Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, March 6, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

US Senate caucus releases notable new report, "Cannabis Policy: Public Health and Safety Issues and Recommendations"

1521137948824As reported in detail via this Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "Senate Marijuana Report Highlights Legalization’s Popularity And Risks, While Criticizing DEA Research Barriers," this notable new report on marijuana policies was released today by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.  Here is part of the story:

A U.S. Senate drug caucus released a report on Wednesday that recognizes broad voter support for marijuana legalization and expresses criticism of existing policies that inhibit research into cannabis, taking direct aim at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) role in impeding studies.  But because of what they see as the risks of cannabis use, lawmakers also want the federal government to consider recommending THC caps on state-legal products.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) co-chair the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, which released the document, and neither are generally viewed as allies of the legalization movement.  The report, which was first reported by Politico, largely focuses on the need to boost research into the effects of cannabis, with members voicing concern about issues such as impaired driving, THC potency and marijuana use by vulnerable populations. At the same time, however, it acknowledges the “increasing popularity” of legalization and outlines some of the benefits of enacting the policy change.

“Despite its increasing popularity—91 percent of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized for either medical or recreational purposes—cannabis remains illegal at the federal level,” it says. “Nonetheless, the U.S. cannabis industry is thriving. Cultivation and sales have largely shifted from Mexican cartels to U.S.-based businesses operating in licit, state markets (though a sizeable [sic] black market remains).”

“Experts estimate the licit cannabis market employs more than 200,000 individuals and will produce as much as $24 billion in profits 2025, nearly $9 billion of which will be from medical cannabis sales,” the caucus wrote.

The report discusses at length the need for further research into marijuana and points to a number of barriers — including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s position on international treaties — that have stymied studies into the plant. Members wrote that because “cannabis may hold both promise and peril” it is “imperative to increase the research base associated with cannabis, and that this research should be used to guide future policy so that appropriate regulations can be put in place to mitigate any negative public health consequences.”...

Overall, the report identifies five issues around marijuana policy and offers corresponding recommendations. It is far from universally favorable to cannabis reform—with much discussion on risks associated with impaired driving and youth consumption, for example—but it reflects how the rhetoric around marijuana is continuing to evolve in Congress, even in traditionally conservative panels like the one that produced the new document.

“Despite growing acceptance and accessibility of this drug and its derivatives, there is still much we don’t know about the effects of marijuana usage,” Cornyn said in a press release. “It’s critical for policymakers to understand the public safety implications of increased marijuana use before diving in to the complex and difficult job of changing federal policy, and it is my hope that this report will help inform these important policy decisions in the future.”

Feinstein said that she hopes the report will “speed final passage” of a marijuana research bill she introduced alongside Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in February. She said the legislation, an earlier version of which cleared the Senate toward the end of last year but which was not merged with a separate House-passed bill in time to be enacted, would mark “an important step to ensure that Congress is well-informed about this policy area.”

March 3, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"Blowing Smoke at the Second Amendment"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Helen K. Sudhoff, a 3L 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:

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution codified the preexisting right to keep and bear arms, meaning the right was enshrined within the scope it was understood to have at its inception.  When enacted, the Second Amendment broadly protected the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, only restricting gun ownership for certain classes of people, such as the mentally ill or felons.  However, these historical restrictions never encompassed marijuana users or possessors.  Quite the opposite, many of the founding fathers grew or manufactured cannabis themselves.  Despite this discrepancy, the Federal Government enacted § 922(g) in the Gun Control Act prohibiting gun owners and applicants who are medical marijuana patients from owning or possessing a firearm.  Further, such individuals must voluntarily disclose their medical marijuana use to the government, restricting their right to keep and bear arms and implicating the Fifth Amendment’s Privilege Against Self-Incrimination.  This paper will explore the consequences of the enactment and continued enforcement of § 922 against an individual’s right to keep and bear arms while possessing or using medical marijuana in accordance with their state’s medical programs.

February 25, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Cannabis Croynism"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"Guidance Documents: The Sirens of the Cannabis Odyssey"

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

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

January 17, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Catching up on a remarkable political moment for marijuana reform with the help of Marijuana Moment

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prior related posts:

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Hoping this is the last Veterans Day in which veterans lack equal access to medical marijuana

Because the US Department of Veterans Affairs prohibits its doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients, current federal law essentially puts veterans last, not first, when it comes to access to medical marijuana.  Regular readers know I have regularly blogged about a range of issues relating to veterans and their access to marijuana (many posts on this topic are linked below).  I feel a genuine and deep debt to anyone and everyone who serves this nation through the armed forces, and I feel strongly that veterans should be able to have safe and legal access to any and every form of medicine that they and their doctors reasonably believe could help them with any ailments or conditions.

Especially in the wake of a big election in which so many Americans voted to allow greater legal access to marijuana, I hope that Veterans Day 2020 will be the last one in which veterans do not get the services and respect that they deserve in this arena.  Even though there are many issues that divide this nation, I would hope we can all come together to support treating veterans at least as well as other Americans when it comes to access to the medicine of their choice.

Some recent prior related posts:

November 11, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | 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)

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

"From Medical to Recreational Marijuana: Lessons for States in Transition"

The title of this post is the title of this exciting and timely new report authored by Dexter Ridgway and Jana Hrdinova of The Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The full glossy version of the report is at this link, an SSRN version can be found at this link.)  Here is the report's abstract:

As of October 2020, eleven states and the District of Columbia have undergone a transition from medical to adult-use marijuana regimes navigating the creation of a new industry within a complex and incongruous legal framework.  The collective experience of these states has created a wealth of lessons for other states that might legalize adult-use marijuana in the future.  Yet not much has been written about the process of transition and how states managed the creation and implementation of the regulatory framework for an emerging industry.

This report, which draws on interviews with current and former government officials, aims to fill this gap by documenting lessons learned and decision-making behind the policies that shaped the recreational landscape in four states: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, and Oregon.  The purpose of this research is to provide actionable and concrete advice to states that are transitioning, or are planning for a transition, from a medical marijuana regime to an adult-use or recreational framework.  The report highlights major decision points states face in their transitions and the pros and cons of each choice, lessons learned gathered from the participants in our study, and a short discussion of major challenges each state had to face with their respective programs.y 

November 3, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2020

"Weed, Dogs & Traffic Stops"

The title of this post is the title of this new article recently posted to SSRN and authored by Alex Carroll.  Here is its abstract:

The Supreme Court has long characterized a dog sniff as a binary investigative technique.  For nearly four decades, the Court has held that a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is not a Fourth Amendment “search” because it reveals only the location of an illegal substance.  Marijuana, however, is now legal in thirty-four states. Accordingly, this Article closely reexamines the Fourth Amendment’s treatment of dog sniffs.

In doing so, it makes three overarching arguments.  First, a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is a nonbinary type of investigative technique in states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana.  Second, a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is a Fourth Amendment “search” in those same states.  Third, law enforcement agencies operating in those states must retrain or replace their drug-detection dogs.

Moving forward, the Article further demonstrates, law enforcement agencies will encounter significant challenges associated with retraining or replacing their drug-detection dogs.  It therefore concludes by providing law enforcement agencies with ways to mitigate those challenges.  At its core, this Article offers the judiciary and law enforcement profession with a constitutional path forward.

October 30, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

"Say 'No' to Discrimination, 'Yes' to Accommodation: Why States Should Prohibit Discrimination of Workers Who Use Cannabis for Medical Purposes"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Anne Marie Lofaso and Lakyn Cecil recently posted to SSRN. Here is its abstract:

This Article addresses the question of how the law should treat medical cannabis in the employment context. Using Colorado as a primary example, we argue that states such as Colorado should amend their constitutions and legislate to provide employment protections for employees who are registered medical cannabis cardholders or registered caregivers.

Part I briefly traces the legal regulation of cannabis from an unregulated medicine known as cannabis to a highly regulated illicit substance known as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Our travail through this history reveals, unsurprisingly, an increasing demonization of cannabis throughout the twentieth century. That socio-legal demonization likely hindered the medical development of cannabis for at least a century. American society’s negative perception of cannabis began to yield, however, as scientific evidence of cannabis’s healing capacity gained popularity. Increased demand for medicinal cannabis resulted in a clash of perceptions between marijuana, the demonic influencer of immoral or criminal behavior, and cannabis, the angelic healer. It is this cognitive dissidence that helps explain the strange result of Brandon’s case.

Part II surveys the role of employment law in protecting employees who use cannabis for medical purposes. We explore the public policy exception to at-will employment and various federal and state disability statutes. We conclude that judges can and should apply these measures to protect workers who may be vulnerable to discharge because of their cannabis use.

Democracies cannot and should not depend on judges to make important changes in public policies, even when those changes are to common law doctrines created by judges in the first place. Part III surveys two states’ statutes—those of Nevada and Oklahoma—that protect workers who use medical cannabis from employment termination. Applying the knowledge gained from Part II, we collated what we believed to be the best language from the statutes of those two states and rewrote Colorado’s constitution in a manner that would account for employees’ interests and employer’s legitimate concerns.

Part IV acknowledges that employers may be slow to change their medical cannabis policies. With this reality in mind, we review some best practices as to how employers can accommodate cannabis use among its workers, including appropriate exceptions to an accommodation policy that take into account employer’s legitimate business interests without cutting into the essential accommodations medical cannabis users need to become or remain productive members of the U.S. workforce.

October 14, 2020 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"Cannabis and Coronavirus: Impact on Medical Cannabis Industries in Three States"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Samuel DeWitt, 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:

The COVID-19 pandemic, while detrimental to the American economy as a whole, positively impacted the cannabis industry in many ways.  This paper examines how the pandemic changed the medical cannabis industries in three states where medical cannabis programs were recently implemented -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. 

In all three states, cannabis dispensaries were declared essential businesses and have remained in operation throughout the pandemic.  Due to the necessities of social distancing and minimizing contact, the medical cannabis programs in these states implemented new, innovative measures such curbside pickup, online ordering technology, drive-thru windows, delivery systems, and telehealth consultations.  Additionally, some states loosened restrictions on supply limits and caregiver registration, making medical cannabis more accessible to patients.  This paper suggests that many of these changes should remain permanent after the pandemic ends because they have modernized and, in some cases, legitimized, the cannabis industries in these states.

September 30, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program at Two Years: Evaluating Satisfaction and Perception"

The title of this post is the title of this great new report, available via SSRN, authored by colleagues of mine at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, Jana Hrdinova, Stephen J. Post and Dexter Ridgway.  Here is its abstract:

Medical marijuana became legal in Ohio on September 8, 2016 when House Bill 523 (HB 523) became effective. This bill created the framework for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP), and the architects of HB 523 promised the program would be “fully operational” within two years.  But as of July 15th, 2020, the OMMCP was still not fully operational, creating concerns around persistent delays and the overall functionality of the program.

After a year and a half of partially operating, the OMMCP continues its slow rollout.  With possible future marijuana reforms on the horizon, the perceived effectiveness and success of the current system among Ohioans may shape the long-term future of the program.  To our knowledge, the Harm Reduction Ohio (HRO) report1 released in September 2019 was the first concerted effort to survey patients and potential patients to evaluate their experiences and satisfaction with the OMMCP to date.  This report looks at how people potentially impacted by the OMMCP perceive its performance and whether there have been changes in their satisfaction levels as compared to last year’s survey data.  Our updated survey allows for a new examination into the efficacy of the structure of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program and how this state’s initial experience with marijuana reform can inform the larger national conversations currently underway.

September 8, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 7, 2020

Noticing the notable "red state" realities of marijuana reform ballot initiatives in 2020

Download (26)The Daily Beast has this new piece highlighting that the bulk of the marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot in 2020 are in so-called red states. The piece is fully headlined "Marijuana Is Making Its Mark on Ballots in Red States: Republican-led legislatures have opposed legalization measures, so proponents are going right to the voters." Here are excepts:

Montana and a handful of other states this fall [will] decide whether to legalize recreational or medical marijuana. Five of the six states with ballot questions lean conservative and are largely rural, and the results may signal how far America’s heartland has come toward accepting the use of a substance that federal law still considers an illegal and dangerous drug.

Since Colorado first allowed recreational use of marijuana in 2014, 10 other states have done the same. Most are coastal, left-leaning states, with exceptions like Nevada, Alaska and Maine. An additional 21 states allow medical marijuana, which must be prescribed by a physician.

This year, marijuana advocates are using the November elections to bypass Republican-led legislatures that have opposed legalization efforts, taking the question straight to voters. Advocates point to a high number of petition signatures and their own internal polling as indicators that the odds of at least some of the measures passing are good....

Mississippi and Nebraska voters will decide on medical marijuana measures. South Dakota will be the first state to vote on legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana in the same election.

Montana, Arizona and New Jersey, all medical marijuana states, will consider ballot measures in November to allow recreational sales, a move opponents consider evidence of a slippery slope....

The Marijuana Policy Project is helping to coordinate the Montana legalization effort. Its deputy director, Matthew Schweich, said the organization does so only when polling suggests at least half of voters would support the measure. “It’s becoming normalized for people,” Schweich said. “People know that other states are legalizing it and the sky has not fallen.”

An effort to legalize marijuana in rural, conservative states would have been an uphill battle even a few years ago. But several factors have worked toward changing attitudes there, Schweich said. They include a gradually increasing acceptance in red states of neighbors that have legalized recreational pot—and seeing the tax revenue that legal marijuana brings. But perhaps the biggest catalyst toward normalizing pot use is having an established medical marijuana program, Schweich said.

After 15 years, Montana’s medical cannabis program is firmly rooted and has survived several legislative attempts to restrict it or shut it down. According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, more than 500 marijuana providers were serving 38,385 people as of July, which represents nearly 4 percent of the state’s population....

In Mississippi, 20 medical marijuana bills have failed over the years in the Statehouse. This year, 228,000 state residents signed petitions in support of a medical marijuana initiative to allow possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat more than 20 qualifying medical conditions. In response, lawmakers put a competing measure on the ballot that would restrict marijuana use to terminally ill patients and require them to use only pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products.

Jamie Grantham, spokesperson for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, called the measure an effort by the state to split the vote and derail legalization efforts. “I’m passionate about this because it’s a plant that God made and it can provide relief for those who are suffering,” said Grantham, who described herself as a conservative Republican. “If this is something that can be used to help relieve someone’s pain, then they should be able to use it.”

But opposition is starting to build. Langton, the Mississippi Board of Health member, is working with Mississippi Horizon, a group fighting legalization. Langton said he opposes the original initiative because he believes it’s “overly broad” and would allow dispensaries within 500 feet of schools and churches. It could also put Mississippi on a path toward legalized recreational use, he said. He added: “They say that marijuana is a natural plant, but poison ivy is natural, too. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you.”

September 7, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Is the COVID pandemic really "eating away at the illicit marijuana market"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by the headline of this new Politico piece which is fully headlined "The pandemic is eating away at the illicit marijuana market: Legal sales have boomed since March, though it’s hard to say how many customers previously bought from illegal dealers."  Here are excerpts:

The legal marijuana industry has spent years battling illegal sellers who have eaten away at its market share and undercut its prices. But the coronavirus has proven to be a boon for legal pot shops, as customers fear the risks associated with inhaling questionable products and are nervous about letting sellers into their homes.

Legal operations have moved quickly to take advantage of the situation, seizing on relaxed rules to expand shopping options in states across the country, including curbside pickups and deliveries. Also, pandemic-frazzled Americans are simply getting stoned more often.

“It's understandable that people may be more hesitant to get their products from sources that are unregulated,” said Kris Krane, CEO of 4Front Ventures, which operates dispensaries in multiple states. “They may not want to go to their dealer’s house, or they may not want to have their dealer come into their house, at a time when people are social distancing and not supposed to be interacting with people that they don't know.”

In addition, cities that never allowed pot shops in their towns, even in states where marijuana is legal, are rethinking the local bans in search of fresh tax revenue. And more people than ever are registered as medical marijuana patients: Florida added nearly 5,000 patients a week in June, and more than 50,000 since March.

The data is murky — credible sales figures on illegal marijuana transactions are inherently difficult to come by — and it’s likely that those sales are also booming as anxious Americans smoke more weed while hunkered down. But many close industry watchers believe the current circumstances are pushing more Americans into state-legal markets. Revenues are expected to hit $17 billion this year, according to New Frontier Data — a 25 percent spike over 2019.

Mitch Baruchowitz, managing partner at cannabis investment firm Merida Capital Partners, argued in a paper in May that the pandemic is “cannibalizing” the illegal market. He hasn’t seen anything in the ensuing months to change that assessment. “The vast majority of the current growth in the cannabis space is being driven by consumers transitioning from the black market to the legal market,” Baruchowitz wrote.

The boom in sales is driven in large part by new legal markets, particularly the start of recreational sales in Illinois and Michigan. But even some states with relatively mature markets have seen big spikes in sales. In Oregon, for example, monthly revenues jumped from just below $70 million during the first two months of this year to more than $100 million in May and June....

Even with this year’s rapid growth, however, the legal marijuana market is still dwarfed by illegal sales, which New Frontier estimates at $63 billion for this year. Nowhere is the underground weed market a bigger problem than in California, where it’s estimated that 80 percent of marijuana sales are still from illegal sources — and most industry officials are deeply skeptical that the pandemic will significantly alter that reality in the short term....

Michigan faces a similar problem in quashing illegal sales: The vast majority of cities in the state — including Detroit — still don’t allow recreational pot shops to operate. In addition, marijuana cultivation is still ramping up in the state, since full legalization only took effect in December. “Demand, especially in the adult-use market, is still higher than the supply as the production in the industry continues to grow,” said Andrew Brisbo, executive director of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency. “That keeps prices still higher than I think they will be in the long term.”

Industry officials are divided on whether the pandemic is eroding the illicit marijuana market, but there’s little doubt that the current economic troubles will push more states to consider legalization. That’s in large part because states' desperation for cash is only going to grow. Even if marijuana taxes would only make a difference at the margins, it undoubtedly will prove enticing to lawmakers.

Some New York lawmakers are pushing this idea, after legalization efforts failed in each of the last two years. They’ll likely face even greater pressure to enact recreational sales if New Jersey voters pass a recreational legalization referendum in November, as expected. Even in deep red states, the idea is likely to get a good look. A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has argued the state should look at allowing recreational sales, suggesting it could raise $100 million per year.

August 2, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Marijuana and Its Movement: Issues with Transporting a Legally Ambiguous Substance"

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

Regardless of whether you are a commercial truck driver performing a job, a patient driving to get her medicine, or a citizen who just recreationally enjoys marijuana, the rules surrounding the transportation of marijuana are important.  California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana in 1996, and the prevalence of medical and recreational marijuana legalization has only expanded since then.  At this point, some product or chemical compound from the cannabis plant is virtually everywhere in the United States, yet the transportation of these products has not been comprehensively debated by the public, let alone legislated. 

This article is focused on exploring the unique legal landscape surrounding the transportation of marijuana, hemp, and cannabidiol (CBD) from both a business and individual perspective.  By showcasing examples of how businesses and individuals have been impacted by the unclarity in this area, the goal is to convey that nothing about transporting these products is risk-free and that there is unnecessary conflict between state and federal law.

June 30, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"Struggling Through the Pandemic: Cannabis Social Equity During Covid-19"

Thumbnail_COVID-19_Social Equity During COVID-19_for-socialThe title of this post is the title of this new report that the team at Ohio State's Drug Enforcement & Policy Center has just gotten online via SSRN.  I was pleased to be play a part in this work, and here is the report's abstract:

In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 national emergency, states across the United States began issuing shelter-in-place orders curtailing operations of individual businesses based on “essential” and “non-essential” classification.  Virtually all states with legalized medical cannabis, and the majority of adult-use states, allowed cannabis establishments to remain open albeit often with significant restrictions on their operations.  Yet, the cannabis industry, and small, minority-owned or social equity designated businesses in particular, are not insulated from the broader economic shockwaves spreading through the country. 

In April 2020, the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center conducted a survey asking patients/consumers and cannabis industry professionals about the challenges they were experiencing and government responses.  Hoping to fill a gap in early discussions of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we were especially interested in the impact on cannabis industry participants designated as social equity businesses.  The results indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has both introduced tremendous new challenges for the cannabis industry and exacerbated long-standing difficulties for businesses in this arena.  If small, minority-owned and social equity businesses are to survive, they need to be treated by the system like any other regular small business venture.  While regulations and safeguards are necessary, these businesses need to be able to operate as a true business, rather than a semi-legal venture with no access to loans, banking, insurance, tax relief, and flexible deliverable modes.

June 16, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lots of notable public health analyses of marijuana reforms in June 2020 issue of World Psychiatry

A number of notable new papers are now available online from the June 2020 issue of World Psychiatry. Here are titles and links to all the pieces (most of which are just a few pages and all of which seem worth checking out):

Assessing the public health impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis use: the US experience by Wayne Hall and Michael Lynskey

Considering the health and social welfare impacts of non‐medical cannabis legalization by Benedikt Fischer, Chris Bullen, Hinemoa Elder and Thiago M. Fidalgo

To legalize or not to legalize cannabis, that is the question! by Marta Di Forti

Mapping and mitigating the health risks of legalizing recreational cannabis use: a call for synergy between research and policy by Eva Hoch and Valentina Lorenzetti

Recreational cannabis legalization presents an opportunity to reduce the harms of the US medical cannabis industry by Keith Humphreys and Chelsea L. Shover

Cannabis and public health: a global experiment without control by Jürgen Rehm and Jakob Manthey

Being thoughtful about cannabis legalization and social equity by Beau Kilmer and Erin Kilmer Neel

The effects of recreational cannabis legalization might depend upon the policy model by Rosario Queirolo

Legalizing recreational cannabis use: a promising journey into the unknown by Jan C. van Ours

Assessing the public health effects of cannabis use: can legalization improve the evidence base? by Matthew Hickman, Lindsey A. Hines and Suzie H. Gage

May 20, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)