Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"An Argument Against Regulating Cannabis Like Alcohol"

The title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Jonathan R. Elsner, who just recently graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. This paper is now the fifth of an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The first four papers in this series are linked below.)  Here is this latest paper's abstract:

As cannabis prohibition comes to an end in the United States, federal and state governments must decide how to regulate its cultivation, distribution, and sales.  One particular option, supported by some alcohol wholesalers and distributors, is a regulatory system based on that of the alcohol industry, whereby the government mandates a distribution system consisting of three mutually exclusive tiers: manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.  This paper, however, argues against creating a regulatory framework for the nascent adult-use cannabis industry modeled after the government-mandated, three-tier distribution system established for alcohol post-Prohibition as it inherently stifles innovation and quality.

Essentially, the three-tier distribution system creates an unnatural layer of government-mandated middlemen, distributors and wholesalers, who perpetuate market inefficiencies that benefit themselves, along with large corporations, to the detriment of consumers and small-to-medium-sized businesses.  The beer industry, now dominated by two breweries offering largely undifferentiated products, provides a cautionary tale regarding the effects of the three-tier distribution system to those developing the regulatory structure for the adult-use cannabis industry.

Prior student papers in this series:

May 29, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arizona Supreme Court clarifies that state medical marijuana law includes resins and hashish

Last year, an intermediate appellate court in Arizona ruled that a medical marijuana patient could still be criminal prosecuted for possession of hashish because, in the court's view, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act retained a distinction between cannabis and marijuana and preserved the criminality of the former.  But yesterday, in Arizona v. Jones, No. CR-18-0370-PR (Ariz. May 28, 2019) (available here), the Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously that "AMMA’s definition of marijuana includes both its dried-leaf/flower form and extracted resin, including hashish."  Here is an excerpt from the tail end of the opinion:

AMMA appeared on the 2010 ballot as Proposition 203.  The accompanying ballot materials stated Proposition 203’s purpose was to “protect patients with debilitating medical conditions . . . from arrest and prosecution” for their “medical use of marijuana.” Ariz. Sec’y of State, 2010 Publicity Pamphlet 73 (2010).  Proposition 203 was intended to allow the use of marijuana in connection with a wide array of debilitating medical conditions, including “cancer, glaucoma, . . . amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, [and] agitation of Alzheimer’s disease,” including “relief [from] nausea, vomiting and other side effects of drugs” used to treat debilitating conditions.  Id. It is implausible that voters intended to allow patients with these conditions to use marijuana only if they could consume it in dried-leaf/flower form.  Such an interpretation would preclude the use of marijuana as an option for those for whom smoking or consuming those parts of the marijuana plants would be ineffective or impossible. Consistent with voter intent, our interpretation enables patients to use medical marijuana to treat their debilitating medical conditions, in whatever form best suits them, so long as they do not possess more than the allowable amount....

We hold that the definition of marijuana in § 36-2801(8) includes resin, and by extension hashish, and that § 36-2811(B)(1) immunizes the use of such marijuana consistent with AMMA.  We reverse the trial court’s ruling denying Jones’s motion to dismiss, vacate the court of appeals’ opinion, and vacate Jones’s convictions and sentences.

May 29, 2019 in Court Rulings, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Split Colorado Supreme Court gives notable new interpretation of limits on drug-sniffing searches due to marijuana legalization

ImgLast week, the Colorado Supreme issued a lengthy split ruling in Colorado v. McKnight, 2019 CO 36 (Col. May 20, 2019) (available here) which concludes that the state's marijuana reform initiative impacted criminal procedure rules related to drug-detection dog sniffs.  The court's ruling is summarized this way before the lengthy majority and dissenting opinions begins:

In this opinion, the supreme court considers the impact of the legalization of small amounts of marijuana for adults who are at least twenty-one years old on law enforcement’s use of drug-detection dogs that alert to marijuana when conducting an exploratory sniff of an item or area.

The supreme court holds that a sniff from a drug-detection dog that is trained to alert to marijuana constitutes a search under the Colorado Constitution because that sniff can detect lawful activity, namely the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults twenty-one and older.  The supreme court further holds that, in Colorado, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that an item or area contains a drug in violation of state law before deploying a drug-detection dog that alerts to marijuana for an exploratory sniff.

The supreme court concludes by determining that there was no probable cause in this case to justify the sniff of the defendant’s truck by a drug-detection dog trained to alert to marijuana, and thus, the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.  The supreme court further concludes that the appropriate remedy for this violation of the Colorado Constitution is the exclusion of the evidence at issue.  Thus, the supreme court affirms the court of appeals’ decision to reverse McKnight’s judgment of conviction.

This lengthy local press report about the ruling provides lots of context about how much is contested about this ruling. The extended headline of the press piece highlights its themes: "Did the Colorado Supreme Court just throw the state’s marijuana-legalization regime into question? The chief justice seems to think so. A case about drug-sniffing dogs could turn into a watershed moment in Colorado marijuana law. Or not. Legal experts are split."

May 28, 2019 in Court Rulings, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Half-Baked: The Science and Politics of Legal Pot"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Joelle Anne Moreno and now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Weed, herb, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, hash oil, sinsemilla, budder, and shatter.  Marijuana – whether viewed as a medicine or intoxicant – is fast becoming a part of everyday life, with the CDC reporting 7,000 new users every day and the American market projected to grow to $20 billion by 2020.  Based on early campaign rhetoric, by that same year the U.S. could have a pro-marijuana president.

Despite its growing acceptance and popularity, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  Like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, marijuana is a DEA Schedule I drug reflecting a Congressional determination that marijuana is both overly addictive and medically useless.

So what is the truth about pot?  The current massive pro-marijuana momentum and increased use, obscures the fact that we still know almost nothing about marijuana’s treatment and palliative potential.  Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is THC; but it also contains over 500 other chemicals with unknown physiological and psychological effects that vary based on dosage and consumption method.  Medical marijuana may be legal in 32 states and supported by 84% of Americans, but federal constraints shield marijuana from basic scientific inquiry.  This means that lawmakers and voters are enthusiastically supporting greater access to a drug without demanding critical scientific data.  For policymaking purposes, this data should include marijuana’s short and long-term brain effects, possible lung and cardiac implications, chemical interactions with alcohol and other drugs, addiction risks, pregnancy and breast-feeding concerns, and the effects of secondhand smoke.

This Article treats marijuana as a significant contemporary science and law problem.  It focuses on the fundamental question of regulating a substance that has not been adequately researched.  The Article examines the extant scientific data, deficiencies, and inconsistencies and explains why legislators should not rely on copycat laws governing alcohol or prescription narcotics.  It also explores how marijuana’s hybrid federal (illegality)/state (legality) raises compelling theoretical and practical Constitutional questions of preemption, the anti-commandeering rule, and congressional spending power.  Marijuana legalization has, thus far, been treated as a niche academic concern.  This approach is short-sighted and narrowminded.  Marijuana regulation implicates the reach of national drug policy, the depth of state sovereignty, and the shared obligation to ensure the health and safety of our citizenry.

May 22, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

New research suggests CBD can reduce craving and anxiety for those with heroin use disorder

Long-time readers know I have long been covering the (never-quite-clear) connection between modern marijuana reform and the modern opioid crisis.  (Just some of many, many prior posts on this front are linked below.)   Today brings notable research news on this front, which is already getting a lot of attention from the mainstream press in articles from CNN, from NBC News, from Newsweek, and from US News & World Report, among others.  All these stories are about a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry from multiple authors under this catchy title: "Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial."  Here is the study's abstract:

Objective:

Despite the staggering consequences of the opioid epidemic, limited nonopioid medication options have been developed to treat this medical and public health crisis. This study investigated the potential of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonintoxicating phytocannabinoid, to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety, two critical features of addiction that often contribute to relapse and continued drug use, in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder.

Methods:

This exploratory double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed the acute (1 hour, 2 hours, and 24 hours), short-term (3 consecutive days), and protracted (7 days after the last of three consecutive daily administrations) effects of CBD administration (400 or 800 mg, once daily for 3 consecutive days) on drug cue–induced craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder. Secondary measures assessed participants’ positive and negative affect, cognition, and physiological status.

Results:

Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue–induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.

Conclusions:

CBD’s potential to reduce cue-induced craving and anxiety provides a strong basis for further investigation of this phytocannabinoid as a treatment option for opioid use disorder.

Some (of many) prior related posts:

May 21, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

NFL perhaps ready for new approach to marijuana as it agrees to explore use of drug for pain management

Download (25)Though he graduated from law school earlier this month,  Lucian Lungu, a helpful student from my marijuana seminar this past semester, made sure that I did not miss this week's interest news emerging from the NFL.  Indeed, Lucian was kind enough to draft this guest post covering the news with some links:

The National Football League (NFL), widely regarded as the strictest on marijuana among the four major, professional sports leagues, has seemingly began to actually move toward, possibly, implementing a new marijuana policy.  On May 20, 2019, the NFL and NFL Players Association released a press release (available here) detailing the formation of two new committees concentrating on pain management  and mental health care.  The pain management news, as explained below, related to its marijuana policy.

The Joint Pain Management Committee will seemingly attempt to provide a solution for the widespread, dangerous, although legal, use of prescription drugs in the NFL by creating new league-wide regulations as well as a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.  (The problematic use of prescription drugs should be a reason in itself for the NFL to soften its marijuana policy.)  In addition, this Committee will also engage in pain management and alternative therapy research, which includes “look[ing] at marijuana,” according to Allen Sills, NFL Chief Medical Officer.  Additionally, every team will have a Pain Management Specialist who will work with players based on their individualized needs.

If a new marijuana policy gets adopted, it will almost certainly occur during negotiations on the next collective bargaining agreement in 2021.  Nevertheless, this latest development is a great step forward for a league whose commissioner, just three years ago when asked about the NFL's restrictive policy, state that, “we believe it’s the correct policy, for now …”  It looks like the “for now” period has passed, and major changes could be coming to a league in dire need of an adjustment.

 

May 21, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

New issue brief calls for "Using Marijuana Revenue to Create Jobs"

Download (25)As detailed in this press release, yesterday "the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief calling for states and the federal government to use marijuana tax revenue to fund the creation of thousands of public sector jobs in low-income communities of color that have been historically deprived of economic opportunity due to discriminatory drug enforcement."  Here is more from the release:

The issue brief proposes a tangible way to pay for the creation of jobs in communities that have experienced the heaviest consequences of disparate criminal enforcement of marijuana.  The authors calculate that annual tax revenues from the regulated marijuana market in California and Washington state, for example, could create nearly 20,000 jobs.  This number is sure to increase as more and more Americans — 68 percent, according to a 2018 CAP/GBAO Strategies poll — favor marijuana legalization and more states consider legalizing the recreational use of marijuana as well as creating a regulated marijuana market.

The proposal is an outgrowth of CAP’s 2018 report, “Blueprint for the 21st Century: A Plan for Better Jobs and Stronger Communities,” which called for a massive investment in public sector  job creation and a jobs guarantee for highly distressed communities.

The brief further describes the need to ensure that any marijuana legalization effort leads with provisions that ensure racial equity and correct injustices that have resulted from the war on drugs.  Key recommendations include providing automatic and cost-free expungements of marijuana arrest and conviction records; reinvesting in essential services for communities most harmed by the war on drugs; and promoting equitable licensing systems and funding for minority-owned businesses.  These measures would greatly help people who face barriers to economic opportunity, employment, and other basic necessities due to the collateral consequences of a marijuana-related conviction.

The full eight-page issue brief is titled “Using Marijuana Revenue to Create Jobs” and is authored by Maritza Perez, Olugbenga Ajilore, and Ed Chung. Here is its conclusion:

Today, states are raking in billion-dollar profits for activity that sent millions of African American and Latinx individuals into the criminal justice system, trapping their families and communities in poverty for generations.  The movement to legalize marijuana presents an opportunity both to achieve justice for and to build economic opportunity in these communities.  Creating public sector jobs and other policies outlined in this issue brief acknowledge the economic impact that the war on drugs has had on low-income people of color.  With these policies, elected leaders can begin to address the structural barriers that states must rupture so that individuals from some of their most vulnerable communities have equal access to economic opportunity.

May 21, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Encouraging research on "Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide"

Download (24)I just saw a report on this notable research reporting on the relationship between marijuana reform and suicide in California in the years before and after the legalization of medicial marijuana in 1996.  Just published in the Archives of Suicide Research, this article is titled " "Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide," and is authored by Bradley J. Bartos, Charis E. Kubrin, Carol Newark & Richard McCleary.  Here is the article's abstract: 

Objective: To estimate the causal effect of a medical marijuana initiative on suicide risk.  In 1996, California legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. Implementation was abrupt and uniform, presenting a “natural experiment.”

Method:  Total, gun and non-gun suicides were aggregated by state for the years 1970-2004.  California’s control time series was constructed as a weighted combination of the 41 states that did not legalize marijuana during the time-frame.  Post-intervention differences for California and its constructed control time-series were interpreted as the effects of the medical marijuana law on suicide. Significance of the effects were assessed with permutation tests.

Results: The 1996 legalization resulted in mean annual reductions of 398.9 total suicides, 208 gun suicides, and 135 non-gun suicides.  The effect estimates for total and gun suicides were statistically significant (p<.05) but the effect estimate for non-gun suicides was not (p≥.488).

Conclusions: Since the effect for non-gun suicides was indistinguishable from chance, we infer that the overall causal effect was realized through gun suicides.  The mechanism could not be determined, however.  Participation in the medical marijuana program legally disqualifies participants from purchasing guns.  But since most suicides involve guns, it is possible the effect on total suicide is driven by gun suicide alone.

May 21, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2019

"Marijuana in the Workplace: Distinguishing Between On-Duty and Off-Duty Consumption"

The  title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Tyler G. Aust, who just recently graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This  paper is now the four of what will be an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The first three papers in this series are linked below.) Here is this latest paper's abstract:

The proliferation of legal marijuana foretells an uncertain future for businesses that implement zero-tolerance drug policies.  In states where recreational marijuana is legal, businesses still have the power to enforce drug policies through employment contracts.  That changed in Maine, where state law prohibits employers from making adverse employment decisions based solely on an employee’s off-duty use of marijuana.  As legalization efforts sweep across the Midwest, it is unclear whether other states will follow Maine’s model.  Some businesses have already relaxed pre employment marijuana testing amid labor shortages.  To prepare for the future, employers should revise their drug policies to distinguish between on-duty and off-duty marijuana consumption and allow employees to use marijuana outside of the workplace.

Prior student papers in this series:

May 20, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fitting headlines mark the many challenges of the next era of modern marijuana reforms

There is so much media coverage of so many marijuana related issues that I barely have time to keep up with my reading, let alone blog about all the interesting stories.  (E.g., I keep meaning to blog about the New York Times Magazine's CBD cover story.)  But in the last day, I saw three lengthy and connected stories that relate to the intersection of marijuana reform, politics and social justice that seems to have come now to define the realities and challenges of this space.  The headlines of the three pieces help capture the themes:

In addition to recommending all these pieces, I will seek to summarize them by just saying it has always been clear to me that effective and sound legal reform in this space is very, very hard and calls for lots and lots of folks working very, very hard to get it as right as possible from the outset and then continuing to work very, very hard to assess and refine reform regimes. 

May 20, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Noting diverse employment law realities for medical marijuana users in diverse states

Governing has this effective new piece on employment law's intersection with marijuana reforms under the headline "Can Medical Marijuana Get You Fired? Depends on the State." The subheadline highlights a theme of the piece: "Less than half of the states where the drug treatment is legal protect patients from employment discrimination. Courts have generally sided with employers -- until recently." Here are excerpts:

In most states, you can use medical marijuana without getting arrested -- but it could still get you fired.  While 33 states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, fewer than half of them protect patients from being fired or rejected for a job because of a positive cannabis test or simply because they're registered on a medical marijuana database.  This legal haziness has sparked lawsuits across the country.

Courts have generally sided with employers, says Peter Meyers, a law professor at George Washington University.  This was the case in 2006 in Oregon and in 2009 in Montana.  More recently, however, judges have shifted their verdicts in favor of employees.  In New Jersey last month, an appeals court ruled that medical marijuana use is covered under the state's ban on disability-based employment discrimination.  This case follows similar rulings in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As more states legalize the drug treatment, the battle will continue in the workplace.

“The big problem is [marijuana] remains illegal federally except for narrow exceptions,” says Meyers, who has written about the constitutionality of drug testing. “There’s this conflict, and a lot of the court rulings have deferred to federal law. It’s a very confusing situation.”  The legal contradiction has left a lot of employers, and employees, uncertain about what rules to follow.

Bipartisan legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination has been introduced in Congress, but it only applies to federal workers and has yet to gain traction. With the federal government unlikely to change its marijuana policy any time soon, states are left to make their own rules.  In 14 of them, medical marijuana patients have explicit employment protections either through legislation or court rulings, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

That leaves 19 states where people may have to choose between this treatment option and a job.  One of them is California, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996, but doesn't have explicit workplace protections.  The state Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that an employer could reject a job candidate with a positive cannabis test -- even if they had a prescription.  Bills seeking to override that decision have been tossed around without success.

Even where employment protections exist, they have limitations.  Arkansas law, for example, says an employer can't discriminate based on a person’s past or present status as a marijuana patient.  But companies can still ban employees from taking it at work.  In Oklahoma, employers can't penalize employees or applicants for a positive drug test -- unless failing to penalize someone would cause the employer to “imminently lose a monetary- or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulation.”...

Despite the widespread legalization of medical cannabis, there are a number of reasons employers pause when it comes to having people who use it on their staff.  Some aren't fully aware of their state's protections, and others might fear losing out on federal funding.  “A lot of people are concerned about whether marijuana users will be less productive [at] work or if there will be more workplace accidents,” says Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

But unlike many other drugs, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can be detected for 30 days or longer after use, so workplace drug tests don't necessarily portray a person’s current level of impairment.  As medical marijuana becomes less taboo, more employers will likely change their drug policies.  Already, fewer employers -- particularly those facing staff shortages -- are requesting preemployment tests for marijuana.

May 17, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Harm Reduction in Domestic Violence: Does Marijuana Make Assaults Safer?"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper now available via SSRN authored by Jacob Kaplan and Li Sian Goh.  Here is its abstract:

While all forms of domestic violence can be uniquely traumatizing, incidents resulting in serious injury can lead to lasting physical, mental, and financial consequences for the victim.  Hence, it is surprising that most literature on the effects of policy intervention on domestic violence treats such incidents as homogeneous rather than considering differing levels of victim injury.  This study provides evidence that decriminalization of marijuana leads to substantial declines in victim injury.  Among domestic violence assaults where the victim suffered a serious injury, there was a significant decline in incidents where the offender was under the influence of alcohol or used a weapon.

May 15, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interesting data on marijuana arrests in DC after 2014 legalization initiative

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The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia has this notable new report titled "Racial Disparities In D.C. Policing: Descriptive Evidence From 2013–2017," which includes a section on marijuana arrests. Here is what this report reports (with some added emphasis):

Passed in 2014, Initiative 71 made it legal for people to possess, use, grow, and share small quantities of marijuana.  The law does not authorize individuals to consume marijuana in public or sell the drug to other people.  As a result, public consumption and distribution remains illegal.

The marijuana statute became effective in February 2015 and, that year, the overall number of arrests for marijuana-related offenses plummeted, from 1,747 arrests in 2014 to just 216 arrests in 2015.  The drop was largely driven by the reduction in arrests for marijuana possession.

However, while arrests for marijuana possession remained low, the number of arrests for public consumption of marijuana has been steadily increasing, particularly for Black people.  After marijuana legalization, consumption arrests briefly declined before starting to rise, increasing from 79 arrests in 2015 to 217 in 2017.  Arrests for that offense are racially skewed: even though white and Black D.C. residents use marijuana at similar rates, Black individuals comprised 80% of the individuals arrested for marijuana consumption from 2015–2017.

This disparity could stem from officers’ racial bias.  Alternatively, the disparity could be the result of another statute that makes it illegal to do in public what is legal to do in private — thereby penalizing those who have less access to private property.  These explanations could also work in tandem. No matter the cause, the consequence of the current marijuana regime is that Black people are ensnared in the criminal justice system at disproportionate rates for what the D.C. government agrees is a minor offense.

I understand the continued concern, as expressed here, that even after marijuana legalization "Black people are ensnared in the criminal justice system at disproportionate rates."  But I think the dramatic decline in the total number of marijuana arrests is the much bigger story and one that cannot be emphasized too much.  Because even the most minor of drug convictions or even just arrest can have profound impact on all sorts of future employment, schooling and housing opportunities, a yearly reduction of 1500 arrests means (somewhat invisible) yearly improvements in 1500 lives (and all those touched by those lives) thanks to marijuana reform.

May 15, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lots of notable green coverage in lots of sections of the Gray Lady

My east coast roots (and bias?) has long led me to look at the New York Times as the "paper of record" in so many ways (and that thinking led me to view as so important  the 2014 New York Times editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana).  But the biggest developments in the marijuana reform space have taken place in other regions, and so other papers, especially the Denver Post and the Boston Globe, have been much more at the forefront of marijuana coverage.

But the Gray Lady seems to be keeping pace with marijuana developments these days, and some headlines from distinct section of the paper this past week highlights all the angles the paper is now covering:

From the local section, "Marijuana Legalization Hits a Wall: First in New Jersey, Then in New York"

From the U.S. section,"Attorneys General From 33 States Urge Pot Banking Reform"

From the "Mind" section, "The Stoner as Gym Rat"

From the "Style" section, "Design’s New Leaf"

And, interestingly, the NYT is also now soliciting tales to tell via this "Reader Center" quesy: "How Has Colorado’s Legalization of Marijuana Affected You? Help us better understand how Coloradans are adapting to their state’s legalization of pot."

Of course, the Gray Lady has not quite yet turned into Marijuana Moment.  But it is still interesting to see the stories it is deciding to cover in this space, and encouraging that they are eager to inquire further.

May 14, 2019 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Second installment of Ohio State Cannabiz Roundtable scheduled for May 16

Roundtable-2-1024x492As noted in this post, in January I had the opportunity to participate in an exciting cannabis industry panel discussion, co-sponsored by the Ohio State Drug Enforcement & Policy Center (DEPC), under the heading "Cannabiz Roundtable."   This coming week, on Thursday, May 16 and as detailed here, another set of cannabis industry participants are part of another DEPC discussion this time titled "Cannabiz Roundtable: Industry Diversity & Legislative Updates."

The event is described at this link, where one can find this event description:

About

The legal landscape of the cannabis industry continues to change both at the state and federal level, creating continuous challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Ohio. At the same time, the cannabis industry is facing a challenge of ensuring that it reflects the diversity of our community and that communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs benefit from opportunities in the legal industry. Please join us for our second Business of Cannabis Roundtable where we will host two panels discussing both issues.

Building Industry Diversity

As in many other states, the cannabis industry in Ohio is challenged with ensuring that it reflects the diversity of its community. Despite increased attention among the industry professionals and government entities alike, companies continue to struggle with recruiting, training and retaining a diverse workforce. Please join our panel of industry professionals as they discuss their own experience of entering this new industry, resources that are available for training and recruitment and strategies for building a diverse industry.

Legislative Updates

Our second panel will focus on legislative and regulatory updates in respect to Ohio’s medical marijuana program and Ohio’s treatment of hemp and CBD. Given the recent changes in the federal law, our panel of experts will discuss what changes are afoot in Ohio and how will these changes affect the cannabis industry.

Hosts

Center for Innovation Strategies

Drug Enforcement and Policy Center

Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce

May 16th, 2019, starting at 4pm, at the Ohio Union round Meeting Room (3rd Floor)

May 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Late votes lead to surprise passage of Denver's initiative to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Despite early vote counts suggesting a close defeat of a Denver initiative to decriminalize hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms, the final vote count showed that the initiative squeaked out a victory.  This local article, headlined  "Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms," provides the details:

Denver is poised to become the first city in the nation to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

After closing an early vote deficit Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results posted late in the afternoon showed a reversal of fortune — with Initiative 301 set to pass narrowly with 50.6 percent of the vote. The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against, a margin of 1,979. The Denver Elections Division will continue accepting military and overseas ballots, but typically those numbers are small. Results will be certified May 16....

Denver’s vote has attracted national attention. While efforts are afoot to get psilocybin-related measures on the ballot in Oregon and California in 2020, Denver hosted the first-ever U.S. popular vote on the matter, according to organizers. An earlier effort in California last year failed to qualify for the ballot.

Though Initiative 301 attracted no organized opposition, critics of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana lamented the prospect of Denver blazing yet another trail they see as misguided and potentially harmful. The measure essentially tells police to look the other way on adult psilocybin use....

Supporters extolled emerging research showing potential health benefits with psychedelic mushrooms. The measure likely was put over the top by younger voters, who tend to cast their ballots closer to or on Election Day, even though all registered voters receive their ballots in the mail about three weeks earlier.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” designation for its potential to help with treatment-resistant depression, a status that speeds up the development and review process for a medicine containing the substance.

As written, I-301 directs police via ordinance to treat enforcement of laws against possession of psilocybin mushrooms as their lowest priority.

It’s similar to decriminalization measures approved by Denver voters for marijuana years before Colorado’s Amendment 64 won statewide approval....

Psychedelic mushrooms still would remain illegal to buy, sell or possess, with the latter crime a felony that carries a potential punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine. But Initiative 301 backers hope to lower the risk users face of getting caught with mushrooms.

Past marijuana efforts are instructive, though. Denver voters signed off on decriminalization measures in 2005 and 2007, but that didn’t stop police from enforcing the law — though drug law-liberalization advocates say the public discussion prompted by the ballot initiatives helped pave the way for statewide legalization in 2012.

May 8, 2019 in Initiative reforms in states, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Intellectual Property Survey: Cannabis Plant Types, Methods of Extraction, IP Protection, and One Patent That Could Ruin It All"

The  title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Amanda Maxfield, who is a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This is the third of what will be an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The first paper in the series was authored by Shelby Slaven under the title "The Canna(business) of Higher Education, the second paper in the series was authored by Jordan Hoffman under the title "Marijuana Banking in New York and Around the US: 'Swim at Your Own Risk'.").  Here is this latest paper's abstract:

Intellectual property is one of a company’s most valuable assets, at times deserving rigorous time and effort for proper protection.  Companies rely on patent, trade secret, trademark and copyright laws to protect their intellectual property.  For most businesses, this process is routine and a standard part of their ordinary course of business.  Cannabis companies, unfortunately, have many obstacles to overcome to use some of these same protections, as cannabis is considered federally illegal, yet legalized in many states to varying degrees. 
Cannabis companies must, therefore, be innovative and nuanced in their strategies for protecting their proprietary business information such as patentable subject matter through the use of patents and trade secrets.  The method of intellectual property protection is driven by the subject matter.  Cannabis growers target specific plant types based on cannabidiol (“CBD”) and delta-9-tetrohydrocannabinol (“THC”) ratios and desired characteristics using specific method of extraction, all of which are patentable if legal elements are met.  Unfortunately, while the cannabis industry is an emerging market with plenty of growth ahead of it, an ongoing Colorado court case involving liquids containing cannabinoids that could result in major negative ramifications for all involved in the cannabis industry.

May 7, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Denver voters seem to reject initiative seeking to decriminalize "magic mushrooms"

Matryoshka-516281_19202As reported in this article, headlined "Denver Measure to Decrim Magic Mushrooms Trailing in Returns," it appears that voters in the Mil High City are not quite ready to pioneer a new front in the drug reform movement.  Here are the basics:

A Denver initiative that would have made it the first city in the country to decriminalize hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms was trailing in the polls as early results were announced Tuesday night. The measure was losing, 54% to 45%, in early election returns on Tuesday night. As of 8:30 p.m., Initiative 301 was down by 54% to 45%, a margin of more than 8,600 votes.

The measure would have decriminalized possession and use of the drug — which remains classified as a Schedule I substance by the U.S. government — within city limits, which advocates said would have opened up the potential health benefits of hallucinogenics.

Research from Johns Hopkins University found that psilocybin showed benefits for depression and anxiety; other research has shown that it showed benefits for addiction, cluster headaches and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kevin Matthews, a stay-at-home dad and campaign manager for Decriminalize Denver, the campaign for Initiative 301, spoke to supporters just after results poured in and offered an optimistic message. “This is not over yet,” he said. “We all know that this goes way beyond Denver,” he added. “Right now this thing is a coast-to-coast movement.”...

Attention will now turn to other progressive cities. Advocates in Oakland, CA, are working on their own psychedelic decriminalization ballot measure, and a campaign in Oregon seeks to put a magic mushroom measure before voters in the 2020 election.

Supporters were hopeful that Denver, which became the first city to decriminalize cannabis in 2005, could be the standard bearer for hallucinogenic legalization as well. The 2005 vote eventually led to the state legalizing recreational marijuana seven years later, setting off a wave of legalization across the country.

May 7, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 3, 2019

"Clearing the Air About Marijuana in Qualified Opportunity Zones"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting short piece that is available on SSRN and is a reprint from the Tax Management Real Estate Journal.  The piece is authored by Libin Zhang, and here its abstract:

The law formerly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created qualified opportunity zones (QOZs), which are low-income census tracts in which certain investments by qualified opportunity funds (QOFs) are provided tax benefits.  The investments generally cannot include any golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, racetrack or other facility used for gambling, or store the principal business of which is the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off premises (some practitioners refer to such businesses as "sin businesses," but this article uses the non-judgmental and less anti-golf term of "excluded business.")

Some commentators have stirred the pot by questioning the extent that QOFs can be involved in marijuana businesses.  While the QOZ rules have their hazy areas, the excluded businesses should not include marijuana activities.

However, section 280E may disallow deductions for taxpayers that buy and sell marijuana. QOFs should ensure that they deal with marijuana in a different capacity, such as in a real estate rental business, in order to ensure that their deductions do not go up in smoke.

May 3, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Shouldn't every major marijuana investor make major investments in marijuana research?

Research-data-analysisThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable story out of Boston headlined "Harvard, MIT share $9 million gift to study marijuana's health effects." Here are the interesting details:

An investor in the cannabis industry has donated $9 million to Harvard and MIT to study the drug’s health effects, in what the institutions describe as the largest private gift to support marijuana research in the United States.  The Broderick Fund for Phytocannabinoid Research, announced Tuesday morning, will be shared equally by Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the goal of filling vast gaps in the understanding of how marijuana affects the brain and behavior.

“The lack of basic science research enables people to make claims in a vacuum that are either anecdotal or based on old science,” said the donor, Charles R. “Bob” Broderick, an alumnus of both universities. “For generations we haven’t been able to study this thing for various sorts of societal reasons. That should end now, as well as the prohibitions that are falling around the world.”

Broderick has invested heavily in the booming marijuana business, starting in Canada in 2015 and more recently the United States, through his family-run Uji Capital. Although Broderick stands to profit if the studies find benefits from marijuana, the universities and the researchers said the donor will have no say in the work process or its results. They also pledged to publish their findings even if they find marijuana doesn’t help or causes harm.

Broderick recalled the first time he raised the idea of funding cannabis research with a Harvard development officer: “There was silence on the other end. Then she said, ‘I don’t think we do it.’ And I said, ‘That’s the problem.’ ” The official soon called back to say that Harvard researchers studying brain chemicals would be interested in examining marijuana’s effects.

Dr. Igor Grant, a longtime California marijuana researcher who is not involved with the Harvard-MIT project, said the grant “will really let them move forward with research that has been difficult to fund.”

“The work in this area has been very, very slow coming,” said Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego.

“This is exactly the type of research we need,” said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a Massachusetts primary care doctor and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, a group promoting legalization and regulation of marijuana. Whether for or against marijuana, Grinspoon said, “Everybody wants more research.” The marijuana studies to date vary in quality, often have conflicting results, and typically involve either purified extracts or smoked marijuana — not the gummies, cookies, vapor, oils, or highly potent buds that people consume today....

Until recently researchers could work only with marijuana grown at a federal farm in Mississippi, whose plants are less potent than those purchased at dispensaries in states where the drug is legal. But John Gabrieli, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and one of the grant recipients, said “a fast-changing regulatory environment” is allowing access to better material.

The MIT researchers intend to use extracts from the plants to tease out the effects of marijuana in people with schizophrenia — about half of whom are heavy cannabis users, Gabrieli said. The researchers want to pursue intriguing evidence that a component in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, improves cognitive function in people with schizophrenia. They will look at how THC as well as another key component — cannabidiol, or CBD — affect cognition alone and in combination.

Another MIT researcher will study how chronic exposure to THC and CBD may alter the cell types implicated in schizophrenia, potentially shedding light on why teens who use cannabis are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and why the drug may be more dangerous for teens than adults.

Other studies at MIT will examine whether marijuana ingredients can help people with autism and with Huntington’s disease, and will study the effects of cannabis ingredients on attention and working memory. It’s been “incredibly hard” to get funding for marijuana research, Gabrieli said. “It’s been illegal all over the place until very recently. Without the philanthropic boost, it could take many years to work through all these issues.”

At Harvard, the $4.5 million gift establishes the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative, involving some 30 basic scientists and clinicians at the medical school and its affiliated hospitals. The Harvard team plans to study the effects of marijuana ingredients on brain cell function and the connections between brain cells, testing purified ingredients on mice and rats.

Researchers at Harvard have been studying natural brain chemicals known as endocannabinoids, which are involved in a variety of functions, including memory, appetite, and stress response. The grant will enable them to expand that research to encompass cannabinoids derived from plants. “Marijuana has about 100 different cannabinoid compounds. We understand very little about the specific effects of each of them on the nervous system,” said Bruce Bean, Harvard neurobiology professor and one of the project’s researchers....

The research, however, is funded by someone who could profit if the findings are favorable or lose money if new dangers are discovered.  Could knowing this somehow, even unconsciously, bias the results?  Josephine Johnston, director of research at the Hastings Center, a think tank concerned with bioethics, said such conflicts of interest are commonplace. “In a pure world, you wouldn’t have a situation like this.  But it’s pretty much a fact of life of biomedical research in the United States that you have interested parties funding research,” said Johnston, co-editor of a book on conflicts of interest in biomedical research. Institutions can enact safeguards to ensure both that the research is unbiased and that it’s perceived as trustworthy.

Both MIT and Harvard said they have such policies in place, requiring that gifts come without strings attached and that researchers have control over their work and its publication.  Grant, the California marijuana researcher, agreed that conflict of interest is an important concern. But, he added, if people profiting from the marijuana boom invest in science, “maybe that’s not a bad thing. They could just as easily buy yachts or do something else.”

Because I am a kind of marijuana researcher (focused on law and social science, rather than medical science), I realize I have a bias when suggesting that everyone involved in the marijuana industry ought to be funding academic marijuana research.  Also, as a director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University, I am sensitive to the concern that research funded by the marijuana industry or investors carries real conflict risks that can come with any private funding of public research. 

All that said, this article helps highlight just some of the many reasons why a lot more private funding (and a lot more public funding) is needed for all sorts of marijuana research.  There are many times I end up feeling truly overwhelmed by all the important research questions that arise in this space and all the formal and informal barriers to conducting all the needed research.   And especially with so many legal and social changes in this space, this period seems like an "all hands on deck" moment.  And I do not think it is misguided to believe that everyone involved in the marijuana industry and especially its investors ought to be swabbing the deck as best they can.

May 1, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)