Sunday, June 16, 2019
The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary in the New York Times authored by two doctors, Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek. Here are excerpts:
It’s tempting to think marijuana is a harmless substance that poses no threat to teens and young adults. The medical facts, however, reveal a different reality.
Numerous studies show that marijuana can have a deleterious impact on cognitive development in adolescents, impairing executive function, processing speed, memory, attention span and concentration. The damage is measurable with an I.Q. test. Researchers who tracked subjects from childhood through age 38 found a consequential I.Q. decline over the 25-year period among adolescents who consistently used marijuana every week. In addition, studies have shown that substantial adolescent exposure to marijuana may be a predictor of opioid use disorders.
The reason the adolescent brain is so vulnerable to the effect of drugs is that the brain — especially the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making, judgment and impulsivity — is still developing in adolescents and young adults until age 25....
The risk that marijuana use poses to adolescents today is far greater than it was 20 or 30 years ago, because the marijuana grown now is much more potent. In the early 1990s, the average THC content of confiscated marijuana was roughly 3.7 percent. By contrast, a recent analysis of marijuana for sale in Colorado’s authorized dispensaries showed an average THC content of 18.7 percent.
The proposals for legalizing marijuana under consideration in New York and New Jersey allow for use starting at age 21. While society may consider a 21-year-old to be an adult, the brain is still developing at that age. States that legalize marijuana should set a minimum age of no younger than 25. They should also impose stricter limits on THC levels and strictly monitor them. Educational campaigns are also necessary to help the public understand that marijuana is not harmless.
Simply because society has become more accepting of marijuana use doesn’t make it safe for high school and college students. Cigarettes and alcohol, both legal, have caused great harm in society as well as to people’s health, and have ruined many lives. Marijuana may do the same. We must tightly regulate the emerging cannabis industry to protect the developing brain.
UPDATE: Interestingly, not long after blogging about this NY Times commentary, I came across this extended Washington Post piece headlined "Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana." Here is a snippet:
As more than a dozen states from Hawaii to New Hampshire consider legalizing marijuana, doctors warn of an urgent need for better education — not just of teens but of parents and lawmakers — about how the products being marketed can significantly affect young people’s brain development.
The limited scientific research to date shows that earlier and more frequent use of high-THC cannabis puts adolescents at greater jeopardy of substance use disorders, mental health issues and poor school performance.
“The brain is abnormally vulnerable during adolescence,” said Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who studies how marijuana affects the brain. “Policy seems to have outpaced science, and in the best of all possible worlds, science would allow us to set policy.”
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Colorado public agencies yesterday produced this news release titled "Colorado marijuana industry continues to grow, revenue surpasses $1 billion to date." Here are excerpts:
Colorado has surpassed $1 billion in marijuana revenue to date since adult-use marijuana sales began in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR)’s monthly reports for marijuana sales and revenue data released today.
“Today’s report continues to show that Colorado’s cannabis industry is thriving, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We can and we must do better in the face of increased national competition. We want Colorado to be the best state for investment, innovation and development for this growing economic sector,” said Governor Polis. “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction.”
To date, marijuana tax, license and fee revenue has reached just over $1.02 billion and marijuana sales to date exceeded $6.56 billion. Currently, Colorado has 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses and 41,076 individuals who are licensed to work in the industry....
Marijuana revenue supports statewide efforts such as licensing and regulation of legal marijuana businesses, youth prevention efforts, behavioral health treatment, protecting public health and safety, and coordination across state agencies.
Marijuana tax revenue funds Colorado Department of Education programs such as the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction assistance fund, as well as the Early Literacy Competitive Grant Program, School Health Professional Grant Program and the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program.
The Colorado Department of Human Services uses marijuana revenue funds to support community behavioral health programs including mental health services for juveniles and adults, crisis services, criminal justice diversion, the Circle Program, substance use disorder and detoxification services. Additionally, funds support Mental Health Institutes at Pueblo and Fort Logan and Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, which is a collection of community based programs that target youth and their families for prevention and intervention services in the effort to reduce incidents of youth crime and violence, to prevent youth marijuana use, and prevent child abuse and neglect.
The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this new report seeking to document costs that could flow from marijuana legalization in New York. Here is the report's executive summary:
The proposed legalization of marijuana in New York will result in higher costs to state and local law enforcement and emergency services. Towns and cities across the state will face increased budgetary pressures at a time when New York’s tax burden is already a serious drag on the economy. In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, New York has the highest state and local tax burden in the country as a percent of the economy (12.7 percent) and fourth highest per person property tax burden ($2,782).1
Marijuana legalization in New York will have both significant budgetary and societal costs. In fact, law enforcement and emergency services costs could account for a majority of the revenue projected by the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to be realized by legalization.
First, marijuana legalization will be a major cost driver for state and local law enforcement and emergency services agencies. Keeping New York’s roads (from DWIs) and communities (from black market operations) safe will require additional drug policing with Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), drug testing equipment, and drug-sniffing dogs all of which will likely require expensive new equipment acquisitions and training. Also, dealing with the consequences of increased impaired driving, and the corresponding increase in car crashes will lead to higher costs to law enforcement and emergency services.
Overall, upfront budgetary costs to law enforcement and emergency services could range from $190.3 to 235.2 million. Ongoing annual estimated costs range from $157.5 to $192.2 million. Car crashes would cost another $44 million between 2018 and 2028.
Second, car crashes have a broader negative societal impact in terms of increased hospitalizations (paid for, in part, by public health agencies), emergency departments, and deaths.
Overall societal costs between 2018 and 2028 would mean $388 million in hospitalization charges (of which $34.5 million will be paid for by public funded sources such as Medicaid and Medicare), $253 million in emergency department visits, and $4.3 billion in the value of lost lives.
In the end, marijuana legalization will create numerous destructive waves through New York ranging from significant budgetary hardship to law enforcement and emergency services to the shattered lives of people involved in car crashes. New York’s law enforcement and emergency services will bear the immediate brunt of these circumstances which will create tradeoffs from reducing other existing services potentially impacting public safety, to increasing local budgets and taxes, boosting New York’s already highest-in-the-nation level of taxation.
Gallup has this new story reporting on the results of its recent intriguing poll about marijuana reform under the headline "In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored." Here are excerpts:
As public support for legalizing marijuana has surged, a new Gallup poll finds 86% of U.S. supporters of legal marijuana saying its medicinal benefits are a very important reason they support legalization. Majorities also say freeing up police resources to focus on other crimes, respecting people's personal freedom, and generating tax revenue for state and local governments are key reasons for their support.
Marijuana legalization supporters are less likely to say that increasing the drug's safety through government regulation or believing that marijuana is not harmful are very important reasons they hold the opinion they do.
The results are based on a May 15-30 Gallup poll that sought to explore some of the reasons behind Americans' opinions for, or against, making marijuana legal. Gallup has documented a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans favoring legal marijuana in the past decade, from 44% in 2009 to 64% in the current survey. Gallup has measured support as high as 66% in an October 2018 update. In 1969, the first time Gallup polled on the issue, just 12% were in favor of legalizing marijuana.
For the most part, different subgroups of marijuana legalization advocates are similar in their stated reasons for supporting legal marijuana. One modest difference concerns the importance of tax revenue for state and local governments, something that 63% of male supporters versus 50% of female supporters regard as very important.
The roughly one-third of Americans who oppose legalization were asked to say how important each of six factors is to their position on the issue. Foremost among these is the possibility of increased car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana -- 79% say this is a very important reason they oppose legalizing the drug.
Additionally, at least six in 10 opponents rate three other factors as very important reasons behind their objections: the possibility that marijuana users would try stronger and more addictive drugs; the potential for marijuana usage to increase; and that legalizing marijuana would not benefit society much. A slim majority of opponents cite its potential harm to users....
The most compelling reason for legalization, according to those who hold that position, is the help it gives to those who use it for medicinal purposes. Also, supporters tend to point to the possible benefits legal pot would have on law enforcement, state and local governments, and personal freedom. A "lack of harm" for users does not appear to a be a major reason why people want marijuana legalized.
Opponents, though smaller in number, point more to the societal risks, including those related to car accidents and marijuana users trying more potent drugs that likely would have a greater societal cost for those who become addicted.
Though these poll results are interesting (and not all that surprising), it is somewhat disappointing that the questions exploring support for and opposition to marijuana reform were not more refined. In particular, given concerns about the "war on drug" and its racial skew, I would have liked to seen more "support" questions focused on various criminal justice reform concerns. Similarly, the opposition questions did not explore widespread concerns about increasing youth access to and use of marijuana. Some of the existing questions get near to these topics, but I suspect more or more refined questions would have impacted the outcomes.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
The AP has this new extended article, headlined "Broad legalization takes toll on medical pot," which looks at the impact of full marijuana legalization on medical marijuana programs. Here are some excerpts:
When states legalize pot for all adults, long-standing medical marijuana programs take a big hit, in some cases losing more than half their registered patients in just a few years, according to a data analysis by The Associated Press.
Much of the decline comes from consumers who, ill or not, got medical cards in their states because it was the only way to buy marijuana legally and then discarded them when broader legalization arrived. But for people who truly rely on marijuana to control ailments such as nausea or cancer pain, the arrival of so-called recreational cannabis can mean fewer and more expensive options....
States see a “massive exodus” of medical patients when they legalize marijuana for all adults — and then, in many cases, the remaining ones struggle, said David Mangone, director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access. “Some of the products that these patients have relied on for consistency — and have used over and over for years — are disappearing off the shelves to market products that have a wider appeal,” he said. Cost also rises, a problem that’s compounded because many of those who stay in medical programs are low-income and rely on Social Security disability, he said.
In Oregon, where the medical program shrank the most following recreational legalization, nearly two-thirds of patients gave up their medical cards, the AP found. As patients exited, the market followed: The number of medical-only retail shops fell from 400 to two, and hundreds of growers who contracted with individual patients to grow specific strains walked away.
Now, some of the roughly 28,000 medical patients left are struggling to find affordable medical marijuana products they’ve relied on for years. While the state is awash in dry marijuana flower that’s dirt cheap, the specialized oils, tinctures and potent edibles used to alleviate severe illnesses can be harder to find and more expensive to buy....
Ten states have both medical and recreational markets. Four of them — Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska — have the combination of an established recreational marketplace and data on medical patients. The AP analysis found all four saw a drop in medical patients after broader legalization.
In Alaska, the state with the second-biggest decline, medical cardholders dropped by 63% after recreational sales began in 2016, followed by Nevada with nearly 40% since 2017 and Colorado with 19% since 2014.
The largest of all the legal markets, California, doesn’t keep data on medical patients, but those who use it say their community has been in turmoil since recreational pot debuted last year. That’s partly because the state ended unlicensed cannabis cooperatives where patients shared their homegrown pot for free....
Getting a precise nationwide count of medical patients is impossible because California, Washington and Maine don’t keep data. However, absent those states, the AP found at the end of last year nearly 1.4 million people were active patients in a medical marijuana program. The AP estimates if those states were added the number would increase by about 1 million.
As more states legalize marijuana for all adults, some who have been using it medically are feeling disenfranchised.
In Michigan, where medical marijuana has been legal for over a decade, the creation of a new licensing system for medical dispensaries has sparked court challenges as the state prepares for the advent of general marijuana sales later this year. A cancer patient there filed a federal lawsuit this month, alleging the slow licensing pace has created a shortage of the products she needs to maintain her weight and control pain.
In Washington, medical patients feel they were pushed aside when that state merged its medical and general-use markets, which also is what’s happening in California. Los Angeles dispensary owner Jerred Kiloh sells medical and recreational marijuana and said those markets are quickly becoming one, since few companies are going to produce products for a vanishing group of customers. He said his medical business has dipped to 7% of overall sales and is dropping month to month. “It’s going to be gone,” said Kiloh, president of the LA trade group United Cannabis Business Association.
June 11, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)
"The State of Marijuana in The Buckeye State and Fiscal Policy Considerations of Legalized Recreational Marijuana"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Finley Newman-James, who is a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. This paper is the sixth of an on-going series of student papers supported by Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. (The first five papers in this series are linked below.) Here is this latest paper's abstract:
In 1975, Ohio’s 63rd Governor James A. Rhodes joined the growing trend of marijuana decriminalization by signing a bill passed by the legislature that supported amending the Ohio Revised Code to remove criminal penalties for use of marijuana. This was the first big change to marijuana laws in Ohio. Despite Ohio being one of the most conservative states in the country at the time, Rhodes brought Ohio to become the 6th state to relax punishments on marijuana use. Since that time, a lot has changed regarding the status of cannabis in the Buckeye State.
This paper will first describe the past legal framework for marijuana along with current developments and proposed changes in the future, including a citizen’s ballot initiative that will appear on the November 2019 ballot that could potentially make sweeping changes to Ohio’s Constitution and marijuana law in Ohio. This is then followed by an analysis of the potential benefits that recreational marijuana could have in respect to key fiscal budgetary issues facing the state of Ohio.
Prior student papers in this series:
- "The Canna(business) of Higher Education"
- "Marijuana Banking in New York and Around the US: 'Swim at Your Own Risk'"
- "Intellectual Property Survey: Cannabis Plant Types, Methods of Extraction, IP Protection, and One Patent That Could Ruin It All"
- "Marijuana in the Workplace: Distinguishing Between On-Duty and Off-Duty Consumption"
- "An Argument Against Regulating Cannabis Like Alcohol"
June 11, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
New research raises questions as to relationship between medical marijuana reform and opioid overdoses
This new study just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that previously encouraging findings suggesting that medical marijuana reforms contributed to a reduction in opioid overdose deaths may not hold up over time. Here is the article's abstract:
Medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the US opioid overdose crisis since Bachhuber et al. [M. A. Bachhuber, B. Saloner, C. O. Cunningham, C. L. Barry, JAMA Intern. Med. 174, 1668–1673] found that from 1999 to 2010 states with medical cannabis laws experienced slower increases in opioid analgesic overdose mortality. That research received substantial attention in the scientific literature and popular press and served as a talking point for the cannabis industry and its advocates, despite caveats from the authors and others to exercise caution when using ecological correlations to draw causal, individual-level conclusions.
In this study, we used the same methods to extend Bachhuber et al.’s analysis through 2017. Not only did findings from the original analysis not hold over the longer period, but the association between state medical cannabis laws and opioid overdose mortality reversed direction from −21% to +23% and remained positive after accounting for recreational cannabis laws. We also uncovered no evidence that either broader (recreational) or more restrictive (low-tetrahydrocannabinol) cannabis laws were associated with changes in opioid overdose mortality. We find it unlikely that medical cannabis — used by about 2.5% of the US population — has exerted large conflicting effects on opioid overdose mortality. A more plausible interpretation is that this association is spurious. Moreover, if such relationships do exist, they cannot be rigorously discerned with aggregate data. Research into therapeutic potential of cannabis should continue, but the claim that enacting medical cannabis laws will reduce opioid overdose death should be met with skepticism.
Some discussion of this research appears in these popular press pieces, among others:
- "Legalizing medical marijuana doesn't curb opioid overdose deaths, study says"
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Last month, the Congressional Research Service released this interesting short report titled simply "Marijuana Use and Highway Safety." Here is its introduction:
A growing number of Americans report that they use marijuana. As more states decriminalize the use of marijuana, the question of what impact marijuana usage has on the risk of a driver being involved in a motor vehicle crash has become more pertinent. In a survey, the majority of state highway safety offices rated drugged driving an issue at least as important as driving while impaired by alcohol.
When faced with the issue of driver impairment due to marijuana, some stakeholders tend to approach the issue using the analogy of driver impairment due to alcohol. However, there are important differences between the two substances. The fact that alcohol reduces a user’s ability to think clearly and to perform physical tasks has been known for decades. Extensive research has established correlations between the extent of alcohol consumption and impairment, including drivers’ reaction times. Much less research has been done on marijuana. Marijuana is a more complex substance than alcohol. It is absorbed in the body differently from alcohol; it affects the body in different ways from alcohol; tests for its presence in the body produce more complicated results than tests for the presence of alcohol; and correlating its effects with its levels in the body is much more complicated than for alcohol.
That marijuana usage increases a driver’s risk of crashing is not clearly established. Studies of marijuana’s impact on a driver’s performance have thus far found that, while marijuana usage can measurably affect a driver’s performance in a laboratory setting, that effect may not translate into an increased likelihood of the driver being involved in a motor vehicle crash in a real-world setting, where many other variables affect the risk of a crash. Some studies of actual crashes have estimated a small increase in the risk of crash involvement as a result of marijuana usage, while others have estimated little or no increase in the likelihood of a crash from using marijuana.
This CRS report addresses various aspects of the issue of marijuana-impaired driving, including patterns of marijuana use, the relationship and detection of marijuana use and driver impairment, and related state law and law enforcement challenges. The report also references the congressionally required July 2017 report by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress (hereinafter referred to as NHTSA’s 2017 Marijuana-Impaired Driving Report to Congress), as well as other studies and research.
The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this big new report titled "Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization" Here is the short "Executive Highlights" from the start of the report:
Today’s highly potent marijuana represents a growing and significant threat to public health and safety, a threat that is amplified by a new marijuana industry intent on profiting from heavy use.
State laws allowing marijuana sales and consumption have permitted the marijuana industry to flourish, and in turn, the marijuana industry has influenced both policies and policy-makers. While the consequences of these policies will not be known for decades, early indicators are troubling.
This report, reviewed by prominent scientists and researchers, serves as an evidence-based guide to what we currently observe in various states. We attempted to highlight studies from all the “legal” marijuana states (i.e., states that have legalized the non-medical use of marijuana). Unfortunately, data does not exist for several “legal” states, and so this document synthesizes the latest research on marijuana impacts in states where information is available.
Disappointingly, this report does not cover data comprehensively on any single topic from any one state nor does it effectively detail similar data across a number of states. Rather, as seems common with SAM reports, this latest report focuses on the most troublesome data from a few states to make the case that marijuana reform is creating big problems. In this way, the report serves as a good review of some of the strongest "data talking points" against marijuana reform, but it does not really provide a sound basis to reach sound conclusions about what lessons should be learned from modern marijuana reforms.
June 6, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
The leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, has this terrific new resource titled "Patient's Guide To CBD." Though the title of this nearly 50-page report is simple, the contents provide an intricate road-map to the complicated law and science surrounding the status and import of the cannabis-plant compound known as CBD. Here is a section of the publication's introduction:
The Patient’s Guide to CBD was created by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) for the benefit of patients, prospective patients, healthcare providers, consumers, and anyone interested in learning more about CBD. The goal of this guide is to be an informative and useful reference document that will be shared with others so that patients, doctors, and regulators can make informed decisions regarding CBD....
Patients and consumers should also be aware of the legal and regulatory status of CBD products. As of May 2019, 47 U.S. states have passed some type of legislation permitting the use of cannabis or cannabinoids such as CBD; nevertheless, cannabis with THC in excess of 0.3% by dry weight is a Schedule I controlled substance under U.S. Federal law. Therefore, CBD-containing products that were produced from cannabis plants that exceed the federal threshold on THC may be legal at the state level, but are federally illegal. Additionally, even CBD products that are derived from plants containing not more than 0.3% THC by dry weight may violate laws such as the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and create further legal challenges for patients and consumers.
The passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) will make industrial hemp (i.e., cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight), including CBD-rich industrial hemp, an agricultural commodity in the United States, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to promulgate federal regulations or approve state regulations regarding the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. Further, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has yet to provide a pathway for the introduction of hemp-derived CBD products into the marketplace. Therefore, it is not yet federally legal to market hemp-derived CBD as a drug, dietary supplement, food product, or cosmetic. Patients and consumers are encouraged to stay up to date on these changing regulations to ensure that they, and their products, are in compliance with applicable laws.
Globally, the use of products containing CBD has risen dramatically as more and more people seek alternative ways to improve their health and their lives. The data has shown an increase in the sales of products containing CBD every year, and sales are expected to continue to rise in the coming years.
June 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Spotlighting former congressional leader John Boehner (and his cohorts) following the marijuana money
The New York Times has this notable new account of the work of the former US House Speaker as salesman for marijuana reform. The front-page lengthy piece, headlined "John Boehner: From Speaker of the House to Cannabis Pitchman," is an interesting read and here are a few excerpts:
John A. Boehner, the former speaker of the House, once stood second in line for the presidency and staunchly against legalized marijuana. Now you can find the longtime Republican standing before a wall-size photo of the Capitol, making an online infomercial pitch for the cannabis industry. “This is one of the most exciting opportunities you’ll ever be part of,” Mr. Boehner says in an endlessly streaming video for the National Institute for Cannabis Investors. “Frankly, we can help you make a potential fortune.”
Mr. Boehner’s pro-weed epiphany coincides with the prospect of a payday as high as $20 million from the industry he once so vigorously opposed. He sits on the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana investment firm whose sale to a cannabis industry giant hinges on Mr. Boehner’s ability to persuade Congress and the federal government to legalize, or at least legitimize, marijuana.
The chain-smoking, merlot-sipping, former 12-term congressman from Ohio says he had never lit a joint in his life when he and the former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, now a Republican candidate for president, joined Acreage’s board last year. This year, Acreage announced plans to sell itself to Canopy Growth, a Canadian company that is the biggest cannabis holding in the world. The deal, worth around $3 billion, based on current stock prices for both Acreage and Canopy, would create an $18 billion behemoth, industry analysts say. Buried deep in a financial filing from Nov. 14, 2018, is Acreage’s disclosure that the two men each hold 625,000 shares in the company, which if sold after the company’s sale to Canopy would net them a fortune.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon and a founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said he saw Mr. Boehner at a dinner on Capitol Hill the day he joined Acreage. “I said, ‘John, where were you when we needed you?’ And he said, ‘I’ve evolved,’” Mr. Blumenauer recalled in an interview, imitating Mr. Boehner’s smoky baritone. (Mr. Boehner had made a similar statement on Twitter earlier that day.)
“He’s nothing if not entrepreneurial,” Mr. Blumenauer said. “The more the merrier.” But there is a catch. The takeover will not happen without substantial changes in marijuana policy, leaving it up to Mr. Boehner and his team of lobbyists to work their magic in Washington.
Mr. Boehner declined to be interviewed for this article. Terry Holt, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Roundtable, which Mr. Boehner founded in February, declined to speculate on Mr. Boehner’s potential income from the sector. Mr. Boehner “sees an investment opportunity in cannabis,” Mr. Holt said. Citing statistics suggesting most Americans favor “some kind of marijuana reform,” he added, “Who wouldn’t want to be involved?”
A slew of former lawmakers agree. Among those who have signed on in recent months to represent the weed industry are former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, a longtime Democratic leader in the Senate; former Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California; former Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York; and former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida....
In 2016, [Boehner] joined Squire Patton Boggs, successor to the marquee Washington law and lobbying firm, as a “strategic adviser.” About the same time, Mr. Boehner, who once handed out campaign checks from the tobacco industry to lawmakers on the House floor, joined the board of the tobacco giant Reynolds American, makers of his favorite Camel brand.
Reynolds directors with his profile earn roughly $400,000 a year, and Mr. Boehner holds other board seats, too, Mr. Holt said. Combined with a pension derived from his $223,000 annual congressional salary, Mr. Boehner likely earns a seven-figure retirement income, even without the potential Acreage windfall.
Mr. Boehner and Mr. Weld joined Acreage’s board in April 2018, and together issued a statement: “We both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy.” For evidence, “We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments,” they said, denouncing “the refusal of the V.A. to offer it as an alternative” to opioids.
Chanda Macias, the National Cannabis Roundtable’s first vice chairwoman and the owner and general manager of the National Holistic Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, said that she had seen more than 10,000 patients who suffer from a lack of research, education and access to medical marijuana. “This is not about Boehner,” Ms. Macias added, “this is about saving lives.”
Friday, May 31, 2019
Illinois poised to become first big state to legalize adult use/recreational marijuana via traditional legislation
A couple of big states on the east coast, New Jersey and New York, saw efforts this year to fully legalize marijuana via traditional legislation falter. But it seems that the biggest midwestern state, Illinois, got this done this legislative session as reported in this local article:
A recreational marijuana legalization bill will soon land on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk after the Illinois House on Friday voted to pass the comprehensive measure.
The Illinois House voted 66-47 after more than three hours of debate. The Illinois Senate on Wednesday cleared the measure. The governor issued a statement applauding the bill’s passage and pledging to sign it. “The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Pritzker said. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”
While there are giant swaths of criminal justice and social equity reforms attached to the measure — including giving a second chance to thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession — practically speaking it will allow Illinois residents over 21 to buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries as soon as Jan. 1.
If signed into law, Illinois will become the first state to approve cannabis sales through the Legislature, instead of a ballot measure. There are laws regulating and taxing cannabis in nine states. In Vermont and Washington, D.C., cannabis possession and cultivation is legal but sales are not regulated.
The measure would also allow Illinoisans over 21 years old to possess 30 grams, or just over an ounce of cannabis flower, and 5 grams, or less than a quarter-ounce, of cannabis concentrates such as hash oil. Additionally, Illinoisans would be able to carry up to a half-gram of edible pot-infused products.
“It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs,” bill sponsor state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said during the debate. “What is before us is the first in the nation to approach this legislatively, deliberately, thoughtfully, with a eye toward repairing the harm and the war on drugs. We have an opportunity today to set the gold standard for a regulated market that centers on equity and repair.”...
Others weren’t convinced. State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said “the reset button is broken.” “The fact of the matter is nothing in this bill addresses the harm that’s been done to our community,” Flowers said. “Our community is still being used for people to make a profit and get rich and give nothing to the community.”
Amid opposition, some initiatives in the initial measure, which was filed in early May, were scaled back. A House committee this week approved changes that include allowing only medical marijuana patients to have up to five plants in a home. There were also changes made within the expungement provisions, which would have initially automatically expunged hundreds of thousands of marijuana possession convictions.
Now, convictions dealing with amounts of cannabis up to 30 grams will be dealt with through the governor’s clemency process, which does not require individuals to initiate the process. For amounts of 30 to 500 grams, the state’s attorney or an individual can petition the court to vacate the conviction.
The updated language means those with convictions for cannabis possession convictions under 30 grams can get pardoned by the governor. States attorneys would then be able to petition the court to expunge the record. A judge would direct law enforcement agencies and circuit court clerks to clear their record. This only applies to those convicted with no other violent crime associated with the charge. And it only applies for convictions that have taken place when the bill takes effect on Jan. 1....
Designed to address concerns about impaired driving, the measure would also add a DUI Task Force led by Illinois State Police to examine best practices. Those would include examining emergency technology and roadside testing.
Sales from recreational marijuana is expected to bring in $57 million in this year’s budget and $140 million next year, sponsors have said. It should eventually rise to $500 million a year once the program is fully running.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Split Second Circuit panel gives small victory to medical marijuana users while turning away their high-profile court challenge to Schedule I placement
I have noted in a number of prior posts linked below the notable lawsuit seeking to ensure legal access to medical marijuana that was filed in federal district court in New York in July 2017 (first discussed in this post.) In February of 2018, as noted in this post, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein dismissed the suit, ruling the litigants had "failed to exhaust their administrative remedies” while concluding that "it is clear that Congress had a rational basis for classifying marijuana in Schedule I." In response to that ruling, I said "plaintiffs in this suit could appeal this dismissal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and doing so would likely keep the case in the headlines [but] I am not optimistic it would achieve much else."
In fact, an appeal was brought to the Second Circuit, and it did achieve something: an interesting split panel ruling that provides an interesting small victory to the plaintiffs despite ultimately failing to provide an real relief. Specifically, the majority opinion authored by Judge Guido Calabresi in Washington v. Barr, No. 18-859 (2d Cir. May 30, 2019) (available here), gets started this way:
This is the latest in a series of cases that stretch back decades and which have long sought to strike down the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 2 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. See, e.g., Krumm v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 739 F. App’x 655 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (mem.); Ams. for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 706 F.3d 438 (D.C. Cir. 2013); Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 15 F.3d 1131 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (mem.). The current case is, however, unusual in one significant respect: among the Plaintiffs are individuals who plausibly allege that the current scheduling of marijuana poses a serious, life‐or‐death threat to their health. We agree with the District Court that Plaintiffs should attempt to exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking relief from us, but we are troubled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s history of dilatory proceedings. Accordingly, while we concur with the District Court’s ruling, we do not dismiss the case, but rather hold it in abeyance and retain jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch.
Judge Jacobs dissents from the panel's failure to just dismiss the lawsuit, and his opinion starts this way:
The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance is unconstitutional because it does not reflect contemporary learning regarding the drug’s medicinal uses. I agree with the District Court that this case must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies in the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”). The majority opinion does not actually disagree, though it seems to treat lack of jurisdiction as a prudential speed bump. I dissent from the majority opinion’s decision to hold the case in abeyance so that we may turn back to it if, at some future time, we get jurisdiction.
Prior related posts:
- Latest effort to take down federal marijuana prohibition via constitutional litigation filed in SDNY
- "Colorado girl suing U.S. attorney general to legalize medical marijuana nationwide"
- Could a high-profile lawsuit help end federal marijuana prohibition?
- Mixed messages from US District Judge hearing legal challenge to federal marijuana prohibition
- Federal judge dismisses high-profile suit challenging marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act
May 30, 2019 in Court Rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
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:
- "The Canna(business) of Higher Education"
- "Marijuana Banking in New York and Around the US: 'Swim at Your Own Risk'"
- "Intellectual Property Survey: Cannabis Plant Types, Methods of Extraction, IP Protection, and One Patent That Could Ruin It All"
- "Marijuana in the Workplace: Distinguishing Between On-Duty and Off-Duty Consumption"
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)
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.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Split Colorado Supreme Court gives notable new interpretation of limits on drug-sniffing searches due to marijuana legalization
Last 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."
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Two new papers provide further evidence of marijuana reform aiding with opioid crisis
- "The Case for Pot in the Age of Opioids: Legalizing medical marijuana could save lives that may otherwise be lost to opioid addiction."
- "Can medical marijuana be used to treat heroin addiction?"
- Yet another study suggests link between medical marijuana availability and decreased opioid use
- "Legalize marijuana and reduce deaths from drug abuse"
- "Obama’s Opioid Offensive Again Ignores the Cannabis Solution"
- "Is marijuana a secret weapon against the opioid epidemic?"
- "Cannabis as a Substitute for Opioid-Based Pain Medication: Patient Self-Report"
- "The use of cannabis in response to the opioid crisis: A review of the literature"
- Still more talk, from notable conservative outlets, about possible benefits of marijuana reform amidst opioid crisis
- "Could medical marijuana help fight opioid abuse? It’s complicated"
- "Impact of Medical Marijuana Legalization on Opioid Use, Chronic Opioid Use, and High-risk Opioid Use"
- "Should Physicians Recommend Replacing Opioids With Cannabis?"
- "The Impact of Cannabis Access Laws on Opioid Prescribing"
- Speculating about impact on the opioid crisis as Ohio finally sees its first legal medical marijuana sale
NFL perhaps ready for new approach to marijuana as it agrees to explore use of drug for pain management
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.
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)