically investigate already existing policing practices, which might be described as operating within such a harm reduction framework, are relatively scarce.
In order to address this gap, this article provides an investigation of how policing of an open drug scene has been organized in Denmark since drug possession has been partly decriminalized, following the introduction of drug consumption rooms in Copenhagen. The policing of this open drug scene was investigated through document analysis, interviews, and observations with a patrolling police officer. The article argues that decriminalization has resulted in a shift in the “logics” of policing by enabling the production of an alternative “governable identity” for the drug-using subject, where people who use drugs could more readily be perceived as citizens with rights rather than just as offenders. Accordingly, in this new logic, the violence and victimization experienced by marginalized people who use drugs could more readily be identified as proper objects for police action. The study contributes to our knowledge of how the police can become potential allies rather than adversaries in harm reduction initiatives and broader public health concerns.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting New Yorker commentary authored by Stephen Marche. Here are excerpts:
This 4/20 will be different, at least in Canada. It will be the first celebration of marijuana since the country made pot legal in October, 2018. The time passed since the end of prohibition hasn’t been long enough to establish any direct consequences from legalization so far, but one thing has already become painfully clear from Canada’s experiment. When you make pot legal, you make it super, super boring....
Other than new signs at the airport warning the more dull-witted Canadian citizens to dispense of their marijuana in the appropriate receptacles before leaving the country, it was hard to notice any real change after the passage of the marijuana laws. The pot dispensaries, semi-underground before the end of prohibition, were supposed to disappear, but went on just as before. They’ve just becoming increasingly polished. The place where I buy my weed looks like a Pottery Barn, and it was so busy the other day that they gave me one of those buzzers they hand out at Shake Shack to tell you when your order is ready. I had to wait twenty minutes.
It’s also money that’s making pot boring. Recently, I went to a champagne-and-hot-wings party — a superb concept, by the way — in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto, and it felt like half the people attending were in the cannabis industry in one way or another; many of them had transitioned from hedge funds. Marijuana stocks have overtaken real estate as the standard conversational go-to of Toronto dinner parties. And you have not understood how banal marijuana can be until you overhear two parents watching their kids at a swimming lesson discuss how I.S.O. 9000 certification affects the marketing efforts for stocks of C.B.D.-extract companies....
Even a few months after legalization, I find myself wondering how much of the pleasure of marijuana came from its illicitness. When you used to pass around a joint, you were sharing a little naughtiness, a tiny collective experience of rebellion. Now, at a party, when you a pass around a joint, you’re basically saying let’s go stare at things for a while. When I see cops on the street today, there is nothing I do that might upset them. We are on the same side, utterly. It’s pathetic.
There may still be dangers to marijuana, of course. The public-health effects of legalization are, as yet, unknown. Nobody knows whether legalization will lead to higher rates of teen-age mental illness, or to traffic accidents. But, already, it is unimaginable that marijuana would be made illegal again. Even with the brief distance of a few months since the end of prohibition, the sheer stupidity of the drug war appears absolute. Marijuana isn’t worth the attention of the police. It’s not even that good a drug. It wouldn’t be in my top five, anyway.
One of the most important consequences of marijuana’s legalization is that the drug can now be studied. We might learn how it works and what it does to people. Clinical trials will replace the loose collection of vague anxieties and promotional pseudoscience that have dominated discussions of marijuana up to this point in history. It will finally be possible to think sensibly about marijuana. And what could be more boring?....
It has to be said, in boredom’s defense, that it’s the cure for a great number of evils. The cliché holds that America is losing the war on drugs, but it’s not quite accurate. Cocaine and heroin have never been cheaper. Overdose deaths recently topped car accidents as a more likely cause of death for adults in the United States. But America is very much winning the war on drugs that are legal: tobacco use has declined sixty-seven per cent since 1965, and drunk-driving fatalities by forty-eight per cent since 1991. Of course, the way America reduced the use of these drugs wasn’t by killing bad guys and arresting users en masse, but by treating them like social problems with collective solutions. Yawn. No one’s going to make a season of “Narcos” out of that.
Canada is proving, once again, the deep political power of boredom: if you want to suck the power and glamour out of drugs, let the government run them.
April 18, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, February 4, 2019
Blogging was light last week in part part because I was on the road for much of the time (participating in this great event among other activities). During my travels and thereafter, I saw what seemed like a month's worth of notable blogworthy marijuana stories, and here I will try to play catch-up with an abridged round-up via links and headlines:
February 4, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 24, 2018
Effective accounting of Top 5 marijuana reform developments in 2018 (with a couple extra added for emphasis)
German Lopez has this effective Vox piece serving as a kind of marijuana reform year in review under the headlined "5 moments that show 2018 was marijuana legalization’s biggest year yet: From Canada to Michigan to California, marijuana legalization had a very big year." Here are excerpts from the start of the piece with his top 5 listing as it appears therein:
When we look back, 2018 may be the year in which marijuana legalization really won.
Canada legalized marijuana, defying international treaties (which the US is also a part of) that prohibit fully legalizing cannabis.
After legalizing marijuana in 2016, California opened the world’s biggest fully legal pot market in early 2018.
Michigan became the first state to legalize pot in the Midwest.
State legislatures, particularly New York, New Jersey, and Vermont, began taking legalization more seriously. And while Congress didn’t legalize pot at the federal level, it did legalize industrial hemp.
Together, these developments represented a tidal wave for legalization — a massive shift that’s making legal pot look more and more inevitable across the country.
Here are the five major stories of marijuana legalization this year, and why they matter.
1) Canada legalized marijuana...
2) California opened the world’s biggest legal marijuana market...
3) Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize pot...
4) State legislatures began taking legalization seriously...
5) The federal government legalized hemp...
This top five list strikes me as sound, though I think the federal legalization of hemp should find a place higher on the list and I have a few additions that I think could reasonably compete for a top five spot. First, I think it very significant that serious medical marijuana reforms were enacted by ballot initiative with strong majorities in 2018 in the very red states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah. Senators in very red states will be able to stop or limit or shape any future federal marijuana reforms, so having red states come into the reform fold is so very important for the fate and future of federal reform efforts. Second, and perhaps worth of a coming future post, arguably the biggest story of 2018 was a non-story, namely the decision in January of (now former) Attorney General Sessions to repeal the Cole memo shaping federal marijuana enforcement and then the failure of the new Sessions memo amounting to much of anything. I was not too worried that all that much would come from repeal of the Cole memo, but that so little resulted still strikes me as another telling sign of the state of marijuana reform as we close out 2018.
December 24, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, December 15, 2018
The title of this post is the headline of this effective recent piece by John Collins of the London School of Economics written for the BBC. Here are excerpts:
Around the world attitudes towards the use of cannabis are shifting. Mexico's new government plans to legalise recreational cannabis use, as does the incoming government of Luxembourg. Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is considering a referendum on what its approach should be....
What has led one country after another to move towards a relaxation of their laws and, in many cases, outright legalisation?
It was only in 2012 that Uruguay announced it would be the first country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use. In large part, the move was aimed at replacing links between organised crime and the cannabis trade with more accountable state regulation.
Later the same year, voters in Washington State and Colorado became the first in the US to support legalisation of the drug for non-medical use. Under President Barack Obama, a critic of the US-led war on drugs, the US government stepped back from enforcing federal laws and effectively gave states a green light to explore alternatives....
The tide has crept across the Americas, with Canada legalising the sale, possession and recreational use of cannabis nationwide in October.
That Mexico will legalise marijuana seems a virtual certainty. The new government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has introduced a bill that would legalise its medical and recreational use, while the country's supreme court recently ruled an absolute ban on recreational use unconstitutional.
Other countries are pushing ahead. Although the sale of cannabis remains illegal, possession of small amounts is no longer a crime in countries including Brazil, Jamaica and Portugal. In Spain it is legal to use cannabis in private, while the drug is sold openly in coffee shops in the Netherlands. Still more countries allow the use of medicinal cannabis.
Around the world, there are many more countries where change is under way:
In the UK, doctors have been allowed to prescribe cannabis products since November
South Korea has legalised strictly-controlled medical use, despite prosecuting residents for recreational use overseas
A death sentence given to a young man selling cannabis oil has stirred debate about legalisation in Malaysia
South Africa's highest court legalised the use of cannabis by adults in private places
Lesotho became the first African country to legalise the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes
Lebanon is considering the legalisation of cannabis production for medical purposes, to help its economy....
With countries worldwide moving towards some form of legalisation, others are rushing to catch up. Often, as in many parts of Latin America, governments want their farmers to have access to the potentially lucrative medicinal cannabis markets that are developing.
Corporations have also expressed interest. For example, Altria, which owns cigarette brands including Marlboro, has made a $1.86bn (£1.46bn) investment in a Canadian cannabis company. Over time, as the US demonstrates, it is quite possible that the medical trade could quite easily morph into recreational sales - potentially opening up an even bigger market.
One immediate obstacle is that cannabis for recreational purposes cannot be traded across borders. Countries can only import and export medicinal cannabis under a licensing system supervised by the International Narcotics Control Board.
Farmers in countries such as Morocco and Jamaica may have a reputation for producing cannabis, but they can't access markets that domestic producers sometimes struggle to supply - as happened in Canada following legalisation....
Governments that want to move towards legalisation face a challenge: steering a course between uncontrolled legalisation and hard prohibition. Poorly-regulated industry and mind-altering substances are not a combination about which many societies would feel comfortable. But it seems a virtual certainty that more countries will change their approach to cannabis in the coming decades. As such, domestic and international rules will need to catch up.