Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, February 28, 2019

"All 2020 presidential candidates now support marijuana legalization efforts — even the Republicans"

Download (2)The title of this post is the title of this recent Boston Globe piece. Here are excerpts:

When it comes to marijuana, Elizabeth Warren of 2012 would probably not recognize Elizabeth Warren of 2019.

Seven years ago, Warren opposed legalization. In 2015, the US senator from Massachusetts said she was “open” to it. In 2016, she said, she voted for it privately at the ballot box. Now she’s one of marijuana’s top cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, championing a measure to protect the pot industry in states where it’s legal.

Warren’s evolution is not unique — in fact, 2020 will see the first US presidential race in which every candidate, at least so far, favors some path to legalization.

All 12 official Democratic candidates, as well as the potential Republican hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, told the Globe they now support full nationwide legalization, Canada-style. President Trump, meanwhile, has said he supports states’ rights to legalize.

“There’s been a tremendous evolution — marijuana legalization, if you look back, was really something for fringe candidates,” said John Lapp, a Democratic national campaign strategist.“It’s just not very controversial at all now.”

For Democrats, especially, being for cannabis legalization might be as much of a litmus test in 2020 among voters as is being for abortion rights. But they must face their past stances with honesty, political strategists say. In 2008, now-US Senator Kamala Harris touted her high conviction rates for drug dealers as a district attorney, and Joe Biden, the former vice president — who is likely to run, but hasn’t announced — was long an evangelist for the war on drugs.

A quarter-century ago, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton did damage control by saying he tried pot while he was a Rhodes scholar in England, but “didn’t inhale.” Running in 2007, Barack Obama found it politically acceptable to admit he had smoked marijuana as a young man, and “the point was to inhale” — but he called it “a mistake.”’...

Now politicians, particularly Republicans, have a more politically safe way of supporting cannabis: by advocating for states’ rights, said Steve Fox, a cannabis lobbyist with VS Strategies. “At this point, the greatest driving factor at the federal level is simply the fact that it’s legal in so many states,” Fox said.

To combat the rising momentum, the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana is producing a guide for candidates that it says will be backed by medical associations. “Candidates will have a simple choice: They can either follow the pot lobby or they can follow the science,” said executive director Kevin Sabet....

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has made legalization a core part of his presidential campaign, said his position has much more to do with addressing racial disparities in policing than it does with freedom for recreational use. “I am pleased to see public sentiment moving as it is, but I have an approach to marijuana legalization that sees it as a justice issue and not just as an adult-use issue,” Booker said. “The damage that the enforcement and prohibition has done to our country is outrageous, unacceptable, and violates our values.”...

In New Hampshire this election cycle, candidates are likely to be asked about marijuana, as the Legislature there moves toward possibly passing legalization this year. Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has vowed to veto such a measure.

But don’t expect many candidates to focus their campaigns on marijuana. It’s not just safe now — it’s too safe. To stand out in a crowded field, Lapp recommends that a candidate take on affordable health care, immigration, or college debt — “something where there’s some upside and downside, some passion and some risk. I’m just not sure that’s the case with marijuana anymore.”

February 28, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"The Association between Cannabis Product Characteristics and Symptom Relief"

Download (5)I am grateful for a student in my marijuana reform seminar who made sure that I did not miss this new research in the journal Scientific Reports which share the title of this post and was authored by Sarah Stith, Jacob Vigil, Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling and Branden Hall. Here is the research article's abstract:

Federal barriers and logistical challenges have hindered measurement of the real time effects from the types of cannabis products used medically by millions of patients in vivo.  Between 06/06/2016 and 03/05/2018, 3,341 people completed 19,910 self- administrated cannabis sessions using the mobile device software, ReleafApp to record: type of cannabis product (dried whole natural Cannabis flower, concentrate, edible, tincture, topical), combustion method (joint, pipe, vaporization), Cannabis subspecies (C. indica and C. sativa), and major cannabinoid contents (tetrahydrocannabinol, THC; and cannabidiol, CBD), along with real-time ratings of health symptom severity levels, prior-to and immediately following administration, and reported side effects.  A fixed effects panel regression approach was used to model the within-user effects of different product characteristics. 
Patients showed an average symptom improvement of 3.5 (SD = 2.6) on an 11-point scale across the 27 measured symptom categories.  Dried flower was the most commonly used product and generally associated with greater symptom relief than other types of products.  Across product characteristics, only higher THC levels were independently associated with greater symptom relief and prevalence of positive and negative side effects.  In contrast, CBD potency levels were generally not associated with significant symptom changes or experienced side effects.

This public release about the article is headlined "THC found more important for therapeutic effects in cannabis than originally thought," and it provides a useful summary of the research methods and findings.

February 26, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two interesting new articles about the early operation of Ohio's medical marijuana program

OHIO-HERBAL-CLINIC-DOCTORS-OFFICE-OHIO-MEDICAL-MARIJUANA-CARD--300x300Two Ohio papers had two interesting new article about early developments in the operation of Ohio's still-new medical marijuana program.  Here are headlines, links and excerpts:

From the Akron Beacon Journal, "Ohio medical marijuana recommendations coming from clinics, not family doctors"

If you know someone who has received a recommendation to use medical marijuana, odds are the recommendation didn’t come from a family doctor or primary-care physician. The vast majority of recommendations in Ohio come from clinics that employ doctors solely to evaluate patients for medical marijuana, say people familiar with the industry....

“Marijuana-specific clinics fill a huge need,” said Dr. Joel Simmons, who runs the Ohio Herbal Clinic, a Near East Side cannabis clinic. While the clinics, many of which have out-of-state owners, have some critics, patient advocates say primary-care doctors are the ideal source for marijuana recommendations.

Those doctors better understand a patient’s needs and medical history, said Mary Jane Borden, co-founder of the Ohio Rights Group, which advocates for users of medicinal cannabis. When Ohio lawmakers wrote the state’s medical-marijuana law, they hoped that family physicians would be writing most recommendations, Borden said....

Clinics charge between $125 and $200 for an evaluation, which insurance won’t cover.  Because the clinics don’t negotiate with insurance companies, they clinics can charge whatever they want, said Emilie Ramach, founder and CEO of Compassionate Alternatives, a Columbus-based nonprofit agency that helps patients pay for medicinal cannabis.  Several clinic doctors, including Simmons, said they do their best to keep their prices reasonable.

From the Columbus Dispatch, "High prices keep many Ohioans out of legal cannabis market"

As Ohio’s medical marijuana industry finally takes off, some patients and advocates are griping about costs that put it out of reach for many people.  A steep price tag stems partly from the lack of competition, as Ohio only has seven dispensaries spread throughout the state, mostly in rural areas, experts said.  Costs are expected to drop as more dispensaries open and the industry finds its footing.

In the meantime, patients openly acknowledge buying the drug on the black market while they wait for prices to come down.  And without insurance to cover the expense, some worry that low-income people might never be able to afford medical cannabis....

Several local patients said using marijuana has improved their quality of life, but they must stretch their budgets to pay for it or buy it on the street.  “I’m not using as much as I probably need to be using,” said Mary Alleger, 31, of Reynoldsburg, who said she uses cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ongoing pain from a botched medical procedure.

Katherin Cottrill, 33, of Newark, has worked with the patient advocacy organization Ohio Rights Group to acquire a medical marijuana card, but said current costs keep her from even getting started.  “I would have to pay $200 to $250 (just to get a recommendation),” Cottrill said.  “And then I have to drive to a dispensary and pay $50. It’s unreasonable for me to even try.”...

Just under 3 grams of medical marijuana costs about $50. Cannabis clinics charge between $125 and $200, and the state charges $50 in fees.  Marijuana is cheaper on the street, patients said.

“On the black market you can buy an ounce for $200,” said Robert Doyle, 61, of Newark, who has a medical marijuana card but still buys the drug on the street due to the cost.  There are about 28 grams in an ounce.  Doyle said he’s visited dispensaries in Michigan with prices comparable to the black market, making him confident that Ohio’s costs will eventually fall....

But even if prices drop, clinic costs and fees will remain a barrier for some, Cottrill said.  “What about low-income people who are desperately seeking medication?” she said. “They can’t even afford to pay $50 to get their card registered.”

February 26, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Perhaps not realizing federal law imposes prohibition, commentary urges someone to "implement a two-year moratorium on further legalization and commercialization of marijuana"

Download (7)This notable new Hill commentary authored by psychiatrist Mitchell Rosenthal, headlined "To ensure public health and safety, impose a two-year moratorium on marijuana legalization," is somewhat sensible as a matter of public policy and is somewhat clueless in light of modern legal realities.  Here are excerpts:

Marijuana legalization is gaining momentum across the country, backed by supportive public opinion, politicians, Wall Street investors and the increasingly influential for–profit cannabis industry.  By 2025, the legal U.S. marijuana market could be a roughly $50 billion business as a cornucopia of cannabis-based products become easily available in shops and online.

But in the rush to legalize marijuana, we are not taking adequate precautions and lack comprehensive and conclusive scientific evidence about what the impact might be.  In today’s largely unregulated environment, for example, marijuana marketers can seemingly tout the purported benefits of pot to relieve anxiety and aches and pains and even treat Alzheimer’s disease, without any oversight, regulation or recourse for disappointed users.

Consumers would be better served if we first implement a two-year moratorium on further legalization to ascertain the potential risks and possible benefits of marijuana. Under the current haphazard laws and rules adopted by states that have legalized, we are simply not able to ensure public health and safety as marijuana becomes mainstream.

Pausing the runaway train of legalization would provide the opportunity to study the impact so far on health and social behavior in legalized states, as well as in Canada, which legalized last year.   We would want a definitive understanding of the effect pot has on everything from driving impairment to workplace performance and learning development in young people....

As a psychiatrist who has treated substance abusers for decades, I understand that calling for a legalization slowdown might suggest a return to the fear-filled Reefer Madness past.  But it is more about being responsible, especially as many clinical studies indicate that pot is not as benign as many would like to believe and can be addictive as well as potentially harmful to the developing teenage brain.

Clearly, the same sensible precautions required of any new drug or food product should also apply to marijuana.  Warning labels, dosage recommendations and information about possible side effects, interactions and potency levels are critical for consumer safety, along with education programs and outreach....

To safeguard public health, we need clarity and consistent guidelines on a federal level for the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.  Questions abound about the appropriate age of consumption, where cannabis should be located — hopefully not near schools and parks and playgrounds — and whether marijuana is an effective treatment for opioid addiction, as many claim.

A two-year moratorium on marijuana legalization would enable us to answer many of these questions and lead to practical and enforceable guidelines based on scientific evidence, not the hyped claims of pot marketers.  Consumers — especially parents — have the right and the need to know.

Because this commentary speaks of the need for "clarity and consistent guidelines on a federal level for the legalization and commercialization of marijuana," I presume it is imagining the federal government as the legal entity to "implement a two-year moratorium on further legalization and commercialization of marijuana."  But, of course, federal law right now has long-standing and on-going complete prohibition on legalization and commercialization of marijuana.  That legal fact has not stopped "marijuana legalization is gaining momentum across the country" because prohibition cannot easily be enforced effectively against states interested in pursuing reforms.

Perhaps this commentary means to suggest (and would be more reasonable to suggest) that all states considering legalization sit tight for two years to provide more time and "opportunity to study the impact so far on health and social behavior in legalized states."  But legalization has been a reality in some form in California for more than two decades and in modern forms in Colorado and Washington for five years.  It seems highly unlikely that we will have "comprehensive and conclusive scientific evidence about what the impact might be" of legalization by early 2021.  Because it may take decades to reach "definitive understanding of the effect pot has on everything from driving impairment to workplace performance and learning development in young people," I am not sure just a two-year pause would be all that productive even if it were some how legally achievable.

That all said, this commentary is not misguided in identifying a range of issues that states should consider with respect to public health and safety in the reform of marijuana prohibition, and especially in (indirectly) suggesting that the federal government play a more active and productive role as states continue to move forward with reforms.  I think the Obama Administration was remiss when failing to set up a task force or study group on these critical health and safety issues when modern state marijuana reforms were heating up, and the Trump Administration also seems content to continue to ignore these issues all while Congress cannot itself move forward on any production reforms at the federal level.

February 25, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"Growing Marijuana Industry Struggles To Attract Employees Of Color"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new NPR piece.  Here are excerpts:

As marijuana becomes legal around the country, blacks and Latinos are often left out of new business opportunities. Advocates say people of color are often reluctant to join the growing legal marijuana economy because they were targeted far more often than whites during the war on drugs. Studies show members of such communities were arrested and jailed for illegal marijuana use far more often than whites.

As Massachusetts developed laws for legal marijuana, officials wrote what they claimed was a first-in-the-nation Social Equity Program explicitly to give members of those communities a leg up. But this part of the state law isn't working — next to no black or Latino candidates have applied for licenses in Massachusetts.

They're scared of the government. "They're scared of the government, man," said Sieh Samura, an outspoken cannabis activist. "This is still a new thing. And there's taxes, there's the government, there's all kinds of things, you know. Just because people say it's legal ... it's not welcoming for everybody."

Studies show that blacks and Latinos nationwide have been arrested and incarcerated for cannabis and other drug crimes at at least four times the rate of whites. The long-term effects of the war on drugs launched in the 1970s are still evident in many communities of color.

So, the city of Somerville, Mass., passed an ordinance requiring that 50 percent of recreational marijuana licenses go to black and Latino applicants. "We want to make sure that everyone has a real authentic opportunity to participate in that economy in the future," said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. "If not, we start to lose the fabric and soul of our community. And then social inequity becomes greater, becomes vaster, and we can't allow that to happen. We're a pro-growth community, but we want to make sure regular folks are able to participate in that."...

To be a model for others, Samura and his wife Leah created a recreational marijuana business called 612 Studios. For months they've been coming to a massive marijuana cultivation facility in Milford, Mass., to participate in The Sira Accelerator, a 12-week program designed to get more people of color into the industry by doing everything from raising money, to helping with marketing, packaging and distribution.

This program is run by Sira Naturals, which grows marijuana and creates products for its own medical dispensaries and some other recreational businesses. Mike Dundas, Sira Naturals' CEO, said the company wants to help longtime marijuana advocates, like the Samuras, or folks who have been dabbling in the illegal pot market. "We see our program, the Sira Accelerator, as sort of offering a hand to those who've been operating — and have skill and passion and dedication to cannabis products — in the illicit marketplace, to come to the regulated side, to get on the books and help facilitate the start of their businesses," said Dundas.

In return for the advice and counsel, Sira takes just under a 10 percent stake in the new company. Sira also hopes the accelerator will help it open a recreational shop in Somerville, where it already runs one of three medical dispensaries. The company can't get a recreational license until black or Latino entrepreneurs do because of the city's ordinance. Dundas, who is white, admits he's scrambling to find and mentor people of color who want to open businesses in Somerville to ensure that his company can open a retail shop of its own.

Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies with the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, said there have been lots of attempts around the country to help candidates from black and Latino communities, but none have worked. "None of the states have the kind of diversity that we would like to see in the cannabis industry," she said....

"States moving forward are going to look at what happened in Massachusetts," O'Keefe said, "why such good intentions didn't end up bearing as much fruit and as much diversity in the industry as was intended."

UPDATE: Not long after this posting I saw that USA Today has an even fuller discussion of these issues in this new article headlined "Drug laws have historically been racist. Marijuana activists are helping minority dealers go legal." Here is a small piece of a long article worth reading in full:

The war on drugs has for decades disproportionately devastated minority communities by punishing people like Blunt and creating a cycle of poverty, incarceration and limited employment options, legal and social justice experts say.

Now, lawmakers and legalization advocates across the country are demanding not just cannabis legalization but remedies to address decades of demonstrably racist policing, from laws that automatically expunge criminal records for marijuana dealing and possession to policies that would give minority communities assistance in building cannabis businesses....

For many marijuana legalization activists, it's now up to local governments to diversify the legal pot industry by clearing conviction records and handing out subsidies. If white men have unfairly benefited from marijuana legalization, then it's only fair that minority communities be given extra help now because they suffered more, the thinking goes.

"We actually do have to overcorrect," said Kassandra Frederique, 32, the New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is lobbying to legalize marijuana in the Empire State. "People from our communities, black and brown communities, were the one first ones to be criminalized. Why shouldn’t we be the first ones to benefit?"

February 21, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"Marijuana Dispensaries and Neighborhood Crime and Disorder in Denver, Colorado"

Rjqy20.v035.i06.coverThe title of this post is the title of this notable new article just published in the journal Justice Quarterly and authored by Lorine Hughes, Lonnie Schaible & Katherine Jimmerson. Here is the paper's abstract:

Beginning with Colorado and Washington State in 2012, longstanding bans on the sale, possession, and use of marijuana for recreational purposes have been overturned in nine states and the nation’s capital. Consistent with the logic of routine activity theory and broken windows theory, critics of legalized marijuana argue that dispensaries are magnets for crime, attracting criminal offenders to the area with large sums of cash and valuable goods. The current study addresses this possibility by examining the effects of both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries on yearly crime rates in N = 3981 neighborhood grid cells in Denver, Colorado, 2012–2015. Estimates from Bayesian spatiotemporal Poisson regression models indicate that, except for murder and auto theft, both types of dispensaries are associated with statistically significant increases in rates of neighborhood crime and disorder. The theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

This notice about the research provides additional background and findings. Here are excerpts therefrom:

"We found that neighborhoods with one or more medical or recreational dispensary saw increased crime rates that were between 26 and 1,452% higher than in neighborhoods without any commercial marijuana activity," notes Lorine A. Hughes, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, who led the study. "But we also found that the strongest associations between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly over time."...

The study found that except for murder, the presence of at least one medical marijuana dispensary was associated with a statistically significant increase in neighborhood crime and disorder, including robbery and aggravated assault. The study also found a relatively strong association between medical marijuana dispensaries and drug and alcohol offenses, with a decline in the strength of the link after recreational marijuana was legalized. The pattern of results was similar for recreational marijuana dispensaries, though the study found no direct relation to auto theft.

The authors caution that the results of the study, based only on information from Denver immediately after legalization and before market saturation, may not be generalizable to other geographic areas. They also note that because the study relied on official police data to measure crime and disorder, it's possible that police targeted neighborhoods with marijuana dispensaries, which would over-estimate the association between these facilities and crime and disorder.

"Our findings have important implications for the marijuana industry in Denver and the liberalization of marijuana laws nationwide," suggests Lonnie M. Schaible, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, who coauthored the study. "Although our results indicate that both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries are associated with increases in most major crime types, the weak strength typical of these relationships suggests that, if Denver's experience is representative, major spikes in crime are unlikely to occur in other places following legalization."

The authors suggest that, rather than fighting to oppose legalized marijuana, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry and is expected to create more than a quarter of a million jobs by 2020, it may be more expedient to develop and support secure and legal ways for dispensaries to engage in financial transactions.

February 19, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 18, 2019

"High Time for Criminal Justice Reform: Marijuana Expungement Statutes in States with Legalized or Decriminalized Marijuana Laws"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Alana Rosen now available via SSRN.  Here is the paper's abstract:

As states continue to legalize or decriminalize recreational marijuana, there is a chasm within our society. One segment of the population can use, possess, transport, and cultivate marijuana without fear of prosecution.  Another segment of the population suffers from the collateral consequences of previous marijuana-related offenses.  This Article argues that any state that enacts marijuana legalization or decriminalization statutes should automatically include an expungement provision that clears the criminal record of individuals who engaged in activities now deemed lawful under the new legalization and decriminalization laws.

This Article proposes model language for an expungement statute that serves as a guide for legislators, judges, and attorneys.   The proposed expungement statute will help individuals obtain access to opportunities and benefits now denied them because of their marijuana-related criminal records including employment, professional licenses, financial aid, public housing, travel abroad, firearms’ purchases, the right to vote, and jury service.  Changes to the law will also benefit communities that have been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs and marijuana prohibition.

Regular readers surely know from my repeated mention of my article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," that I am especially interested in how marijuana reform is now intersecting with criminal justice concerns and should advance criminal justice reform efforts. I am so pleased to see another article on this topic, and I hope to soon see many more. I do not think this issue can get too much attention.

February 18, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

In Virginia city, local judges refuse to allow prosecutor to drop marijuana charges

As reported in this local article, headlined "Norfolk judges unite to block prosecutor from dropping marijuana cases," a fascinating tussle has broken out as an elected prosecutor tries to move away from criminally prosecuting marijuana offenders.  Here are the details:

The judges on the city’s top court have decided to block Norfolk’s chief prosecutor from essentially decriminalizing marijuana possession, a setback he’s thinking about appealing to the state Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, prosecutors under Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood went to court for at least the third time to try to drop or dismiss misdemeanor marijuana charges. Prosecuting people for having marijuana disproportionately hurts black people and does little to protect public safety, he’s said.

For the third time, a judge rebuffed them, and told prosecutors she’s not alone, but joined by her seven colleagues. “We are of one mind on this,” Circuit Judge Mary Jane Hall said.

The decisions adds to the confusion about whether it’s OK to have a small amount of weed in the city. Norfolk police have said they will continue to cite people for misdemeanor marijuana possession as they’ve always done. Circuit Court judges appear determined to make sure offenders are tried, even if the commonwealth’s attorney refuses to prosecute them....

In 2016 and 2017, more than 1,560 people have been charged with first- or second-offense marijuana possession, prosecutor Ramin Fatehi told the judge in court Tuesday. Of them, 81 percent were black in a city that’s 47 percent white and 42 percent black.

This “breeds a reluctance on the part of African Americans, particular young African American men, to trust or cooperate with the justice system,” according to a Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office memo announcing the policy changes. “Such prosecution also encourages the perception that the justice system is not focusing its attention on the legitimately dangerous crimes that regrettably are concentrated in these same communities.”

On Tuesday, Hall denied Fatehi’s motion to dismiss charges against Zemont Vaughan. The 24-year-old Norfolk man, who is black, had been convicted in a lower court in October, but on Tuesday, he went to the higher Circuit Court to appeal that conviction.

Prosecutors’ motions to dismiss or drop charges are typically formalities. They don’t generally like giving up on cases, so when they make what amounts to an admission of defeat, judges almost always grant them. Not this time.

Hall told Fatehi she and the other seven judges think the Norfolk commonwealth’s attorney is trespassing on the state legislature’s territory: making laws. The judge said Fatehi made an “extremely compelling case” with his statistics on racial disparities, but should pitch it to lawmakers in Richmond.

“I believe this is an attempt to usurp the power of the state legislature,” Hall said. “This is a decision that must be made by the General Assembly, not by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.”

Fatehi countered: Underwood is exercising the executive power voters gave him when they elected him the city’s top prosecutor. Part of the job is prosecutorial discretion, or deciding which laws should be enforced, especially since he has a limited amount of resources. In contrast to the misdemeanor possession charges, Underwood’s lawyers will keep prosecuting people accused of trafficking or dealing marijuana. “This is an exercise of our discretion,” Fatehi said.

Fatehi said Underwood is thinking about asking the state Supreme Court to reverse the judges’ decisions, adding that he’s “very close” to making a decision.

Lots can be said on the substance of the decisions being made by the city prosecutor and city judges in this case, but I will be content for now (1) to note that broad prosecutorial discretion in charging (and not charging) is the norm, and (2) to wonder aloud how prosecutions could or would move forward in these cases if city prosecutors refuse to be involved.  And, finally, this story highlights yet again how disparate marijuana enforcement seems to be everywhere and how interesting legal issues surrounds all kinds of modern marijuana reform efforts.

February 17, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Court Rulings, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Federal judge finds Walmart unlawfully discriminated under state law against Arizona medical marijuana patient

As reported in this local article, headlined "Judge Rebukes Arizona Walmart for Firing Employee With Medical-Marijuana Card," a federal court last week issued a notable ruling on behalf of a medical marijuana patient in Arizona. Here are the basics:

An Arizona Walmart location terminated an employee in 2016 who held a valid medical-marijuana card after a drug test came back positive. But now a federal judge has ruled that because Walmart could not prove the employee was impaired at work, the company violated the nondiscrimination provision in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

In a significant decision that recognized a private right of action for employment discrimination under the AMMA, Arizona U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg said last week that Walmart was not justified in firing the worker based on the company's idea that marijuana metabolites in her urine meant she must have been impaired at work.

Whitmire's attorney Joshua Carden, who runs a Scottsdale-based law firm, said Teilborg's decision is "the first of its kind in Arizona."

"No court has officially decided whether a private right-of-action exists under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, so that was a big part of the decision," Carden told Phoenix New Times on Tuesday.

Before she was fired, Carol Whitmire had worked at Walmart stores in Show Low and Taylor for about eight years. On May 21, 2016, while working as a customer service supervisor at the Taylor Walmart, a bag of ice fell on Whitmire's wrist while she was leveling the bags, according to the lawsuit. The injury led to an urgent care visit and a drug test, pursuant to Walmart policy. Whitmire’s urine tested positive for marijuana metabolites.

A medical-marijuana cardholder for approximately the last five years, Whitmire smokes marijuana before bed to treat her shoulder pain and arthritis, and as a sleep aid, according to court records. She says she never brought marijuana to work or reported to the job impaired.

After the wrist injury, Whitmire informed the Walmart human resources department and the urgent care clinic that she holds a medical-marijuana card. She continued working until July 4, when she was suspended as a result of the urine sample. Her manager fired Whitmire on July 22 because of the positive result of the drug test, the complaint says.

In March 2017, Whitmire filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Three months later, she sued Walmart in federal court in Phoenix, alleging wrongful termination and discrimination in violation of the AMMA, the Arizona Civil Rights Act, and Arizona worker's compensation law.

In his decision last week, first reported by Law360, Teilborg granted partial summary judgment to Whitmire for her claim of discrimination under the AMMA. The judge, however, denied Whitmire’s claims alleging discrimination under the Arizona Civil Rights Act and retaliatory termination under Arizona employment protection and worker’s compensation laws.

The court will make a decision regarding damages or Whitmire's potential reinstatement in May, her attorney said. Under the AMMA, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate in hiring or firing based on a patient's "positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment."

In court, Walmart denied wrongfully terminating or discriminating against Whitmire, and said the company's drug testing policy is lawful and protected under Arizona's Drug Testing of Employees Act (DTEA). But Teilborg wrote that in the absence of expert testimony establishing that Whitmire's drug test shows she was impaired at work because of marijuana she smoked the night before, Walmart "is unable to prove that Plaintiff’s drug screen gave it a ‘good faith basis’ to believe Plaintiff was impaired at work."

Walmart could not meet the burden of proving that the urine sample after the accident “sufficiently establishes the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana in a scientifically sufficient concentration to cause impairment,” the judge wrote.

The full 50+ page ruling in Whitmire v. Walmart is available at this link. As the press report notes, the key to the ruling is the patient protective language in the the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Consequently, this ruling does not provide protection to medical marijuana patients outside the state. But the ruling is still notable and another recent example of lower courts growing more comfortable recognizing and enforcing rights under state law on behalf of some marijuana users in some settings.

February 14, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal court rulings, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"

Download (24)The title of this post is the title of this notable new article which just today is published online in JAMA Psychiatry.  Here is its front matter:

Key Points

Question

Is adolescent cannabis consumption associated with risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in young adulthood?

Findings

In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies and 23 317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with increased risk of developing depression and suicidal behavior later in life, even in the absence of a premorbid condition. There was no association with anxiety.

Meaning

Preadolescents and adolescents should avoid using cannabis as use is associated with a significant increased risk of developing depression or suicidality in young adulthood; these findings should inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to reduce the use of cannabis among youth.

Abstract

Importance

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug of abuse by adolescents in the world. While the impact of adolescent cannabis use on the development of psychosis has been investigated in depth, little is known about the impact of cannabis use on mood and suicidality in young adulthood.

Objective

To provide a summary estimate of the extent to which cannabis use during adolescence is associated with the risk of developing subsequent major depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior.

Data Sources

Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycInfo, and Proquest Dissertations and Theses were searched from inception to January 2017.

Study Selection

Longitudinal and prospective studies, assessing cannabis use in adolescents younger than 18 years (at least 1 assessment point) and then ascertaining development of depression in young adulthood (age 18 to 32 years) were selected, and odds ratios (OR) adjusted for the presence of baseline depression and/or anxiety and/or suicidality were extracted.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Study quality was assessed using the Research Triangle Institute item bank on risk of bias and precision of observational studies. Two reviewers conducted all review stages independently. Selected data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The studies assessing cannabis use and depression at different points from adolescence to young adulthood and reporting the corresponding OR were included. In the studies selected, depression was diagnosed according to the third or fourth editions of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or by using scales with predetermined cutoff points.

Results

After screening 3142 articles, 269 articles were selected for full-text review, 35 were selected for further review, and 11 studies comprising 23 317 individuals were included in the quantitative analysis. The OR of developing depression for cannabis users in young adulthood compared with nonusers was 1.37 (95% CI, 1.16-1.62; I2 = 0%). The pooled OR for anxiety was not statistically significant: 1.18 (95% CI, 0.84-1.67; I2 = 42%). The pooled OR for suicidal ideation was 1.50 (95% CI, 1.11-2.03; I2 = 0%), and for suicidal attempt was 3.46 (95% CI, 1.53-7.84, I2 = 61.3%).

Conclusions and Relevance

Although individual-level risk remains moderate to low and results from this study should be confirmed in future adequately powered prospective studies, the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern, which should be properly addressed by health care policy.

February 13, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

House Subcommittee to hold hearing on Feb. 13 on "Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses"

Tomorrow afternoon, as detailed on this official webpage, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions of the US House Committee on Financial Services will have hearing on the topic of banking access for cannabis businesses. One focal point for the hearing is consideration of draft legislation, the "Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019" or the "SAFE Banking Act of 2019," which is designed to allow marijuana-related businesses in states with existing regulatory structures to access the banking system. 

In addition to being the first-ever congressional hearing on banking for marijuana businesses, I sense this is the first of a series of possible effects by the Democratic-controlled House to move forward on various possible federal legislative reforms.  A few days ago, Click the Committee produced this Memorandum providing background, and here is the scheduled "Witness List":

  • The Honorable Fiona Ma, California State Treasurer
  • Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), Baltimore City & Maryland State Police Departments, and Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
  • Ms. Rachel Pross, Chief Risk Officer, Maps Credit Union, on behalf of Credit Union National Association (CUNA)
  • Mr. Gregory S. Deckard, President, CEO and Chairman, State Bank Northwest, on behalf of Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)
  • Mr. Corey Barnette, Owner, District Growers Cultivation Center & Metropolitan Wellness Center

 

UPDATE: Here now are links to all of the written testimony of witnesses at this hearing:

February 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Marijuana Enforcement in New York State, 1990-2017"

Logo (1)The title of this post is the headline of this notable new research brief produced by the Data Collaborative for Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  This brief provides lots of interesting data within this research project, and it starts with these four "key findings":

KEY FINDINGS

1.  The number and rate of arrests for marijuana possession were higher in 2017 than in 1990 for the State as a whole and for New York City, Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State but the number and rate of arrests were lower in 2017 than the peaks in New York City and Upstate Cities;

2.  In 2017, in New York City, the vast majority of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests (~93%) were for possession of marijuana in public view or public consumption whereas for the Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State, significant percentages of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests were for possession of between 25 grams to 8 ounces (~60% and ~30% respectively);

3.  At the state-level, 18-20 year-olds consistently had the highest rates of arrest for marijuana possession, mostly driven by the higher rates of arrest for this group in New York City, but there was more variability by age in Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State; and

4.  Across all three geographic areas, Blacks and Hispanics consistently had higher rates of arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession compared to Whites, these racial differences in arrest rates widened over the study period and, in 2017, the racial differences in arrest rates were wider for the Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State compared to New York City.

February 11, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours"

Add.v114.2.coverThe title of this post is the title of this new research published in the journal Addiction authored by Tyler Lane and Wayne Hall.   Here is the article's abstract:

Background and aims

A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis impairs driving ability.  We used mortality data to investigate whether the commercial sale of cannabis for recreational use affected traffic fatality rates both in states that legalized it and in neighbouring jurisdictions.

Design

Interrupted time–series of traffic fatality rates adjusted for seasonality and autocorrelation.  Changes are reported as step and trend effects against a comparator of states that had not implemented medicinal or recreational cannabis during the study period (2009–16).  Sensitivity analyses added a 6‐month ‘phase‐in’ to account for lags in production. Meta‐analyses were used to derive pooled results.

Setting

Three states that legalized recreational cannabis sales [Colorado (January 2014), Washington State (June 2014) and Oregon (October 2015] and nine neighbouring jurisdictions [Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah (Colorado neighbours); British Columbia and Oregon (Washington neighbours); and California and Nevada (Oregon neighbours)].

Measurements

Monthly traffic fatalities rates per million residents using mortality data from CDC WONDER and RoadSafetyBC and census data.

Findings

There was a pooled step increase of 1.08 traffic fatalities per million residents followed by a trend reduction of −0.06 per month (both P < 0.001), although with significant heterogeneity between sites (step: I2 = 73.7%, P < 0.001; trend: I2 = 68.4%; P = 0.001). Effects were similar in both legalizing (step: 0.90, P < 0.001; trend: −0.05, P = 0.007) and neighbouring sites (step: 1.15, P = 0.005; trend: −0.06, P = 0.001).  The 6‐month phase‐in produced similar if larger effects (step: 1.36, P = 0.006; trend: −0.07, P < 0.001).

Conclusions

The combination of step increases and trend reductions suggests that in the year following implementation of recreational cannabis sales, traffic fatalities temporarily increased by an average of one additional traffic fatality per million residents in both legalizing US states of Colorado, Washington and Oregon and in their neighbouring jurisdictions.

February 10, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interesting (and disappointing?) numbers from Washington after Gov promised to pardon thousands with prior marijuana convictions

As reported in this post last month, Washington Govornor Jay Inslee started 2019 by making much of his plans to pardon thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession charges.  But this new local article, headlined "Inslee pardons 13 marijuana convictions, as lawmakers consider expunging hundreds of thousands more," reports on just a trickle rather than a wave of pardon grants.  Here are the interesting details:

In the month since Gov. Jay Inslee offered pardons to thousands of people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses, just 13 have received the official act of forgiveness. But a more sweeping proposal in the state Legislature may be gaining momentum, offering the potential clearing of criminal records for hundreds of thousands of others.

Inslee, a second-term Democrat who is publicly mulling a presidential run, announced his Marijuana Justice Initiative to fanfare in early January at a cannabis-industry conference, citing the disproportionate impact of drug-law convictions on people of color and lingering harm to employment and housing prospects.

His pardon offer was limited to people with otherwise clean records who had a misdemeanor marijuana conviction between 1998 and Dec. 5, 2012, the effective date of the voter-approved marijuana legalization Initiative 502.

About 3,500 people are estimated to be eligible for pardons under Inslee’s plan. As of Wednesday, 160 had applied, but the vast majority did not meet the eligibility conditions, said Tip Wonhoff, the governor’s deputy general counsel. After an initial rush of interest in the pardons, “it’s been a little slower than I thought,” he said.

For those who have qualified, however, the pardons have come as welcome relief. Taneesa Dunham, of Walla Walla, leapt at the chance to reverse her marijuana conviction from 2005....

Last month, Dunham’s mother saw a newspaper article about Inslee’s pardon offer and called to read the article to her. “I was jumping up and down with joy the entire time she was reading it. I immediately went to the website and filled [the application] out,” she said. A pardon signed by Inslee soon arrived in the mail. Although Dunham’s conviction remains in court records, the pardon is listed, too.

Dunham said her criminal record, while minor, had made it difficult for her to get a job as she’d had to report it on employment applications, and she worried her daughter’s school would exclude her from field trips. A recreational marijuana user in her 20s, she says she now uses cannabis medicinally for help with a back injury that has left her on disability. “I am just really glad it is legal now so nobody has to go through what I had to go through, and the courts and the cops can go after the real drug dealers and leave the potheads alone,” she said.

Chris Tilzer, of Covington, also was pardoned by Inslee for a pot-possession conviction in 2006 after Bellevue police cited him for smoking in a park. He served one day in jail, according to court records. “I was working and it could have caused me problems if they would have found out about it,” he said, adding that the blemish on his record has since complicated some international travel plans.

Tilzer now works in the cannabis industry and said he appreciates Inslee’s effort, but the state should do much more. “The amount of people who meet the qualifications is not going to really help anybody — not that many people,” he said.

Such relief could be on the way. Sponsors of legislation that would allow hundreds of thousands of people with minor marijuana convictions to expunge their records say the proposal could have a better chance this year than in the past. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, has introduced a similar bill every year since 2013 without success, but says this year’s version, House Bill 1500, could break through. “It just seems like there is a lot more momentum this year than any of the past times I have taken a run at it,” he said, noting support from Inslee, the state’s cannabis industry and organized labor.

HB 1500 would allow anyone with prior convictions for adult misdemeanor marijuana possession to apply to courts for a vacation of those convictions. The courts would be required to grant the requests.

The Washington State Patrol has estimated 226,027 misdemeanor marijuana convictions would qualify for vacation under the proposal. Fitzgibbon noted the number of people eligible might be less than that as some have multiple convictions.

The proposal has drawn criticism from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, whose policy director, James McMahan, testified against it during a public hearing Tuesday before the House Public Safety Committee. “It is a relevant and influential point with us that at the time these convictions were imposed it was illegal. It was against our law. And we as a government and as a society said this is not OK,” McMahan said, noting that some of the misdemeanor convictions had been pleaded down from felonies.

But Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, the prime sponsor of an identical companion measure, Senate Bill 5605, said the Legislature needs to repair damage done by decades of marijuana arrests that disproportionately affected minority communities. Before legalization, black people were 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite being no more likely to use marijuana, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs cannot get behind trying to forgive and forget hundreds of thousands of low-level past marijuana offense. But I am not sure if I am disappointed to learn that so few past offenses are being addressed by Gov Inslee's pardon plan as perhaps the relative inefficacy of that program is playing a role in the legislative push for a much broader expungement statute.

Some of many prior related posts:

February 10, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Interesting early data about the early operations of Ohio's medical marijuana program

Download (4)Though Ohio enacted its medical marijuana law, HB 523, way back in June 2016, the state took quite some time getting its rules and regulations and licenses in place to make the program operational.  But starting about a month ago, a few medical marijuana dispensaries were open for business and a system for registering doctors and patients in the program has been operational for a few months.

This past week, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program Advisory Committee had a meeting at which this powerpoint presentation was shared showing all sorts of interesting data about how this program is now operating. Though I do not think the data is all too dissimilar to what we see in other states recently bringing a medical marijuana programs on-line, I still found these early facts from these PPT slides notable:

  • Medical Marijuana Sales Figures (from January 16 – February 3, 2019) had total sales of $502,961, with total volume of 68.22 pounds

  • Total Patient Recommendations were 17,077, along with 472 Total Caregivers

  • Patients with Veteran Status were 1,284, with Indigent Status were 405, and with a Terminal Diagnosis were 83

  • 10% of Registered patients are aged 18-29, 21% are aged 30-39, 22% are aged 40-49, 22% are aged 50-59, 19% are aged 60-69, and 6% are over 70

  • Registered patients have twenty-one different conditions, with the top five being Spinal cord disease or injury (998 patients), Cancer (1,082), Fibromyalgia (1,973), Post-traumatic stress disorder (2,622), and Pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable (10,910)

  • There are 374 active Certificates To Recommend (CTRs) among physicians, but only 177 physicians have so far issued recommendations for patients

February 9, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Appreciating the problems when weed is allowed to grow like a weed

Marijuana-fieldThe cheeky title of this post is the thought I had in response to the news out of Oregon this past week, discussed in this Quartz piece headlined "Oregon has more legal cannabis than the state can consume in six years."  Here are the details:

In 2018, Oregon’s legal marijuana producers grew more than twice as much as was legally consumed, leading to an oversupply that has 6.5 years’ worth of cannabis, measured by the psychoactive compound THC, on the shelves at dispensaries and wholesale distributors.

The latest data from Oregon, which adopted its legal regime in 2014, was released this week (pdf) by researchers working for Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission, which closely regulates cannabis from production to distribution....

“For Oregon, producing a lot of marijuana is not new news; producing a lot of marijuana that is tracked in the legal system is,” writes Steve Marks, the commission’s executive director.  He notes that the state has garnered $198 million in tax revenue from the first three years of its legal cannabis regime, and that only 45% of estimated Oregon cannabis use is supplied by the medical marijuana market, legal home grows, or the black market.

But the current situation creates a “concern that [legally grown cannabis] may be diverted to the black market and/or out of state given current market conditions (high supply, falling prices, and a huge pipeline of applications for new entrants into the market),” writes Josh Lehner, an economist who works for the state government.

Now the question is whether the state government will take any action to push down supply by increasing producer license fees, limiting the maximum amount of marijuana grown in the state, or capping the number of licenses temporarily or permanently.  The researchers do observe that the 6.5 years’ worth of THC on the shelves is a deceiving estimate, since some is likely to become stale or uncompetitive with new products.

Part of the challenge is that many legal producers are getting into Oregon’s market to lay the groundwork ahead of hoped-for changes in federal laws down the line, especially since Oregon removed a residency requirement for owners.  “Businesses in Oregon’s recreational marijuana market are in some ways analogous to technology start-ups… willing to take the risk of losses today for potential large gains tomorrow,” the report notes. “However, this calculus depends on ‘tomorrow’ not being excessively far in the future and the license remaining in good standing.”

For now, the Oregon oversupply is more an “indication of speculative bets and pending market corrections,” but the longer the situation continues, the more pressure there will be on cannabis startups to make money outside the legal system.

In contrast to many other states, Oregon has relatively few limits on who can get a license to grow for the legal market. And marijuana's nickname "weed" is itself a useful reminder that marijuana is not all that hard to grown and it grows relatively quickly. So, absent certain types of regulation, it is not surprising to see an oversupply of product in the Beaver State.

February 9, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 8, 2019

An effective, reader-friendly primer on "Making Marijuana Legal In New York State"

Download (20)The on-going discussion and debate over marijuana legalization in the Empire State is worth watching closely for numerous reasons, particularly because there is good reason to expect that just about every state in the Northeast would follow New York's lead on any big reforms.   It has also been interesting to see how many valuable reports and other materials have been coming from various governmental players as the discussion moves forward.  I have linked below some prior posts to some prior documents, and this post highlights this new short report from the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) titled simply "Making Marijuana Legal In New York State."  The report's introduction includes these paragraphs:

New York State lawmakers are debating whether to legalize the most widely used illegal drug in the United States, marijuana,and how to do so responsibly. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 44 percent of the population over age 12 (nearly 118 million people) have tried marijuana in their lifetime. Twenty-two million used marijuana in the past month.... 

This report is not a discussion on whether marijuana should be legalized.Rather, it is a review of the challenges and opportunities that may be presented to counties if state lawmakers decide on legalization. Moving marijuana out of the unregulated black market will impact public health,public safety, criminal justice, the economy, and the environment in New York State’s counties. 

What follows is a usefully straight-forward and reader-friendly account of many of the most important issues to consider in the debate over legalization. Folks very familiar with debates over marijuana reform will likely not find anything too surprising in this document, but I was still pleased and impressed to see NYSAC, given its stated mission to "represent, educate and advocate for New York's counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public," doing such a nice job in this space.

Some prior related posts:

February 8, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable new lobbying group, National Cannabis Roundtable, to be chaired by former US House Speaker John Boehner

LogoWhen Acreage Holdings last year announced that former Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner was now on its board of advisors, I was unsure whether Boehner was really interested in being a serious advocate for marijuana reform or was mostly to be a high-profile figurehead in this space. But in November, as noted here, Boehner penned a Wall Street Journal commentary headlined "Washington Needs to Legalize Cannabis." And today comes news that John Boehner is to be the Chair of a new industry lobbying ground calling itself the National Cannabis Roundtable.

This new local press piece and this National Cannabis Roundtable website is all I can find about this new group right now, but the press piece provides a flavor of the group's commitments:

The former lawmaker will also serve as an advisor, not a registered lobbyist, for the roundtable, Boehner said during a phone call with reporters Friday. Boehner said the roundtable will promote changes to federal law that make it easier to research cannabis and for regulated cannabis businesses to operate. Federally, marijuana is an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance, alongside heroin and LSD, is not a top priority for the group....

But Boehner said removing cannabis from Schedule I of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act is not the group's top priority. "It would clearly be a big goal, but I think there are other steps that need to be taken along the way before we get to that," he said....

Boehner said the roundtable's members represent every aspect of the cannabis supply chain, including growers, processors, retailers, wellness centers, investors, entrepreneurs, and publicly traded companies.

The National Cannabis Roundtable website has the following sentences under the heading "Our Mission"

The legal cannabis boom promises to contribute billions of dollars to the US economy over the next decade - creating jobs, advancing new health science and adding momentum to criminal justice reform.

The National Cannabis Roundtable promotes common sense federal regulation, tax equality and financial services reform and supports changing federal law to acknowledge states’ rights to regulate and manage cannabis policy.

I like the reference to "adding momentum to criminal justice reform" in the first sentence, though the second sentence and other factors leads me to suspect that National Cannabis Roundtable will not have criminal justice reform as a focal point of its work.

Prior related posts:

February 8, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

More on the forces that have shaped views on marijuana

Download (6)In this post last month, I blogged  this interesting new paper, titled ""How and why have attitudes about cannabis legalization changed so much?", which was recently published in Social Science Research and was authored by Jacob Felson, Amy Adamczyk and Christopher Thomas. I am not pleased to see that the authors of this research have this new piece at The Conversation under the headline "Why do so many Americans now support legalizing marijuana?". Here are excerpts (with links from the original) from this reader-friendly account of their interesting research:

American views on marijuana have shifted incredibly rapidly. Thirty years ago, marijuana legalization seemed like a lost cause. In 1988, only 24 percent of Americans supported legalization.

But steadily, the nation began to liberalize. By 2018, 66 percent of U.S. residents offered their approval, transforming marijuana legalization from a libertarian fantasy into a mainstream cause. Many state laws have changed as well. Over the last quarter-century, 10 states have legalized recreational marijuana, while 22 states have legalized medical marijuana.

So why has public opinion changed dramatically in favor of legalization? In a study published this February, we examined a range of possible reasons, finding that the media likely had the greatest influence....

What has likely made the biggest difference is how the media has portrayed marijuana. Support for legalization began to increase shortly after the news media began to frame marijuana as a medical issue....

In the 1980s, the vast majority of New York Times stories about marijuana were about drug trafficking and abuse or other Schedule I drugs. At that time, The New York Times was more likely to lump marijuana together in a kind of unholy trinity with cocaine and heroin in discussions about drug smuggling, drug dealers and the like.

During the 1990s, stories discussing marijuana in criminal terms became less prevalent. Meanwhile, the number of articles discussing the medical uses of marijuana slowly increased. By the late 1990s, marijuana was rarely discussed in the context of drug trafficking and drug abuse. And marijuana had lost its association with other Schedule I drugs like cocaine and heroin in the New York Times. Gradually, the stereotypical persona of the marijuana user shifted from the stoned slacker wanting to get high to the aging boomer seeking pain relief....

As Americans became more supportive of marijuana legalization, they also increasingly told survey researchers that the criminal justice system was too harsh.

In the late 1980s, the “war on drugs” and sentencing reform laws put a large number of young men, often black and Latino, behind bars for lengthy periods of time. As Americans started to feel the full social and economic effects of tough-on-crime initiatives, they reconsidered the problems with criminalizing marijuana.

Because support for the legalization of marijuana and concerns about the harshness of the criminal justice system changed at about the same time, it’s difficult to know what came first. Did concern about the harshness of the criminal justice system affect support for legalization – or vice versa?

By contrast, the cause and effect is clearer with respect to the media framing of marijuana. The news media’s portrayal of marijuana began to change shortly before the public did, suggesting that the media influenced support for the legalization of marijuana.

Prior related post:

"How and why have attitudes about cannabis legalization changed so much?"

February 7, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article appearing the jounral Health Affairs and authored by Kevin Boehnke, Saurav Gangopadhyay, Daniel Clauw, and Rebecca Haffajee. Here is its abstract:

The evidence for cannabis’s treatment efficacy across different conditions varies widely, and comprehensive data on the conditions for which people use cannabis are lacking.  We analyzed state registry data to provide nationwide estimates characterizing the qualifying conditions for which patients are licensed to use cannabis medically.  We also compared the prevalence of medical cannabis qualifying conditions to recent evidence from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on cannabis’s efficacy in treating each condition.  Twenty states and the District of Columbia had available registry data on patient numbers, and fifteen states had data on patient-reported qualifying conditions.

Chronic pain is currently and historically the most common qualifying condition reported by medical cannabis patients (64.9 percent in 2016).  Of all patient-reported qualifying conditions, 85.5 percent had either substantial or conclusive evidence of therapeutic efficacy.  As medical cannabis use continues to increase, creating a nationwide patient registry would facilitate better understanding of trends in use and of its potential effectiveness.

February 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)