Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Ohio 2020 ballot initiative, "An Amendment to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol," officially filed

As noted in this post, last week news broke that  there was in the works a serious attempt to bring a full marijuana legalization initiative to Ohio voters in 2020.  This local press piece, headlined "Ohio 2020 recreational marijuana legalization measure filed: 5 things to know," report on that effort and (some of) what we all need to know.  Here are excerpts:

The latest effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio stems from frustration with Ohio's nearly four-year-old medical marijuana law. Supporters of the measure include at least two medical marijuana businesses, a medical marijuana patient, a mother of twins with autism – a condition excluded from the program – and advocates for recommending cannabis in place of opioids.

Supporters of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Amendment turned in the petition summary language and an initial 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general on Monday. This is the first step in a months-long process to qualify for the November ballot. The constitutional amendment would allow adults over age 21 to buy, possess, consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana....

Tom Haren, a Northeast Ohio attorney representing supporters, said there were several catalysts in the medical program that led to the new adult use measure. "If you're a patient in Ohio, it's hard to participate in Ohio's medical marijuana program," said Haren, who has also represented medical marijuana licensees. "We were promised a program that worked." Haren confirmed Pure Ohio Wellness, a cultivator and dispensary operator in Springfield and Dayton, and Galenas, a small-scale grower in Akron, are backing the measure. Haren said other medical marijuana businesses support it but declined to name them on Monday.

The Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which represents 14 Ohio companies, is not supporting the measure. “We’re focused on the medical program and at this time are not backing a recreational initiative,” association associate director Thomas Rosenberger said.

The purchase and possession limit in the amendment is 1 ounce, with no more than 8 grams of concentrate. Adults could grow up to six plants (limit of three flowering plants) in an enclosed area – home grow is not allowed in the medical marijuana program. The state's nascent medical marijuana program would remain in place, and state officials would have to ensure patients still have access to products.

The amendment wouldn't change laws against driving under the influence of marijuana or employers' rights to prohibit employee marijuana use....

The 118 medical marijuana licensees could operate as recreational businesses on July 1, 2021, according to the amendment. The Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees medical marijuana growers, processors and testing labs, would also regulate the entire recreational marijuana program.

The agency could issue more licenses, but the number of licenses would be capped until 2026. Retail stores would be capped at about 200. Cultivation would be limited to a total of 1.5 million square feet of growing space among all licensees. For comparison, the state's 19 large-scale and 13 small-scale medical marijuana growers are licensed to cultivate 514,000 square feet.

Local governments could limit the number, location and business hours of marijuana businesses and could ban them altogether. Licenses would be awarded if the applications comply with the rules and regulations; Ohio's medical marijuana business licenses were awarded after a months-long application scoring process....

The amendment doesn't set a tax rate – that would likely violate an anti-monopoly amendment passed by voters in 2015 to block ResponsibleOhio's recreational marijuana measure. Lawmakers could set a special sales tax for recreational marijuana.

Revenue from marijuana would be split several ways:

  • 25% to a special fund for a Commission on Expungement, Criminal Justice, Community Investment, and Cannabis Industry Equity and Diversity
  • 50% allocated to the state's Local Government Fund
  • At least 10% must be returned to municipalities where retail sales occurred, proportional to the amount of sales

Equity in legal cannabis programs refers to ensuring African-Americans and members of other traditionally marginalized groups participate in the industry. African-Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to the ACLU.

Ohio's attempt at equity in the medical marijuana program – awarding 15% of all licenses to minority-owned businesses – was found unconstitutional. The amendment requires the Department of Commerce to conduct a study into whether there has been discrimination in awarding medical marijuana licenses.

The attorney general has 10 days to review the petition language to make sure it's "fair and truthful" summary of the amendment. Most initiatives don't pass the first time. A bipartisan legislative panel led by the Ohio secretary of state will then decide whether the measure is one or more ballot issues. Then, supporters will have to have to collect at least 442,958 valid signatures of Ohio voters, including a certain percent in 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.

To do that before July 1 – the deadline for the November ballot – supporters will likely need to hire paid signature collectors. Recent statewide ballot issue campaigns have spent upwards of $3 million to collect signatures. Haren declined to name investors or sources funding the campaign. "We expect it will be funded by a diverse set of folks including people with licenses as well as folks outside the licensing," Haren said.

The full text of the the ballot initiative, titled "An Amendment to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol," is available at this link.  Once I get a chance to read the text in full, I suspect I will have a lot more to say about how this proposal seek to make marijuana fully legal in the Buckeye State.

Prior related post:

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

"Recent Supreme Court Trademark Decisions and Cannabis Registrations"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Robert Greenberg now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

The prohibition on immoral trademarks has been steadily eroding as a result of First Amendment litigation at the United States Supreme Court.  In light of recent Supreme Court decisions on trademark registrations and free speech, the question then becomes: Is the Lanham Act’s ban on cannabis trademark registrations justifiable in light of the First Amendment in view of these recent cases? 

February 28, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ballot initiative pursuing 2020 vote on full marijuana legalization in Ohio now in the works

Images (12)Throughout the first part of 2019, I thought it quite likely that there would be at least an attempt to bring a full marijuana legalization initiative to Ohio voters in 2020.  But as 2019 marched forward and as I heard that some Ohio medical marijuana industry players were against such an effort, I concluded that the Buckeye voters were going to have to wait until at least 2022 to weigh in again on recreational marijuana.  But, to my surprise, this news broke this week: "Ohio petitioners want to put recreational marijuana on the fall ballot."  Here are the basics and some context:

Advocates of adult marijuana use, which includes some licensed Ohio medical marijuana companies, are working on letting citizens vote on recreational marijuana this fall.

But an initiative to bring a referendum before voters this November will face an uphill battle, as it may be challenging to collect the signatures needed by a July deadline to get a measure on this fall's ballot.  Presidential elections historically draw the greatest voter turnouts, which is why it makes sense strategically to bring out a marijuana legalization referendum at that time despite the time crunch.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which says it's seen a copy of the petitions, the proposed constitutional amendment would "allow anyone 21 and older to buy, consume and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants."  Additionally, the Enquirer reported that "Ohio's existing medical marijuana businesses would have first dibs on the recreational market beginning in July 2021.  State regulators could decide to issue additional licenses."

Working on the initiative are reportedly Frantz Ward attorney Tom Haren and Mike Hartley, a Republican consultant based in Columbus.  Haren represents multiple marijuana companies in Ohio and is the executive vice president of the Ohio Hemp Association trade group.

Matt Close, executive director of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which includes about 15 members, said the trade group is aware of the petitions but is not backing any legalization measure, at least not yet. "From the association standpoint right now, we are not backing any sort of initiative," Close said. "We are trying to fix the current program."...  Nonetheless, while it's currently unclear who's supporting the legalization initiative, sources say the group does include some current Ohio medical marijuana license-holders.

According to the Ohio attorney general's office, a statewide total of 442,958 signatures would be required from at least 44 of the state's 88 counties to file a ballot initiative.  That number is particularly high because of the high voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election.  Petitions can be tricky because a number of signatures will inevitably be marked invalid.  Collecting nearly 443,000 valid signatures means petitioners would likely want to collect double the required number to be safe.  If initial petitions are filed with the state later this week, the initiative would have just four months to collect signatures before the July 1 deadline. A successful campaign would probably take several million dollars of financial support.

The last marijuana referendum brought before voters was Issue 3 in 2015.  While that would've established a recreational market, the amendment would've provided for only 10 cultivators chosen by backers of the bill, including '90s boy-band singer Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees.  Critics, including the state, which worried about losing control of the marijuana situation, framed Issue 3 as a monopoly on the lucrative cultivation business.  While not a literal monopoly, the idea was that one group of investors working together would effectively gain unilateral control over who would be allowed to grow medical pot and where in the Buckeye State.  That left many marijuana advocates unimpressed.

H.B. 523 followed in 2016 as a way for lawmakers to create a strictly regulated medical marijuana industry after seeing a recreational industry nearly willed into existence. Former Gov. John Kasich eventually signed that bill to little fanfare.  Medical marijuana sales in Ohio started in January 2019.  The state saw $58.3 million in total sales in that first year, a good deal less than comparable markets in their inaugural years.

I am very much looking forward to seeing the details of the petition, which should be out this week or next, and also seeing of the organizers will have the resources to collect the signatures needed to actually get the petition to the ballot. Stay tuned.

February 26, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Marijuana reform and expungements finally gets a question at a big debate

I have to give a shout out to CBS News for asking a direct question on marijuana policy and reform, though only three candidates had time during the debate to speak to the issue.  This live-time coverage of the debate reports on the (mostly unsurprising) comments from the candidates under the heading "Sanders pushes ahead on legalizing marijuana, but isn't joined by other candidates":

Klobuchar was given the first chance to address the issue of legalizing marijuana.  "Well, it is realistic to want to legalize marijuana, I want to do that, too," Klobuchar said.

The Minnesota senator added there also needs to be funding for treatment, so there aren't "repeat customers."

Bloomberg said small amounts of marijuana possession shouldn't be criminalized.  And legalization wouldn't be taken away from states that have already legalized the drug.  But he admitted there isn't enough research on mairjuana to know how much damage marijuana does, particularly on young minds, so he isn't pushing for full legalization at this point.  "Until we know the science, it's just nonsensical to push ahead," Bloomberg said.

Sanders blasted the "horrific war on drugs," and said he would "effectively legalize" marijuana.  He also said he wants to move to expunge the records of people with marijuana convictions.

February 25, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Monitoring and evaluating changes in cannabis policies: insights from the Americas"

EMCDDA_logo_mobileThe title of this post is the title of this new "technical report" from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and authored by Bryce Pardo, Beau Kilmer and Rosalie Liccardo Pacula of the RAND Europe/RAND Drug Policy Research Center.   The full 76-page report is worth reviewing in full, and here are some excerpts from the report's executive summary:

To learn more about these new cannabis regimes and their consequences, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) commissioned a review of the changes governing recreational cannabis policies in the Americas and an overview of preliminary evaluations. Findings from this research are intended to inform discussions about the development of a framework for monitoring and evaluating policy developments related to cannabis regulatory reform. Key insights include the following.

  • In addition to the populations of Canada and Uruguay, more than 25 % of the US population lives in states that have passed laws to legalise and regulate cannabis production, sales and possession/use for recreational purposes.  In the US, allowing licensed production and sales is often at the discretion of sub-state jurisdictions, which may impose further zoning restrictions on cannabis-related activities.  This variation can complicate analyses that attempt to compare legalisation and non-legalisation states, especially when the outcome data are not representative at state level.

  • The peer-reviewed literature on cannabis legalisation is nascent, and we observe conflicting results depending on which data and methods are used, as well as which implementation dates and policies are considered. It is important to remain sceptical of early studies, especially those that use a simple binary variable to classify legalisation and non-legalisation states.  This scepticism should extend to the many studies that fail to account for the existence of robust commercial medical cannabis markets that predate non-medical recreational cannabis laws.  Even if a consensus develops on certain outcomes, it does not mean that a relationship will hold over time.  Changes in the norms about cannabis use and potentially other substances, the maturation of markets and the power of private businesses (if allowed) could lead to very different outcomes 15 or 25 years after recreational cannabis laws have passed.  Evaluations of these changes must be considered an ongoing exercise, not something that should happen in the short term....

  • One insight arising from the evaluations of the regulatory changes in the Americas to date is the importance of the amount and range of data collected before the change; simply comparing past-month prevalence rates will not tell us much about the effect of the change on health.  While US jurisdictions have been moving quickly to legalise the use of cannabis, the data infrastructure for evaluating these changes is limited. In contrast, Canada has made important efforts to field new surveys and create new data collection programmes in anticipation of legal changes.  This highlights the importance of any jurisdictions that are considering changes to the regulatory framework for cannabis starting to think about improving data collection and analysis systems in advance.

  • While there is much to learn from what is happening in the Americas, policy discussions should not be limited to approaches that have been implemented there. There are several regulatory tools (e.g. minimum pricing, potency-based taxes) that receive very little attention — if any — that could have important consequences for health, public safety and/or social equity.  It needs to be recognised that all decisions of this nature involve trade-offs and acknowledging that individuals (and governments) have different values and preferences for risk when it comes to cannabis policy is important for productive debates on this controversial topic.

February 25, 2020 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"The Controlled Substances Act at 50 Years" ... available for LIVESTREAMING

CSA at 50_socialThe title of this post is the title of this amazing conference taking place later this week (February 20-22, 2020) at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona.  I have had the pleasure and honor of working with the amazing team at The Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (@OSULawDEPC ), along with the also amazing team at ASU's Academy for Justice (@Academy4Justice), to put together an amazing and diverse array of panels and workshops on all sorts of topics relating to the past, present and future of the CSA's development, implementation and enforcement.

The basic agenda for the event can be found at this page, which should alone make you want to register here.   I am especially pleased and excited by this list of speakers who are participating.  I do not think I could overstate the amount of wisdom and insight on drug laws and policies that will be assembled in Phoenix for this event.   And here is a brief overview from the event webpage:

Roughly a century ago, in response to growing concerns about drug use, the federal government enacted its first drug control law in the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914.  Subsequent decades saw Congress continue to pass drug control legislation and criminalize drug abuse, but by the 1960s there was growing interest in more medical approaches to preventing and responding to drug abuse.  Upon his election, President Richard Nixon prioritized the reduction of drug use: in rhetoric, he spoke of a so-called “war on drugs”; in policy, he pushed for a new comprehensive federal drug law in the form of The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), enacted as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

The CSA emerged from a widespread, bipartisan view that comprehensive legislation was needed to clarify federal drug laws, and its centerpiece was a comprehensive scheduling system for assessing and regulating drugs in five schedules defined in terms of substances’ potential for abuse and dependence, and possible medical use and safety.  In design, the CSA was intended to prioritize a scientific approach to drug prohibition and regulation by embracing a mixed law-enforcement and public-health approach to drug policy.  But in practice, the US Justice Department came to have an outsized role in drug control policy, especially as subsequent “tough-on-crime” sentencing laws made the CSA the backbone of a federal drug war in which punitive approaches to evolving drug problems consistently eclipsed public health responses.

Although the federal drug war has been controversial since its inception, the CSA’s statutory framework defining how the federal government regulates the production, possession, and distribution of controlled substances has endured.   As we mark a half-century of drug policy under the CSA, the Academy for Justice at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Drug Enforcement & Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law are together sponsoring a conference to look back on how the CSA has helped shape modern American drug laws and policies and to look forward toward the direction these laws could and should take in the next 50 years.

UPDATE: I am moving this post to the top of the page because this awesome conference starts soon and I can now provide this link with its own links to the livestream for each of the panels. I think every part of the conference will be amazing, but marijuana fans might be especially drawn to Friday (Feb 21) afternoon's "Town Hall on Marijuana in 2020: Legalization and Regulation" 3:30pm-4:30pm (Arizona Time). 

February 19, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Colorado marijuana sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019: Cannabis sales have now reached a total of $7.79 billion in the 6 years since legalization"

Growing-your-moneyThe title of this post is the full headline of this new Denver Post piece, which provides a reminder of how easy it is to identify (some) economic metrics that follow from marijuana reform. Here are the details:

Last year was the most lucrative 12 months for cannabis sales in Colorado since the state’s voters legalized recreational marijuana.  Medical and recreational cannabis sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019, up 13% from 2018, according to data from the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.  Marijuana tax collections also hit an all-time high, at more than $302 million in 2019.

December closed out the year with strong sales totaling more than $144 million, up 6.7% compared to the previous year.  But that wasn’t the biggest month of 2019; instead, August topped the calendar year with $173 million in sales.  All told, Colorado marijuana sales now have hit $7.79 billion since recreational sales began in 2014.

Truman Bradley, the newly appointed executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said the revenue increases in Colorado track with expectations. “People are moving from the unregulated market to the regulated market,” Bradley said. “As reefer madness goes away, as the stigmatism of cannabis reduces and people come over to the regulated market, I would expect that trend to continue.”

Since January 2014, Colorado’s cannabis industry has generated $1.21 billion in tax revenue.  Those taxes are allocated to the state’s public education fund, which covers initiatives such as the Colorado Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund; the state general fund, which covers agencies’ expenses; and the marijuana tax fund, which benefits programs related to substances abuse and treatment, health research, youth education and more.  Tax revenues also benefit local governments.

In recent posts (here and here and here) and in my marijuana seminar, I have been exploring in various ways what might be the proper metrics for assessing medical marijuana reform regimes.  This new data from Colorado, in turn, prompts similar questions about assessing recreational reform regimes.   I am inclined to believe these numbers represent positive economic realities like increased employment, wealth and valuable wealth reallocation via taxes.  But public health experts might see these numbers as representing negative health trends and they might also perhaps demonstrate problematic wealth reallocation from the vulnerable to the already privileged.

February 19, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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

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

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

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

States where marijuana legalization will be on the ballot

New Jersey....

South Dakota....

States where marijuana legalization could be on the ballot

Arizona....

Arkansas....

Missouri.... 

Montana. ...

Nebraska....

North Dakota....

Oklahoma.... 

States where medical marijuana will be on the ballot

Mississippi....

South Dakota....

States where medical marijuana could be on the ballot

Idaho....

Nebraska....

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

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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Noticing where marijuana reform is seemingly making a big difference and where it seemingly isn't

MJsnip1As students in my marijuana reform seminar know all too well, I think the phrase "the devil is in the details" has particular salience when considering the import and impact of state-level marijuana  reform.  So I was intrigued, but not surprised, to see news reports this week of some encouraging details emerging in California and some discouraging details in Massachusetts.  Here are links to press pieces with a few of the key details: 

Via USA Today, "Nearly 66,000 weed convictions dating back to 1961 to be dismissed in Los Angeles County":

Citing the need to bring relief to people of color who are disproportionately impacted by drug laws, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey dismissed nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions on Thursday.   Prosecutors asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions for cases dating back to 1961, according to a news release.  An additional 4,000 misdemeanor cases were dismissed across 10 cities in Los Angeles County....

According to the District Attorney’s Office, “Approximately 53,000 individuals will receive conviction relief through this partnership.
Of those, approximately 32% are Black or African American, 20% are White, 45% are Latinx, and 3% are other or unknown.”

California legalized recreational marijuana years ago. Thursday’s announcement was made in partnership with Code for America, a nonprofit which created an algorithm to identify convictions eligible to be dismissed under Proposition 64, which voters approved in 2016.  Code for America has offered its Clear My Record technology free to all 58 state district attorneys [and the technology  has already] helped reduce or dismiss more than 85,000 Proposition 64 eligible convictions across five counties.

Assembly Bill 1793, which passed in 2018, charges prosecutors with reviewing convictions eligible for dismissal or reduction under Proposition 64 by July 1 of this year -- the District Attorney’s office said only 3% of people eligible for conviction relief have received it before Thursday’s announcement.  The current process for clearing records involves petitioning the court, which the District Attorney’s Office calls “time-consuming, expensive and confusing.”

From the Boston Globe, "A law said pot taxes should help communities harmed by the war on drugs. That hasn’t happened":

It was a hard-fought victory for Black and Latino lawmakers — a provision in the state’s marijuana legalization law that said some of the pot tax proceeds would benefit communities targeted most by the war on drugs. Leaders in minority neighborhoods envisioned the money helping people to find housing and jobs, including in the new cannabis industry. Police chiefs, too, celebrated that the law reserved some taxes for officer training, hoping the funds would aid in catching stoned drivers.

But a year and a half into the state’s recreational cannabis rollout, none of the $67 million in excise taxes and fees left over after paying for the cost of regulators has benefited either of those causes, a Globe data analysis has found.

Instead, most of that revenue has gone to the state’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services for existing programs, including treatment for the uninsured, criminal defendants, and impaired-driving offenders. The bureau has not used the marijuana cash to add any new staff or programs, a spokeswoman said, but the money has allowed the state to cut in half its general fund allocation to the bureau.

The failure to fulfill the tax pledges has frustrated minority leaders who say racially targeted policing left many in their neighborhoods with criminal records and unemployed — and they have yet to see the booming new industry benefit them. That’s especially painful in a state where voters passed the first legalization law in the country that mandates the pot industry include people harmed most by prohibition.

“It’s not only a broken promise, but a fraud,” said Chauncy Spencer, 43, a Dorchester man formerly incarcerated over marijuana who has faced delays opening a cannabis business. “There was always the suspicion that the money would never be rerouted to the communities, so for [that scenario] to come to fruition is no surprise."... The Marijuana Regulation Fund ... covers marijuana public-awareness campaigns and the budget of regulators at the Cannabis Control Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. The remainder, state law says, “shall be expended for” five causes: public health, public safety, municipal police training, illness prevention, and assistance for communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

But none of those causes besides public health have received any marijuana money — and aren’t slated to this year or next year. That’s because the law’s wording is vague and doesn’t specify how numerically the money should be divided among the five purposes, allowing the possibility that some don’t receive anything. The law also requires annual action by the Legislature and governor to allocate the money within the massive state budget where pot revenues, though sizable, can be overlooked among other priorities.

Since the revenues started flowing in July 2018, the fund has collected nearly $81 million through early January, state comptroller records show. Each year since, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has proposed using the funds to support the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which the Legislature has approved.

So far, $13.9 million has funded cannabis regulators and $45.6 million was directed to the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services — which Baker’s administration sees as fulfilling the law’s requirements. But to minority community advocates, the state is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

February 16, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

"Medical marijuana and workers' compensation claiming"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Keshar Ghimire and Johanna Catherine Maclean appearing in the journal Health Economics.  Because I was just today talking with students about metrics for measuring the efficacy of medical marijuana programs, this new piece caught my eye.  Here is its abstract:

We study the effect of state medical marijuana laws (MMLs) on workers' compensation (WC) claiming among adults.  Medical marijuana is plausibly related to WC claiming by allowing improved symptom management, and thus reduced need for the benefit, among injured or ill workers.  We use data on claiming drawn from the Annual Social and Economic supplement to the Current Population Survey over the period 1989 to 2012, coupled with a differences‐in‐differences design to provide the first evidence on this relationship.  Our estimates show that, post MML, WC claiming declines, both the propensity to claim and the level of income from WC.  These findings suggest that medical marijuana can allow workers to better manage symptoms associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and, in turn, reduce need for WC.  However, the reductions in WC claiming post MML are very modest in size. 

February 13, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spitballing metrics that might be important when evaluating medical marijuana programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few recent related posts:

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Teaching Drugs: Incorporating Drug Policy into Law School Curriculum"

the title of this post is the title of this great new report authored by The Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) now available via SSRN.  Though I am listed as a lead author on the report, this document is truly the product of the collective great work of so many DEPC folks.  the report also includes the input of dozens of legal academics who participated in a spring 2019 workshop bringing together those who teach or have an interest in teaching in law schools about various aspects of drug policy and law.  Here is an abstract for the report:

Despite the significant impact of laws and policies surrounding controlled substances, few classes in the typical law school curriculum focus on either basic legal doctrines or broader scholarship in this field.  This gap in law school curricula is especially problematic given the shifts in the landscapes of legalized cannabis and hemp, as well as the range of legal and policy responses to the recent opioid crisis. 

To better understand how law schools currently approach these issues and to identify how drug policy and law could be better incorporated into law school curricula, we conducted two surveys of all accredited law schools in the U.S. and hosted a workshop of legal scholars who work in this space.  The surveys and workshop were designed to identify law school courses currently taught and the primary obstacles to teaching this subject matter.  The results show that the vast majority of law schools do not teach courses touching on drugs or the evolving legal structures around cannabis, and this is true even for law schools located in states with legalized cannabis markets.

February 12, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Leafly report claims "legal cannabis now supports 243,700 full-time American jobs"

Cannabis_Job_Growth_web_1921This story at Leafly, headlined "Cannabis Jobs Report: Legal cannabis now supports 243,700 full-time American jobs," reports on Leafly's effort to account for job creation in the legal marijuana industry.  Here are excerpts:

How many jobs are there in the legal marijuana industry?  Leafly’s annual Cannabis Jobs Report found 243,700 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2020.

Even in a down year, the marijuana industry added 33,700 jobs.  That’s a 15% year-over-year increase. Over the past 12 months the expanding industry has created 33,700 new jobs nationwide, making legal marijuana the fastest-growing industry in America.

This year’s jobs count found Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Illinois leading the employment expansion. As its adult-use market passed its one-year anniversary, Massachusetts added 10,226 jobs. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s robust medical marijuana industry added more than 7,300 jobs in the past year.

Florida also saw amazing growth in 2019. With more than 300,000 registered medical marijuana patients, Florida now has the most medical patients of any state. That growth in the patient base, along with the start of smokeable flower sales, boosted Florida to a 93% increase in total sales....

California remains America’s biggest legal cannabis employer. But Colorado may be the nation’s biggest per-capita marijuana job market, with one job per 165 residents. California, by contrast, offers one job per 980 residents.

Colorado also continues to outpace Washington state. Both states legalized cannabis for all adults in 2012, but Colorado’s industry boasts nearly 10,000 more jobs than Washington, even though Washington boasts nearly two million more residents.

Both Colorado and Washington posted strong 8% growth six years after their retail stores opened, indicating that legal stores are still drawing customers away from illicit sellers, and steadily attracting more adult consumers from non-traditional demographics.

Leafly’s full report, which includes includes a state-by-state analysis of all medical and adult-use states, is available at this link.

February 9, 2020 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Deep dive into marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania provides reminder of local realities (and data challenges) of marijuana reforms

The Philadelphia Inquirer has this great new piece (with lots of local data in charts) exploring marijuana arrests in the Keystone State headlined "Marijuana arrests fall in Pa. But after many towns decriminalize, why hasn’t there been a bigger drop?".  I recommend this piece in full, and here are excerpts:

Most of Pennsylvania’s largest cities have passed ordinances decriminalizing marijuana.  And officially, penalties for possessing small amounts are like traffic tickets, with typical fines running from $25 to $500.  In 2019, marijuana arrests — which often result in an onerous criminal record— declined in the Keystone State.  But they remain greater than they were in 2009, before any city in Pennsylvania decriminalized possession of marijuana.

About 21,789 people were arrested in 2019 and charged for possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis, according to preliminary data released by the Pennsylvania State Police. Last year’s total marks a nearly 11 percent decline from the record 24,305 set in 2018. 

City councils in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Allentown, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and most recently, Norristown, have all officially decriminalized possession of a small amounts of weed.  “But we’re still arresting more people than we did 10 years ago,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “It’s lunacy.”

 So why are there so many arrests?  “It’s because police in many of those cities don’t follow the decriminalization statutes,” said Patrick Nightingale, a cannabis law attorney and advocate in Pittsburgh.  “The statutes are not binding on police or the District Attorney’s offices. They’re voluntary.  Police can still make arrests at their discretion.”  City ordinances can’t repeal state or federal law.   So even if a municipality passes a decriminalization ordinance, state law still says possession is illegal and a person can be arrested....

Another reason numbers remain high: Police may be muddying the data.  As the Inquirer previously reported, suburban law enforcement agencies routinely report more arrests to the FBI than actual court cases.  In participating in FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, the four counties in the Philadelphia suburbs reported that they arrested 5,400 people in 2017 for having pot.  Yet the court records showed only 3,200 defendants faced criminal cases.  Many police departments report an “arrest” any time officers stop someone and seize marijuana, even if no charges are filed or the person is not taken into custody....

Nevertheless, a regional organizer for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, called the decline in 2019′s total arrests “a profound shift.”  “Previously, there were steady annual increases in arrests for cannabis possession, while other drug arrests had plateaued,” said Chris Goldstein of NORML. “Now, for the first time in a decade, there is a clear downward trend in arresting marijuana consumers."

In Pennsylvania, more than 253,000 patients have registered for the medical marijuana program, although only 163,000 actually hold state-issued cards and are actively participating, according to the state Department of Health. There are currently 76 dispensaries — state-permitted marijuana retailers — open for business.

According to state activists, arrests are up in rural parts of the state and police are charging card-holding patients with possession.  “The odor of cannabis remains a probable cause for a search,” said Jeff Riedy, of the Lehigh Valley chapter of NORML.  “So medical marijuana is not an excuse to be let off.  If police smell pot in a car, they can arrest and charge for DUI.”

 

[Philadelphia] police dramatically reduced marijuana arrests, cutting cases in which possession is the most serious offense from about 5,600 in 2010 to just 621 last year, a drop of nearly 90 percent.  At the same time, city police have grown far more active in issuing citations for pot.  Officers handed out just 184 in 2014 — and about 2,850 for possession in 2018....

 

Andy Hoover, spokesperson for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, applauded the decline in arrests because it meant fewer cannabis consumers were tied up in the criminal system.  “That’s a positive,” Hoover said.  “The damage that is done when a person is arrested is significant, and it’s people of color who are disproportionately impacted, despite the fact that cannabis consumption is the same across races."   African Americans represent an estimated 40 percent of those arrested for marijuana in the region. 

“I apologize if this sounds simplistic, but one arrest is one too many for marijuana,” said Lt. Gov. Fetterman. “This idea that we would arrest, charge, prosecute and create a criminal record for anyone consuming a plant that is legal in a dozen states now is a waste of resources.”  Fetterman said arguments about whether police were over-counting arrests or not following city ordinances were missing the point.  “All this head-scratching and contemplation goes away if you make it legal,” he said.

February 7, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"Could Bernie Sanders Actually Legalize Marijuana Nationwide On Day One As President?"

Images (1)The question in the title of this post is the headline of this lengthy and effective new Marijuana Moment piece by Kyle Jaeger.  I recommend the piece in full (especially to my students), and here is how it gets started:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is making a bold promise: if elected president, he will legalize marijuana in all 50 states on his first day in office.  “We will end the destructive war on drugs,” the 2020 Democratic candidate said at rally days before this week’s Iowa caucus.  “On my first day in office through executive order we will legalize marijuana in every state in this country.”

But while the pledge has been largely welcomed by reform advocates and cannabis enthusiasts, some experts question whether such immediate, sweeping action is legally or practically achievable.

The use of executive orders at the start of a presidency isn’t unprecedented — President Obama signed one aimed at shutting down the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison the day after he assumed office and President Trump issued an order scaling back Obamacare, for example — but there are unique challenges associated with a presidential move to unilaterally remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

To effectively end marijuana prohibition through the executive branch, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution’s John Hudak, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or an outside party would have to file a petition, which would then be reviewed by the attorney general, who has usually delegated that responsibility to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  The attorney general can also initiate the process on their own, requesting a scientific review directly to HHS. Under HHS, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would then assess the scientific, medical and public health implications before submitting that review to the Justice Department.

“The recommendations of the Secretary to the Attorney General shall be binding on the Attorney General as to such scientific and medical matters, and if the Secretary recommends that a drug or other substance not be controlled, the Attorney General shall not control the drug or other substance,” the CSA states.  “If the Attorney General determines that these facts and all other relevant data constitute substantial evidence of potential for abuse such as to warrant control or substantial evidence that the drug or other substance should be removed entirely from the schedules, he shall initiate proceedings for control or removal.”

Thus, changing marijuana’s classification under federal law without an act of Congress is far more complicated than a single stroke of a presidential pen.  While Sanders could theoretically make supporting descheduling a condition of nominating candidates to be HHS secretary or attorney general, it’s virtually certain he would not have those officials installed on day one of his presidency.

The new day-one, executive action proposal is a far more ambitious plan than the one Sanders previously floated. Last year, the senator said he’d take a systematic approach to legalization that would involve naming cabinet members who will “work to aggressively end the drug war and legalize marijuana” within 100 days of his taking office.

But it appears the timetable has changed, with top aides reportedly including marijuana legalization in a list of possible executive orders — though Sanders has yet to formally sign off on them.  Some experts are skeptical that this latest plan has legs, and some feel it reflects Sanders’s political desire to stand out as the most marijuana friendly candidate, rather than an earnest attempt to expedite the descheduling process.

February 4, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, February 3, 2020

NYSBA approves report supporting legalization of adult recreational marijuana use in New York

Download (9)As reported in this press release, last week the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) "approved a report from the NYSBA Committee on Cannabis Law that supports the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use in New York." Here is more:

The report outlines suggested strategies for the implementation of legalized cannabis in New York State, and was adopted at NYSBA’s House of Delegates meeting in New York City Jan. 31 as part of the association’s Annual Meeting.

“With the full support of the New York State Bar Association, we are hopeful our report will offer the necessary guidance to New York’s governing bodies as they consider the legalization of adult use cannabis,” said Aleece Burgio (Barclay Damon), who co-chairs the committee with Brian J. Malkin (Arent Fox) and presented the report to the House of Delegates.

“The report provides the necessary details surrounding safety, research, social equity, taxation, and other principles critical to the success of a legalized adult use program in this state,” continued Burgio. “While policy continues to evolve at the federal level, the committee also believes the most effective way to navigate this complex issue is for any comprehensive cannabis proposal to include hemp, medical marijuana and adult use.”

In its detailed 23-page report [available here], the committee said it was not aware of a single jurisdiction that has passed model cannabis regulation and legalized adult-use that would be appropriate for New York to adopt in total.

However, the committee noted that the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation has been commissioned by several state legislatures for comprehensive advice and analysis prior to developing their legalized cannabis use legislation and believes New York would similarly benefit by commissioning RAND or a similar organization to conduct such a study or analysis.

The report also recommends that any New York legalized marijuana use legislation include:

  • USDA mandated cannabis testing
  • A comprehensive state Office of Cannabis Management
  • Provisions for local municipality “opt-out”
  • Social equity provisions
  • State tax
  • Advertising and marketing guidelines
  • State environmental protections

February 3, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

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

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

KEY FINDINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TAKEAWAY

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

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"Man smokes marijuana in front of judge after advocating for legalization"

The title of this post is the headline of this new ABC News piece that should be filed in the category "There are safer (and smarter) ways to advocate for marijuana reform."  Here are the details (and click through for the video):

A 20-year-old man caused a stir in a Tennessee courthouse when he advocated for the legalization of marijuana and then proceeded to spark a joint in front of the judge.

Spencer Alan Boston was appearing before Judge Haywood Barry on Monday at the Wilson County Courthouse in Lebanon, on a simple possession-of-marijuana citation, when he began to tell Barry that marijuana should be legalized, according to Lt. Scott Moore, a spokesman for the Wilson County Sheriff' Office.

Courtroom video captured what came next: Boston is seen seen reaching into his jacket pocket, pulling out what appears to be a joint and lighting it up, taking multiple puffs. Security quickly intervened and took Boston into custody.

Moore told ABC News in a telephone interview that Boston said something to the effect of "the people deserve better" before he was taken away. "I've been here 20 years," Moore added, "and this is the first time I've ever seen that."

Boston faces two new charges: disorderly conduct and simple possession of marijuana. He's being held on $3,000 bond, online jail records show. He'll also have to serve 10 days in Wilson County Jail because Barry held him in contempt of the court, according to Moore.... The joint smoked in court was collected as evidence.

January 28, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)