Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption"

The title of this post is the headline of this great new lengthy Politico article, which is summarized by its subheadline: "By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism."  I recommend the piece in full, and here is a small taste:

In the past decade, 15 states have legalized a regulated marijuana market for adults over 21, and another 17 have legalized medical marijuana.  But in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption.

Almost all the states that legalized pot either require the approval of local officials – as in Massachusetts – or impose a statewide limit on the number of licenses, chosen by a politically appointed oversight board, or both. These practices effectively put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures – the mayors and councilors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards.  And these strictures have given rise to the exact type of corruption that got [Fall River Mayor Jasiel] Correia in trouble with federal prosecutors.  They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists.

For some entrepreneurs, the payments can seem worth the ticket to cannabis riches.  For some politicians, the lure of a bribe or favor can be irresistible.

Correia’s indictment alleges that he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies in exchange for granting them the local approval letters that are necessary prerequisites for obtaining Massachusetts licenses.  Correia and his co-conspirators — staffers and friends — accepted a variety of bribes including cash, more than a dozen pounds of marijuana and a “Batman” Rolex watch worth up to $12,000, the indictment charges.

December 27, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prior related posts:

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

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

Marijuana and other drug reforms have a big night across the nation

Though it may be a bit too early to declare all the ballot initiatives winners, as of this writing just before the end of Election Day 2020, it seems as though every marijuana reform initiative and all the other drug reform initiatives on ballots today are going to pass.  Specifically, as now reported on this Marijuana Moment tracking page, here is what I am seeing:

Full marijuana legalization:

Arizona: 60% in favor

Montana: 60% in favor

New Jersey:  67% in favor

South Dakota: 53% in favor

 

Medical marijuana legalization:

Mississippi: 69% in favor

South Dakota: 69% in favor

 

Psychedelic decriminalization/legalization:

Oregon: 55% in favor

Washington DC: 77% in favor

 

Drug Decriminalization:

Oregon: 59 % in favor

November 3, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"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)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules, based on state law, that workers' comp insurer not required to cover medical marijuana

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a notable ruling yesterday in Daniel Wright's Case, No. SJC-12873 (Oct. 27 2020) (available here).  The full introduction of the opinion from the unanimous court nicely highlights the issue and its resolution:

In the instant case we are asked to determine whether an insurance company may be ordered to reimburse an employee for medical marijuana expenses pursuant to a general provision of the Massachusetts workers' compensation scheme that requires reimbursement of necessary and reasonable medical expenses.  The claimant, Daniel Wright, sought compensation for $24,267.86 of medical marijuana expenses to treat chronic pain stemming from two work-related injuries he sustained in 2010 and 2012.  His claim was denied by an administrative judge, and the denial was affirmed on appeal by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents (department).  The reviewing board concluded that marijuana's status as a federally illicit substance preempted any State level authority to order a workers' compensation insurer to pay for Wright's medical marijuana expenses.  We likewise conclude that the workers' compensation insurer cannot be required to pay for medical marijuana expenses, but do so based on the medical marijuana act itself.

We recognize that the current legal landscape of medical marijuana law may, at best, be described as a hazy thicket. Marijuana is illegal at the Federal level and has been deemed under Federal law to have no medicinal purposes, but Massachusetts, as well as the majority of States, have legalized medical marijuana and created regulatory schemes for its administration and usage.  Complicating and confusing matters further, Congress has placed budgetary restrictions on the ability of the United States Department of Justice to prosecute individuals for marijuana usage in compliance with a State medical marijuana scheme, and the Department of Justice has issued, revised, and revoked memoranda explaining its marijuana enforcement practices and priorities, leaving in place no clear guidance.

The Commonwealth's original medical marijuana act, St. 2012, c. 369 (act or medical marijuana act), was carefully drafted by its sponsors to take into account this most difficult regulatory environment, with provisions specifically designed to avoid possible conflicts with the Federal government. One such provision of the law expressly states that "[n]othing in this law requires any health insurance provider, or any government agency or authority, to reimburse any person for the expenses of the medical use of marijuana." St. 2012, c. 369, § 7 (B). See G. L. c. 94I, § 6 (i).  This provision recognizes that when medical marijuana patients seek to recover the costs of such use from third parties, including insurance companies engaged in interstate commerce, the regulatory environment becomes even more problematic.  Under the plain language of this provision, those insurers are not required to reimburse medical marijuana expenses for a substance that remains illegal under Federal law.

We conclude that this specific language, and the Federal concerns it seeks to address and avoid, is controlling and not overridden by the general language in the workers' compensation laws requiring workers' compensation insurers to reimburse for reasonable medical expenses.  A contrary reading of this specific language, which states that health insurers and government agencies and authorities are not required to reimburse medical marijuana expenses, would have been completely misleading to those who voted on it.  It is one thing for a State statute to authorize those who want to use medical marijuana, or provide a patient with a written certification for medical marijuana, to do so and assume the potential risk of Federal prosecution; it is quite another for it to require unwilling third parties to pay for such use and risk such prosecution.  The drafters of the medical marijuana law recognized and respected this distinction

October 28, 2020 in Court Rulings, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Drug Reforms on the 2020 Ballot"

6a00d83451574769e20263e96fedc3200b-320wiThe title of this post is the title of this great new web resource put together by the folks I have the honor to work with at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  The resource collects and organizes information and links about the significant number of drug policy reforms proposals appearing on state ballots this election cycle.  Here is introduction to the detailed state-by-state materials:

A closer look at drug policy reform decisions voters will make during the 2020 election

On election day 2020, voters will decide more than the next United States President.  Drug policy and enforcement reforms will appear on numerous state-level ballots.  Five states have qualifying initiatives that attempt to legalize marijuana for medical or adult-use consumption, including some states that will ask voters to decide on multiple pathways to a legal market.  And marijuana reform is not the only drug-related issue on ballots. Initiatives in a few states and Washington, D.C. will ask voters to modify existing sentencing laws, decriminalize all drugs, or legalize psychedelics for adult-use and therapeutic reasons.

To gain a better understanding of what this election could mean for drug policy across the U.S., the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) has developed a list of key ballot initiatives reaching voters in 2020.  Read on for a list of initiatives we will be watching this November in the areas of marijuana legalizationpsychedelics, and criminal justice.

Plus, don’t miss our post-election event Drug Policy Implications of the 2020 Elections on November 16, 2020. Our panel of experts will discuss the 2020 election results and what they are likely to mean for drug enforcement and policy at both the state and federal level.

October 28, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | 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 22, 2020

Is South Dakota soon to become the first deep-red mainland state to fully legalize marijuana?

Growing-marijuana-south-dakota-600x250The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Marijuana Moment piece headlined "South Dakota Voters Support Medical And Recreational Marijuana Initiatives, New Opposition Poll Finds."  Here are excerpts:

A majority of South Dakota voters support separate initiatives to allow both medical and recreational marijuana that will appear on the state’s November ballot, according to a new poll funded by legalization opponents.

But when it comes to the proposed adult-use legalization amendment, opponents argue that there’s significant confusion over what it would accomplish, as most people who said they favor the measure cited therapeutic applications of cannabis as reasons they support the broad reform.

The statutory medical cannabis initiative would allow patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary.  They could also grow at least three plants, or more if authorized by a physician.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which couldn’t be changed by the legislature if approved by voters, would legalize marijuana for adult use. People 21 and older could possess and distribute up to one ounce, and they would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

There’s strong support for each of the measures in the new prohibitionist-funded survey, which was conducted June 27-30 and announced in a press release on Thursday. Roughly sixty percent of South Dakota voters said they favor recreational legalization, while more than 70 percent said they back medical cannabis legalization, according to the No Way on A Committee, which didn’t publish detailed cross-tabs, or even specific basic top-line numbers, from the poll results.

The decision by the prohibitionist committee to release the results of a poll showing such broad support for legalization is an interesting one. Typically, ballot campaigns and candidates use polling results to demonstrate momentum, but perhaps the South Dakota group is seeking to sound the alarm and generate donations from national legalization opponents to help stop the measure. If South Dakota votes to legalize cannabis this November, that would signal that the policy can pass almost anywhere....

While the recreational measure might not have been crafted solely with patient access in mind, adults who want to use marijuana for therapeutic reasons would still stand to benefit from a regulated market — regardless of whether it’s a medical or adult-use model — so it’s possible that the survey results don’t demonstrate total confusion among those respondents. Plus, the constitutional amendment does contain language requiring the legislature to enact policies on medical cannabis as well—providing more robust constitutional protections for therapeutic use than the statutory measure alone would ensure.

Maine, Nevada and especially Alaska are arguably "reddish" or "red" states that have already fully legalized marijuana via ballot initiatives in years past. But South Dakota is really deep red, as in 2016 it voted for Donald Trump two-to-one over Hillary Clinton. If such a deep red state really does vote convincingly for full marijuana legalization, I think the prospects for federal reforms get a lot brighter no matter who is in charge at the federal level after this election.

September 22, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

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, July 13, 2020

Interesting accounting of Ohio medical marijuana program circa summer 2020

2133The Dayton Daily News has this interesting new piece on Ohio's medical marijuana program under the headline "$133M of medical pot sold in 1st year as pandemic legitimized industry."  Here are excerpts:

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the state’s economy, but those in the medical marijuana industry say the virus legitimized the fledgling program in Ohio. The medical marijuana program, which is run by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Commerce Department, was fully functional in April 2019. Sales have significantly increased over the past year.

In May of last year, about $2.2 million and about 300 pounds of medical marijuana product was sold in the state of product has been sold, according to data from the Ohio Department of Commerce. Medical marijuana sales in Ohio then jumped from $7.7 million this past February to $12.9 million in March — more than 1,500 pounds, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. About $10.9 million of medical marijuana product was sold in April.

As of June 14, the most recent data available, a total of $133.9 million and 16,225 pounds of medical marijuana product has been sold since the program started.

The state has collected about $3.8 million in sales tax on the medical marijuana program from July 2019 to March 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. The state of Ohio’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.Permissive sales tax collected statewide in that time was $942,673, the Department of Taxation said. Permissive sales tax is collected by local entities, like the county and regional transit authority. The state wouldn’t release county-by-county sales tax data. Larry Pegram is the president of Pure Ohio Wellness.... Dispensaries were deemed essential during the statewide coronavirus shut down issued in March and lasting through May. That was huge for the medical marijuana industry, Pegram said.“That legitimized the whole program,” Pegram said. “This has become more acceptable, people are now seeing it more as an alternative medicine. ”Medical marijuana sales have increased every month the dispensaries have been open, Pegram said. There are now 51 dispensaries operating in Ohio. Six more dispensaries have provisional licenses and are working toward opening in the state.

When the pandemic first started, Pegram said people rushed to get product. But when dispensaries were deemed essential, sales settled down a bit. “It was scary at first, I think for everyone,” Pegram said. “But we realized we needed to stay open for our patients. For some of them, we are their lifeline.”...

More than 109,000 Ohioans are registered medical marijuana patients as of May 31, the most recent data available. In May of last year, 35,162 Ohioans were registered patients. About 7% of those patients are veterans. More than 600 of Ohio’s medical marijuana patients have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Many Pure Ohio Wellness patients are seniors who use medical marijuana for pain management, Pegram said.

Licensed dispensaries reported about 81,200 unique patients who purchased medical marijuana as of May 31, according to the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System. In May 2019, about 20,000 unique patients purchased medical marijuana.Ohioans can get a doctor’s order to use medical marijuana if they have one of the qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, cancer, epilepsy, fibromyalgia or HIV/AIDS.Gould said he believes the Ohio Medical Board should add anxiety, autism and opioid withdrawl to the approved list of conditions.

July 13, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Reviewing direct democracy marijuana/drug reform initiatives as we celebrate America's birthday

Download (11)Kyle Jaeger has this helpful and timely piece at Marijuana Moment discussing the state of direct democracy marijuana and drug reform campaigns in the states. The piece is headlined "As Signature Deadlines Approach, Here’s Where Marijuana And Drug Policy Reform Campaigns Stand," and is worth a full read. Here are highlights:

Several drug policy reform campaigns are in the final stretch as deadlines to submit signatures for proposed ballot initiatives loom this week and next.

While the coronavirus pandemic dealt serious blows to marijuana, psychedelics and other drug reform groups in jurisdictions across the country, forcing some to end their campaigns, activists in Arizona, Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. are still in the game, with some running against the clock to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify and others now waiting for officials to validate petitions they’ve already submitted. That’s in addition to measures that have already qualified for November ballots in states like Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota.

The proposed ballot measures would accomplish everything from legalizing cannabis to decriminalizing psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. Here’s a status update on where they stand:

Arizona  Deadline: July 2

Smart & Safe Arizona is a campaign to put marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and it seems to be in good shape to qualify....

Idaho  Deadline: TBD

While the original deadline to submit signatures for an initiative to legalize medical marijuana passed on May 1, a federal judge recently ruled that the state must make accommodations for a separate non-cannabis ballot campaign due to signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s response to it. Activists feel the ruling will also apply to the marijuana measure....

Nebraska  Deadline: July 3

Activists behind an initiative to legalize medical cannabis in the state turned in 182,000 raw signatures on Thursday — well more than the 121,669 valid submissions needed to qualify for the ballot....

Oregon  Deadline: July 2

A campaign to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes already submitted signatures that they feel will qualify them for the ballot....

Washington, D.C.  Deadline: July 6

Washington, D.C. activists are continuing to collect signatures for a proposed measure to make enforcement of laws against various entheogenic substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca and ibogaine among the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities....

Here’s the status of other drug policy campaigns that have either succeeded or failed so far this year:

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced on Tuesday that a campaign to decriminalize currently illicit drugs and expand substance misuse treatment has qualified for the ballot.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.

Mississippi activists gathered enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot—though lawmakers also approved a competing (and from advocates’ standpoint, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal that will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.

The New Jersey legislature approved putting a cannabis legalization referendum before voters as well.

Montana activists recently turned in more than 130,000 signatures to qualify a pair of marijuana initiatives—one to legalize the plant for adult use and another stipulating that individuals must be 21 or older to participate — for the November ballot.  The state is currently validating those submissions.

A campaign to legalize marijuana in Arkansas will not qualify for the ballot this year, a spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday.

Activists behind an initiative to decriminalize currently illicit drugs and expand access to treatment services in Washington State said last week that they will no longer be pursuing the ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they are seeking to enact the policy change through the legislature during the next session starting January 2021.

An effort to place a psilocybin legalization measure on California’s ballot ended after the coronavirus pandemic presented petitioning difficulties and officials didn’t agree to a request to allow electronic signature gathering.

A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri officially gave up its effort for 2020 due to signature collection being virtually impossible in the face of social distancing measures.

North Dakota activists ended their push to place a marijuana legalization measure on the 2020 ballot and will instead seek qualification for 2022.

July 4, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"What’s the best minimum legal age for cannabis?"

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)

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Student presentation on "Regulatory Frameworks States Have Developed for Edibles"

As students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar continue "taking over" my class by making presentations on research topics of their choice, I will continue providing in this space background on their topics and links to relevant materials they provide.  The last of three presentations this week will focus on the (always hot) topic of edibles, and here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided:
 
For my paper, I'll be looking at the regulatory frameworks states have developed for edibles.  After some background on edibles and their significance to the marijuana industry, I'll discuss the varying levels regulations that states have employed.  Then I discuss the three major types of regulations for edibles: (1) testing; (2) packaging and labeling; and (3) THC content.  Finally, I conclude by assessing the effectiveness of each type and making my own recommendations for moving forward.
 
For background, please see the resources below:

Alice G. Walton, Is Eating Marijuana Really Riskier than Smoking It?, FORBES (June 4, 2014).

Jeff Rossen & Jovanna Billington, Rossen Reports Update: Edible Marijuana That Looks Like Candy Is Sending Kids to the ER, TODAY (Sept. 16, 2017).

Robert J. MacCoun & Michelle M. Mello, Half-Baked--The Retail Promotion of Marijuana Edibles, 372 NEW ENG. J. MED. 989 (2015).

Mike Montgomery, Edibles Are the Next Big Thing for Pot Entrepreneurs, FORBES (July 19, 2017).

Ryan Vandrey et al., Cannabinoid Dose and Label Accuracy in Edible Medical Cannabis Products, 313 JAMA 2491-93 (2015).

Daniel G. Barrus et al., Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles, RTI PRESS 6 (Nov. 2016).

April 9, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Noting how blanket federal prohibition serves to thwart continued progress of medical marijuana reforms

This new Roll Call article, headlined "States turn to unenforced federal law to slow medical marijuana legalization," effectively reviews how federal prohibition still serves to impact medical marijuana reforms efforts in a number of states.  I recommend the lengthy article in full, and here are excerpts:

Since 2014, Congress has protected patients and cannabis programs from federal marijuana prosecutions in states that allow it for medical use. Medical marijuana’s unique legal status involves a little-known provision called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that Congress renews every year in spending laws. It says the Justice Department cannot use federal funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.

Yet marijuana’s continued status as a Schedule I substance — the most severe drug category — remains fodder for those opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in other parts of the country.... In states considering the issue this year, including Alabama and Tennessee, opponents continue to cite the drug’s Schedule I status.

In Tennessee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, said in January that he won’t take up medical marijuana because “it’s against federal law.” A commission created by the Alabama Legislature to advise lawmakers on cannabis policy last year recommended that the state adopt a medical marijuana plan this session, and it published draft legislation to do so. But opponents on the commission said the top reason for their objections was “the fact that marijuana remains a Class I Controlled Substance under state and federal law.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall inflamed debate further in January when he wrote a letter in opposition to legislators. “State laws that allow any use of marijuana, medical or recreational, are in direct conflict with duly enacted and clearly constitutional law,” Marshall wrote. “Thus, state marijuana statutes enacted in violation of the law are damaging to the law itself.”...

Such arguments underscore why Congress is considering a number of bills to deschedule marijuana entirely or reschedule it in order to better study it. They face long odds in the Senate, which has yet to move on a House-passed bill that is limited to offering protections for banks that do business with marijuana companies.

But advocates for legalization say federal prohibition is a red herring, and that states shouldn’t have to comply with a federal drug law the Drug Enforcement Administration is barred from enforcing. “States are authorizing conduct that is prohibited under federal law, so at first blush, I can see how this could be confusing and surprising, but at this point, two-thirds of the country have implemented comprehensive medical marijuanalaws,” says Karen O’Keefe, state policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization advocacy group that lobbied for the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. The rider halted most raids involving medical marijuana in states with legalization.

The patients and providers who cultivate, process and dispense the cannabis these patients rely on in these states for the treatment of debilitating illness do not have to fear federal charges as long as they are in compliance with state law, says Sean Khalepari, regulatory affairs coordinator for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access.

But the unusual nature of the provision is not well understood, some say.... Although the amendment serves as a shield against federal prosecution, “I think it can be misunderstood that this rider does not in and of itself legalize medicinal marijuana at the federal level,” says Jeffrey Vanderslice, who worked as an aide to Rohrabacher in 2014. Since the Justice Department technically retains the ability to prosecute medical marijuana — even in states that have legalized it, if a business or individual doesn’t comply with state law — advocates are hoping for more certainty on the federal level eventually.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s interpretations and actions have contributed to the confusion. In 2018, the administration rescinded guidance by the Obama administration known as the Cole memorandum, which directed Justice to deprioritize prosecuting state-legal marijuana businesses. Trump’s reversal stoked worry and confusion among supporters of legalization.

The office of the attorney general has since turned over from Jeff Sessions, a severe critic of marijuana, to William Barr. Barr said during a Senate hearing in 2019 that he operates under the Cole memo, but leaves significant discretion to U.S. attorneys in each state. Meanwhile, the White House has sought the repeal of Rohrabacher-Farr in each of its budgets, including in Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal. Congress has always bucked that recommendation.

March 4, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"11 states where you might be voting on major marijuana reforms this November"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Salon article that seems to effectively review where marijuana reform initiatives already have qualified, or might still qualify, for the ballot in fall 2020.  Here is the wind up and the essentials (click through for lots of details and lots of links):

It's tough to push a legalization bill through the state legislative process. A single recalcitrant committee head can kill a bill, and even committed proponents can fail to reach agreement, squabbling over issues such as taxation, which agencies will have regulatory power, and ensuring social justice in the industry. And so the bill ends up dying. Of the 11 states that have so far legalized marijuana, only Illinois and Vermont have done it via the legislature, and in Vermont, they only legalized possession and cultivation, not a taxed and regulated market.

It could be different this year because 2020 is an election year, and that means residents of a number of states will or could have a chance to vote directly on whether to legalize marijuana without having to wait for the politicos at the statehouse to ratify the will of the people..... While there are serious prospects for legalization at the statehouse in a handful of state this year — think ConnecticutNew MexicoNew York, and Rhode Island — a number of other states are seeing marijuana legalization or medical marijuana initiative campaigns get underway, and several states in each category have already qualified for the ballot.  That an initiative campaign is underway is no guarantee it will make it onto the ballot — a well-funded legalization initiative in Florida just came up short on signatures for this year — but it is a signal that it could be.  Here's where things stand on 2020 marijuana reform initiatives as of mid-February.

States where marijuana legalization will be on the ballot

New Jersey....

South Dakota....

States where marijuana legalization could be on the ballot

Arizona....

Arkansas....

Missouri.... 

Montana. ...

Nebraska....

North Dakota....

Oklahoma.... 

States where medical marijuana will be on the ballot

Mississippi....

South Dakota....

States where medical marijuana could be on the ballot

Idaho....

Nebraska....

Come November, will we see how many of these efforts come to fruition, but we should be adding at least a state or two to the ranks of both the medical marijuana states and the legalization states — and that's not counting what occurs at statehouses around the country.

February 18, 2020 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Spitballing metrics that might be important when evaluating medical marijuana programs

As noted in prior posts here and here, this week I have asked students in my marijuana reform seminar to reflect on how policymakers should assess the efficacy of medical marijuana programs.  Potentially important to this inquiry is figuring out just what basic metrics should matter — metrics related both to  the operation of medical marijuana programs and to the program's potential impact on individual and community well-being. 

Reflecting on these questions always lead me back to a range of challenging (and useful) policy questions about what fundamental values are of greatest importance as we consider and operationalize any form of marijuana reform.  Of course, there are always going to be plenty of basic medical research questions (and uncertainty) about whether and for whom marijuana might provide health benefits (after all, this article suggests medical science cannot conclusively answer whether adults should be drinking milk).  But beyond (or intertwined with) uncertainty about the medical use of marijuana, how should policy makers approach these (or many other) potentially important metrics:

-- Is the raw number of patients in medical marijuana programs, or the number of a particular type of patients, fundamental to judging the success of medical marijuana programs?

-- Should self-reports or health-care worker reports of patient satisfaction or the cost of this form of health care relative to others be central to assessing efficacy?

-- Should reductions (or increases) in opioid overdoses or other salient community health problems be a central consideration? 

-- How about potential health care cost savings (or cost increases) for the state?

-- How about other possible public health and safety concerns ranging from increased marijuana use by teens, or more reports of substance use disorders, or more accidents involving impaired drivers or even increased crimes around dispensaries?

-- How about tax revenues or number of jobs created as an important metric for medical marijuana programs (since we see this often discussed for recreational programs)?

-- How should social equity and social justice concerns impact these issues: e.g., should we worry if only privileged people have access to and profit from medical marijuana and/or if arrest rates for low-level marijuana possession go up after a state implements a medical marijuana program?

I am sure I am leaving out lots of other important issues in this spitballing of metrics that might be important when evaluating medical marijuana programs. I eagerly welcome feedback and suggestions on this front from all readers.

A few recent related posts:

February 13, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Does official public data about Ohio's Medical Marijuana Control Program show its efficacy? Its ineffectiveness?

In a post from few days ago, I asked "How should policymakers assess the efficacy of medical marijuana programs? What are key metrics?".   I have asked students in my marijuana reform seminar to reflect on these questions, and I am wondering if official data on Ohio's "Medical Marijuana Control Program" can help answer these question in the Buckeye State. 

Specifically, here is link to a graphic that compares some data on Ohio's medical marijuana program from January 2019 and January 2020.  Because the 2019 data is from the "first day of sales," we see great growth in listed number over the course of a year (e.g., registered patients grew from 12,721 to 73,967).  Is this a mark of success for a program that became law in mid 2016?  Or does this show how slowly (or poorly) the program got launched?

Or consider this page of cumulative data as of Feb 7, 2020 

Dispensaries
  • 57 Provisional licenses
    • 49 Provisional licensees have received a Certificate of Operation
Patients & Caregivers (as of 12/31/2019)
  • 83,857 Recommendations
  • 78,376 Registered patients
    • 5,617 Patients with Veteran Status
    • 4,398 Patients with Indigent Status
    • 449 Patients with a Terminal Diagnosis
  • 55,617 Unique patients who purchased medical marijuana (as reported to OARRS by licensed dispensaries)
  • 8,259 Registered Caregivers
Physicians
  • 590 Certificates to Recommend
Sales Figures (as of 2/3/2020)
  • 8,174 lbs. of plant material
  • 393,726 units of manufactured product
  • 68.1 million in product sales
  • 534,913 total receipts
  • Historical Sales Data

Are any of these numbers especially important in judging the success of Ohio's medical marijuana program? What other metrics would be important to judging the success of Ohio's medical marijuana program?

February 12, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

How should policymakers assess the efficacy of medical marijuana programs? What are key metrics?

The question in the title of this post are questions I have asked students in my marijuana reform seminar to be considering this week.  I am not sure I have good answers to these questions, so I am hoping my students can help answer them.

Notably, the group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) produces an annual report that gives letter grades to all states based on various criteria relating to medical marijuana programs.  (The 2019 version of  this lengthy and informative report  is summarized in this ASA blog post.)  But ASA is a medical marijuana advocacy group that grades states based primarily on how accessible marijuana is to individuals who want access -- i.e., ASA is focused on whether programs "ensure that all patients have access to the medicine they need" -- and it is not a given that all policymakers would be keen to adopt the ASA's grading criteria. (Tellingly, in these ASA reports, states with recreational marijuana programs consistently get the highest grades).

The Drug Enforcement & Policy Center last Fall released this survey report that "revealed immense dissatisfaction with the Ohio medical marijuana system" among likely medical marijuana consumers.  But again, the views of likely consumers may not be the best metric for assessing the efficacy of a medical marijuana program.  In some coming posts, I will focus on some existing data related to Ohio's and (some other states') medical marijuana program to further explore just what metrics ought to be key to assessing the virtues (and vices?) of these programs.

February 9, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 3, 2020

NORML releases new scorecard of Governors based on "comments and voting records in 2019 specific to matters of marijuana policy"

Download (8)Last week the acvocacy group NORML released here its "2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard" which constitutes an "extensive database assign[ing] a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to states' governors based upon their comments and voting records in 2019 specific to matters of marijuana policy."  Here is part of the executive summary:

Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform, including adult-use legalization, is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents.  As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level. America's governors are our nation's most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate.  Here is where each of them stands on issues surrounding cannabis policy.

KEY FINDINGS

Thirty-two US governors received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (22 Democrats, 10 Republicans); last year, only 27 Governors received a grade of 'C' or higher.

Of these, nine US governors -- all Democrats -- received an 'A' grade.

Twelve governors received a 'B' grade (11 Democrats, 1 Republican)

Eleven governors received a 'C' grade (9 Republicans, 2 Democrats)

Ten governors -- nine Republicans and one Democrat -- received a 'D' grade

Eight governors -- all Republicans -- received a 'F' grade

Among Democratic Governors, 39 percent received an 'A.' Ninety-six percent of Democratic Governors received a grade of 'C' or higher.

Among Republican Governors, only 37 percent received a grade of a 'C' or higher. Thirty percent received a failing grade.

THE TAKEAWAY

Political support among US governors for marijuana policy reform continues to grow.  However, this support is more partisan than ever before.  No Republicans are on record in support of adult-use legalization and few are in favor of regulating medical cannabis access.  By contrast, a large percentage of Democrats are supportive of both issues.  This partisan divide is not similarly reflected among the general public.  According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2019, 66 percent of the public -- including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- favor adult-use legalization.  Bipartisan support among the public for medical marijuana legalization is even stronger.  Until this public support is similarly reflected among lawmakers, many cannabis-specific legislative reforms – in particular adult-use legalization proposals – will continue to meet resistance at the state level.

February 3, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)