Thursday, November 15, 2018
The Hill has this extended (and not surprising) article about where the marijuana reform movement is planning to go for the next round of ballot initiatives. The piece is headlined "Marijuana backers plot ambitious campaign," and here are excerpts:
Advocates of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana are planning a wave of new ballot measures in coming years few years, buoyed by wins scored this year's midterm elections in swing and conservative states.
Supporters say they are likely to field measures in states like Ohio and Arizona in 2020, and potentially in Florida and North Dakota. They say plans are underway for initiatives to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“2020 provides an opportunity to run medical marijuana and legalization campaigns across the country. Typically, presidential elections offer better turnout and a more supportive electorate,” said Matt Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I’d be surprised if there weren’t a large number of initiatives being run — statutory, constitutional, legalization, medical marijuana. It’s going to be a big opportunity for our movement to build momentum.”...
“We won our first state outside of the coasts, and I think there’s a strong feeling that we’re sort of on the downhill of the tipping point,” said one strategist who has worked on legalization measures, who asked for anonymity to describe future plans....
The strategist said legalization backers have settled on a reliable formula that has generated success at the ballot box. The template includes language allowing adults to grow a small number of marijuana plants in their own home, banning advertising aimed at children and controlling potency of products like edibles that make it to market.
The measures [that failed previously] in North Dakota and Ohio did not closely follow that template; the Ohio measure, which did not earn support from the largest groups that back legalization campaigns, went so far as to parade a marijuana leaf mascot — named Bud — around campaign events before it went down in a crushing defeat.
Opponents of marijuana legalization said they have turned their focus to another provision typically found in successful ballot measures, one that allows counties and municipalities to ban pot shops even if recreational marijuana is legal statewide. “In all states with legalization, the majority of towns and cities that have voted have banned pot shops,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the drug policy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization. “We … think we can get a majority of counties to opt out of pot shops in Michigan.”
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October showed 62 percent favor legalization — including majorities among Millennials, members of Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation. Drug legalization is one of the few issues where men take a more liberal stand than women. The Pew Research survey showed 68 percent of men, and just 56 percent of women, support legal pot.
The Utah measure that passed this year is especially notable, Schweich said, because the Republican-dominated state legislature is now likely to take up its own medical marijuana measure. That measure will likely be more conservative than the ballot proposition voters approved, but it will still mark the first time a conservative legislature has approved marijuana use. “You’re going to see a very conservative state adopt, via its legislature, a medical marijuana law,” he said. “We’ve really showed that any state, no matter how socially conservative it might be, can have medical marijuana.”
The legislative action in Utah is a prelude of what marijuana legalization backers hope becomes the next front in their fight. Not every state allows citizens to change laws via ballot measure; in some states, any change will be up to the legislature.
Two Democratic governors have indicated they would support legalization if the legislature forwards a bill to their desks. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ran into opposition from some Democratic legislators during his first session in office but Illinois Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker (D) has said he supports legalization.
November 15, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 8, 2018
This local article, headlined "Whitmer will consider forgiving marijuana crimes," highlights how there can be a quick connection between marijuana reform and criminal justice reform. Here are the details as reported from the state up north:
Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer will pursue executive action or legislation to free inmates and expunge criminal records for those convicted of marijuana crimes that will become legal under the state's pending recreational marijuana law, she indicated Wednesday.
“I think that the people of Michigan have said that for conduct that would now be legal, no one should bear a lifelong record for that conduct,” Whitmer said in her first press conference since winning election over Republican Bill Schuette on Tuesday night.
Voters approved Proposal 1 to legalize adult marijuana possession and set up a system to license businesses.
Whitmer will replace GOP Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 1 and “will start taking a look at (marijuana crime expungement) and making some decisions and taking some action early next year,” she said.
The East Lansing Democrat supported Proposal 1, which will allow adults over the age of 21 to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants for personal use. Those provisions are set to take effect by early December, while licensing retail shops could take more than a year.
Spokesman Zack Pohl said “a legislative solution is probably the most likely avenue” for expunging low-level marijuana convictions. Whitmer will work with a Republican-controlled Legislature, and it’s not yet clear whether lawmakers will have any appetite to take up the issue.
“I think it’s a little unclear still in Michigan law what the governor’s authority is to expunge convictions for marijuana crimes, but... she thinks the people have spoken, and people who are serving sentences for a crime that’s now legal deserve some sort of remedy,” Pohl said.
Friday, November 2, 2018
As reported in this local article, a "commission studying marijuana legalization in New Hampshire released its 264-page report with 54 recommendations that form a potential blueprint should state legislators pursue bills to legalize cannabis for adult, recreational use." Here is a partial summary of the massive report from the press piece:
Though it takes no position on legalization, the commission produced a framework for marijuana legalization, starting with recommending lawmakers refer to it as cannabis.
Recommendations mirror some practices in the eight states that have legalized recreational pot. They include limiting possession to 1 ounce for adults (21+) and up to 5 grams of concentrate, prohibiting public indoor or outdoor consumption, allowing towns and cities an "opt-in" provision, and banning marijuana smoking lounges or in a similar restaurant or business.
Marijuana legalization could generate up to $58 million for the state. But that is the high end, notes Rep. Patrick Abrami, the commission chairman. The report cites low end range being $15.2 million to $26.9 million, and the high range being $32.7 million to $57.7 million.
It recommends creation of a “pathway” for existing therapeautic cannabis centers, which are now non-profit by law, to become for-profit organizations -- with the intent that they may enter the “adult use” market. Any proposed home cultivation should limit six plants (three mature) per person, with that limit going to 12 plans (six mature) per household.
The full report is available at this link, and here is a portion of its extended executive summary:
Despite a number of states legalizing cannabis, many important issues remain unresolved as New Hampshire contemplates legalization. New Hampshire banks may still be reluctant to have banking relationships with marijuana businesses because of the federal position, potentially making any commercialization a cash-only industry. Many companies are working on a roadside marijuana sobriety test similar to the breathalyzer, but there is still no certified device to detect marijuana impairment. Workplace issues surrounding marijuana use and impairment are impacting businesses in states that have legalized and states that have not. Revenue is necessary to fund public education campaigns key to safe use and to fund substance misuse prevention and treatment. There is a need to fund and conduct research and data collection to monitor effects on health, driving while impaired, workplace safety, crime rates, usage rates, school performance, and impacts on quality of life and the NH state brand. Vaping marijuana products has become wide-spread among our middle school, high school, and college students and needs to be addressed. All of these facts are indisputable and viewed as such by all Commission members....
Finally, speakers from every legalized state warned that for every positive claim about marijuana, there is a negative claim that can be made. We found this to be true and decided to carefully select high quality peer reviewed studies to present in this report rather than draw conclusions. The studies are grouped into four categories; health, relationship to opioid misuse, youth and young adult use, and public safety. For each topic, multiple studies with abstracts are presented. The Commission thought it important that the executive and legislative branch of NH government as well as all the citizens of NH hear both sides of the marijuana legalization argument. Therefore, the studies are further classified as those in support of legalization and those opposed to legalization.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this new article recently posted to SSRN authored by Sean O'Connor and Erika Lietzan. Here is its abstract:
As more states legalize cannabis, the push to “deschedule” it from the Controlled Substances Act is gaining momentum. At the same time, the FDA recently approved the first conventional drug containing a cannabinoid derived from cannabis — cannabidiol (“CBD”) for two rare seizure disorders. This would all seem to bode well for proponents of full federal legalization of medical cannabis.
But some traditional providers are wary of drug companies pulling medical cannabis into the regular small molecule drug development system. The FDA’s focus on precise analytical characterization and on individual active and inactive ingredients may be fundamentally inconsistent with the “entourage effects” theory of medical cannabis. Traditional providers may believe that descheduling cannabis would free them to promote and distribute their products free of federal intervention, both locally and nationally. Other producers appear to assume that descheduling would facilitate a robust market in cannabis-based edibles and dietary supplements. In fact, neither of these things is true. If cannabis were descheduled, the FDA’s complex and comprehensive regulatory framework governing foods, drugs, and dietary supplements would preclude much of this anticipated commerce.
For example, any medical claims about cannabis would require the seller to complete the rigorous new drug approval process, the cost of which will be prohibitive for most current traditional providers. Likely also unexpected to some, there is no pathway forward for conventional foods containing cannabis constituents, if those foods cross state lines. And it will certainly come as a shock to many that federal law already prohibits the sale of dietary supplements containing CBD — including those already on the market. In this article, we describe in detail this surprising reach of the FDA and then outline three modest — but legal — pathways forward for cannabis-based products in a world where cannabis has been descheduled.
October 27, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
SAM sets forth (awfully criminal) vision of a "pro-public health approach to state marijuana law reform"
I just today saw this new posting from the folks as Smart Approaches to Marijuana under the heading "SAM Model State Legislation." Here are excerpts:
The criminalization of marijuana has had a negative effect in society, with disproportionate harm to minority and disadvantaged populations. Therefore, we at SAM reject this dichotomy of commercialization and criminalization. We pursue a middle ground that is aligned with scientific knowledge about the public health harms of marijuana.
State marijuana laws should discourage the use of marijuana, get those who need help back on their feet, and ensure that those who get help are not penalized for their past mistakes. Accordingly, SAM staff have put together several key points to be addressed in model legislation. A pro-public health approach to state marijuana law reform should:
⁃ Provide alternatives to incarceration for personal use marijuana possession offenses, including citation instead of arrest, diversion programs, and appropriate fines that take into account economic means;
⁃ Require mandatory assessment of problem drug use by a treatment professional after the first citation; those who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder can be diverted into a treatment track where they receive the appropriate level of care, those who are not problem users can be directed to social services for follow-up and addressing other life factors contributing to drug use;
⁃ Expand the use of conditional discharge by requiring its consideration;
⁃ Allow fines and cost of treatment to be waived for those without means;
⁃ Provide automatic expungement for first-time offenders who complete treatment or education program without further violations within one year;
⁃ Model penalties on Hawaii’s HOPE program for non-compliance with court-ordered treatment/recovery plan; and
⁃ Offer community services as an alternative to fines for those with severe financial hardship.
I have a hard time considering this outline a "pro-public health" approach to state marijuana law reform given how heavily it still seems to lean on criminalization. For example, the first point suggesting "alternatives to incarceration for personal use marijuana possession offenses" suggests that any and all forms or marijuana distribution still should be subject to punishment in the form of incarceration. Repeated reference to "fines" and "offenders" and "penalties" likewise connotes operationalize this "reform" through the criminal justice system. Especially because entanglement with the criminal justice system rarely, if ever, advances public health, I am deeply disappointed by the fact that "SAM Model State Legislation" is really pretty close to existing criminal prohibition models and not all reflective of what a true "pro-public health approach" would really seem to involve.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new NBC News article, which carries this summary subhead: "Four states have marijuana measures on the ballot in November, and a Democratic Congress could make it easier for more states to relax drug laws." With exactly two weeks until Election Day 2018, I like the phrase "marijuana midterms," and here are excerpts from the lengthy press piece:
As polls show record support for marijuana legalization, advocates say the midterm elections could mark the point of no return for a movement that has been gathering steam for years. "The train has left the station," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a leading marijuana reform advocate in Congress. "I see all the pieces coming together... It's the same arc we saw two generations ago with the prohibitions of alcohol."
Voters in four states will weigh in on ballot initiatives to legalize weed for recreational or medical use next month, while voters everywhere will consider giving more power to Democrats, who have increasingly campaigned on marijuana legalization and are likely to advance legislation on the issue if they win back power in Congress and state capitals.... Politically, the issue has gone from a risible sideshow to a mainstream plank with implications for racial justice and billions of dollars in tax revenue. "Politicians embraced it because it's actually good politics,” said Blumenauer. “They can read the polls.”...
But opponents say advocates are ignoring the backlash that rapid legalization has created, including from some surprising corners, like the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, which is set to announce Tuesday its opposition to a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in Michigan, the most significant of this year's referendums. Michigan already has a robust medical marijuana industry, but voters could decide to fully legalize the drug for recreational use on Nov. 6. A recent survey commissioned by The Detroit Free Press found 55 percent of voters supported the measure, compared to 41 percent who opposed it.
Meanwhile, North Dakota voters will also have a chance to legalize recreational marijuana in one of the most conservative states in the country, two years after 64 percent of voters approved its medical use during the 2016 election. Advocates are less hopeful about their prospects this year, though a pro-legalization group released a poll this weekend claiming a narrow 51 percent of likely voters approve of the measure.
Utah, a deep red state with some of the strictest alcohol rules in the country, is considering a medical marijuana initiative, which polls suggest is favored to succeed, even though most of the state’s political and religious leaders oppose it.
At the same time, Missouri voters will consider three separate and competing medical marijuana ballot initiatives. The situation has frustrated advocates and could confuse voters, especially because it's unclear what will happen if they approve more than one next month.
Meanwhile, Vermont's state legislature earlier this year legalized cannabis, though not for commercial sale, and New York and New Jersey could be next, as lawmakers in both states are actively considering the issue....
Progressive Democrats like Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Texas Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, have adopted marijuana legalization as a central plank of their campaigns by tying the issue to criminal justice reform, citing the disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested for the drug even though usage is common among whites. In one of the biggest applause lines of his stump speech, O’Rourke — a longtime advocate of marijuana reform dating back to his days on the El Paso City Council — asks supporters who will be the last person of color incarcerated for possessing something that is now legal for medical use in a majority of states.
But a growing number of more mainstream Democrats have adopted the policy too, like J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire hotel magnate running for governor of Illinois, and Michigan gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, who beat a progressive Bernie Sanders-style challenger in the Democratic primary. “Democrats have really jumped on this as a way of galvanizing their voters,” said Michael Collins, the interim director of the pro-legalization group Drug Policy Action. “If you're on the more moderate side of the party and you want to show your progressive bona fides, you go to marijuana, because it's not as controversial an issue as, say eliminating ICE,” the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency....
But Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the Obama administration on drug policy who runs a group that opposes marijuana legalization, says advocates are overstating the inevitability of their side. “I don't think this is a done deal at all,” he said, noting that his group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has raised more money this year than any year in its history. “Ironically, the more legalization rolls out, as recklessly as it is, the more support we get.” Polls showing sky-high support for legalization can be misleading, Sabet argues, because they use vague wording that can lead respondents to conflate decriminalization with a full-blown recreational system that allows for storefront dispensaries.
Some of the most vocal opposition, he said, has come from African-American organizations, who express concern that the commercialization of the marijuana industry has primarily benefited white entrepreneurs even though communities of color have borne the brunt of the drug war. "This really isn't about social justice, it's about a few rich white guys getting rich," Sabet said, noting that the black caucus in the New Jersey state legislature has helped stall Murphy's legalization effort in New Jersey.
Proponents acknowledge the racial disparities in the marijuana industry, and some, like Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, has advocated a legalization regime that would benefit black and brown weed entrepreneurs.
Either way, if Democrats win back the House, advocates say Congress could advance a number of reform bills that have been blocked by the Republican majority. Some, like a bill to exempt states that have legalized marijuana from federal restrictions and another to allow marijuana businesses to use banks, have numerous Republican co-sponsors and could pass both chambers of Congress today — if only leaders allowed lawmakers to vote on them, advocates say.
October 23, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Will Canada's legalization of marijuana impact coming legalization votes in Michigan and North Dakota and elsewhere in US?
The question in the title of this post is my domestic reaction to the big international marijuana reform news of Canadian marijuana legalization efforts becoming a reality. This new Politico article, headlined "Members of Congress, businesses push for homegrown weed," reports on some of the US echoes of what has transpired in the country up north this week, and here are excerpts:
Washington just got some major peer pressure to embrace the bong. Its vast northern neighbor Canada legalizes the retail sale of marijuana nationwide Wednesday. The Canadian cannabis sector is already estimated to be worth $31 billion and upstart marijuana companies have soared on the New York Stock Exchange.
But America’s patchwork of state laws — and federal ban on marijuana — put American pot companies at a high disadvantage. It's unclear whether the push to liberalize U.S. marijuana laws will get very far: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared war on marijuana, though his efforts have been dampened by a not-so-hostile White House. Yet Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said last week that the White House plans to address cannabis reform following the midterms.
Rohrabacher's efforts are bolstered by a chorus of congressional and business voices calling on the Trump administration to respond with an “America First” policy on pot. A publicly traded U.S. cannabis company bought a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday with a message to President Donald Trump: Canada will take over the U.S. marijuana market if we don't legalize soon....
A bipartisan group of American lawmakers fumed last month when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency gave the green light to importing Canadian marijuana for research purposes. The 15 lawmakers, many of them representing states that have legalized recreational cannabis, protested to the DEA and Sessions that dozens of American companies already requested permission to produce marijuana for study. They wrote that allowing the University of California, San Diego, one of the applicants, to import marijuana capsules from Canada-based Tilray, Inc., was “adding insult to injury.”
Noting that Trump had issued a "Buy American" executive order, the lawmakers urged the administration to ensure that the domestic need for cannabis research be met by American institutions. The concerns are not just limited to medicinal marijuana. Recreational use is gaining a foothold in U.S. states. Voters in North Dakota and Michigan will vote on ballot initiatives on legalization on Election Day.
Already, nine states and the District of Columbia, have legalized pot, and 31 others allow medical marijuana. “I think it frankly cries out for a federal solution,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), now challenging Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for her Senate seat, told POLITICO. “And this is tough stuff — this is hard stuff to talk about — because I’m a law-and-order congressman, but it’s impossible to ignore what’s going on. … If the federal government itself doesn’t do something to sort of at least provide the banking system that allows for greater oversight and regulation, I think we’re just setting ourselves up for a bit of a rogue industry rather than a highly regulated one.”
Though this piece is focused on federal US policies, I am especially interested in the reality that the two states voting on full legalization this election cycle both border Canada. I have been thinking that voters in the (bluish) state of Michigan were on a path toward legalization even before these developments in Canada, but I have also been guessing that voters in the (deep red) state of North Dakota were not going to be ready to vote for full legalization. But maybe developments up north could change these dynamics among the voters
October 18, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 15, 2018
"States’ Rights and Federal Wrongs: The Misguided Attempt to Label Marijuana Legalization Efforts as a 'States’ Rights' Issue"
The title of this post is the title of this short article by Paul Larkin on SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Advocates for liberalization of the federal statutes outlawing cannabis have argued that the issue whether and how to regulate marijuana should be left to the states to decide. Yet, we do not allow states to decide whether to prohibit other controlled substances, such as heroin, and there is no good reason to put marijuana in a separate category. Since the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act became law in 1938 the nation has authorized the Food and Drug Administration to decide which drugs to approve for therapeutic use.
We do not make those decisions the subject of a referendum because the decision requires the expert scientific judgment of professionals in medicine and biochemistry, not the moral judgment of the populace. Congress should re-examine how federal law regulates marijuana, but Congress should be guided by the judgment of the FDA as to the costs and benefits of liberalizing marijuana use.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy Politico article discussing the politics and practicalities surrounding the relationships between medical marijuana reform and marijuana industry developments. I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:
With nine states, and the District of Columbia, now allowing the recreational use of cannabis — and more in the pipeline — advocates on both sides of the issue say that medical cannabis programs are increasingly functioning as a Trojan horse for de facto legalization in the 40 states where the politics of legalization aren’t quite ripe yet. And that’s rapidly changing the political and policy dynamics surrounding the emerging industry....
Medicinal marijuana has, indeed, been a driving force for legalization in other states. California’s decision 20 years ago to become the first state to approve the sale of legal medicinal marijuana paved the way for the Golden State to become, as of this year, the world’s largest legal recreational cannabis market. Now, with polls showing public support for medical cannabis in the U.S. at around 90 percent, medical marijuana proponents have shifted their gaze to more conservative states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisiana, or towards enlarging existing medical marijuana programs in places like New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
And while medicinal advocates insist their efforts are simply meant to help patients, opponents say that’s laughable. “There’s a marijuana industry making all sorts of medical claims that, if they were pharma companies, they’d probably be jailed,” said Kevin Sabet, the president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes recreational use policies. “It’s not this bright line between medical and recreational. And there should be a bright line.”...
“This doesn’t have anything to do with cancer patients, or folks with epilepsy, this is about the expansion of the marijuana industry,” he said. “The worst kept secret about most medical marijuana programs is that they often act as de facto legalization. With the expansion of programs in New Jersey or other states, this is often tied to the marijuana industry’s interest to expand the user pool and make money.”
Marijuana proponents don’t necessarily disagree. The growing acceptance of medical cannabis has helped eliminate the stigma around recreational use, multiple sources told POLITICO. We’re far from the days of “Reefer Madness.” “When you have a situation in a state like California, where there are cannabis stores in your neighborhood; when you can see what that looks like, and how much it’s different from the unregulated criminal market; when you can see the effects of businesses moving into storefronts that generate jobs and tax revenue,” then it’s far easier to change the minds of fearful or skeptical consumers — and political leaders — about legalization, says Tom Angell, publisher of Marijuana Moment, one of the nation’s leading trackers of developments and news in the cannabis industry....
California, which legalized the sale of recreational marijuana this past Jan. 1, essentially wrote the blueprint for moving from medicinal marijuana to full-scale legalization. The state’s cannabis market is expected to reach $5.1 billion in the next year — and $25 billion by 2026. That booming business potential on both the medical and recreational side has made it an attractive investment for Canadian companies like CannaRoyalty Corporation, which this year acquired a crowd of California-based cannabis firms that include FloraCal Farms, an “ultra-premium cannabis producer,” Oakland-based Alta Supply, a medical cannabis firm; Kaya Management, a vaporizer manufacturer, as well as RVR, a “large-scale distributor” of both medical and recreational cannabis....
Already, the immediate challenges of transitioning from legal medical to recreational markets have resulted in a flood of legislation aimed at addressing concerns and regulations in the U.S. Angell says that his publication, Marijuana Moment, tracked a whopping 863 bills in Congress related to cannabis this year alone. And along with that legislation has come a parade of “stakeholders invested in keeping legalization in effect — and eroding prohibition on the state and federal level.” That includes lobbyists, industry representatives, attorneys and innovators. What their growing numbers show is that “it will be increasingly hard for opponents to push back on the green wave,” he said.
With tens of thousands of Americans now employed in both the medical and recreational segments of the industry, and billions of dollars being generated in tax dollars for local and state governments, it’s no wonder that “so many ambitious politicians jumping in front of this issue,’’ Angell said. They’re not going back, he predicts: “There are too many people invested in legalization now.”
October 6, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Could the feds really be gearing up for a criminal crackdown on Colorado's state-compliant marijuana businesses?
The question in the title of this post is the one I have been thinking about since, Bob Troyer, the US attorney for the District of Colorado, authored this Denver Post commentary under the headline "It’s high time we took a breath from marijuana commercialization." Here are some key excerpts from the piece, with a few lines emphasized:
In 2012 we were told Colorado would lead the nation on a grand experiment in commercialized marijuana. Six years later — with two major industry reports just released and the state legislature and Denver City Council about to consider more expansion measures — it’s a perfect time to pause and assess some results of that experiment.
Where has our breathless sprint into full-scale marijuana commercialization led Colorado? Well, recent reports from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, from Denver Health, from Energy Associates, from the Colorado Department of Revenue and from the City of Denver should be enough to give everyone in this race pause.
Now Colorado’s youth use marijuana at a rate 85 percent higher than the national average. Now marijuana-related traffic fatalities are up by 151 percent. Now 70 percent of 400 licensed pot shops surveyed recommend that pregnant women use marijuana to treat morning sickness. Now an indoor marijuana grow consumes 17 times more power per square foot than an average residence. Now each of the approximately one million adult marijuana plants grown by licensed growers in Colorado consumes over 2.2 liters of water — per day. Now Colorado has issued over 40 little-publicized recalls of retail marijuana laced with pesticides and mold.
And now Colorado has a booming black market exploiting our permissive regulatory system — including Mexican cartel growers for that black market who use nerve-agent pesticides that are contaminating Colorado’s soil, waters, and wildlife....
As the U.S. attorney leading other U.S. attorneys on marijuana issues, I have traveled the country and heard what people are saying about Colorado. Do they tout Colorado’s tax revenue from commercialized marijuana? No, because there’s been no net gain: marijuana tax revenue adds less than one percent to Colorado’s coffers, which is more than washed out by the public health, public safety, and regulatory costs of commercialization.
Do they highlight commercialization’s elimination of a marijuana black market? No, because Colorado’s black market has actually exploded after commercialization: we have become a source-state, a theater of operation for sophisticated international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations from Cuba, China, Mexico, and elsewhere.
Do they promote our success in controlling production or containing marijuana within our borders? No, because last year alone the regulated industry produced 6.4 metric tons of unaccounted-for marijuana, and over 80,000 black market plants were found on Colorado’s federal lands.
Does the industry trumpet its promised decrease in alcohol use? No, because Colorado’s alcohol consumption has steadily climbed since marijuana commercialization. How about the industry’s claim that marijuana will cure opioid addiction? No, a Lancet study found that heavy marijuana users end up with more pain and are more likely to abuse opioids....
I’m not sure the 55 percent of Coloradans who voted for commercialization in 2012 thought they were voting for all this.
These impacts are why you may start seeing U.S. attorneys shift toward criminally charging licensed marijuana businesses and their investors. After all, a U.S. attorney is responsible for public safety.
My office has always looked at marijuana solely through that lens, and that approach has not changed. But the public safety impacts of marijuana in Colorado have. Now that federal enforcement has shot down marijuana grows on federal lands, the crosshairs may appropriately shift to the public harms caused by licensed businesses and their investors, particularly those who are not complying with state law or trying to use purported state compliance as a shield.
We should pause and catch our breath before racing off again at the industry’s urging. Let’s call it “just say know.” Let’s educate ourselves about the impacts of commercialization. Let’s reclaim our right as citizens to have a say in Colorado’s health, safety, and environment. Unfettered commercialization is not inevitable. You have a say.
I read this commentary as a warning of sorts, particularly to undercut the notion that some businesses may have that simply possessing a license from the state insulates them from federal prosecution. In many ways, even when the Cole Memo was in place, that was not true. But I sense from this piece that there is a growing concern about the way some in the licensed industry are operating, and this idea is made even clearer in this Westword piece with a Q&A with Mr. Troyer and this AP piece with additional quotes.
Were I involved in a Colorado marijuana business now, I would give particular attention to this statement from the AP piece: "'You can do plenty of harm to the community and still be in compliance with state law because those laws have a lot of loopholes and they're very permissive,' Troyer said." Specifically, if I was running a Colorado marijuana business, I would be spending a lot more time trying to document how my business was helping, rather than harming, the community (as well as, of course, documenting compliance with state laws).
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Criminal conviction restrictions are justified as one way to ensure that the legal marijuana market will not be used to divert drugs out of state, to minors, or to fund criminal enterprises. But using past behavior as a predictor for future actions is an imperfect measure. It is impossible to determine how exactly these restrictions contribute to public safety since they are always coupled with other regulations. We do know, however, that there are other ways to facilitate a functioning legal market using regulations that are not subject to prediction error. Security requirements, marijuana tracking systems, and bookkeeping requirements deter criminal behavior without using an applicant’s past to make assumptions.
In addition to uncertainties that criminal conviction restrictions are the best way to ensure a functioning legal market, it is also important to consider the costs of these restrictions. Criminal conviction restrictions reduce entry into the legal marijuana industry. By excluding drug criminals, conviction restrictions may fundamentally undermine the goals of marijuana legalization by forcing some to stay in the black market. Having a safe legal market is useless if the black market is still the primary supplier of marijuana.
Given the hypocrisy of these criminal conviction regulations, it is not surprising that some states and localities have adopted policies to help those negatively impacted by previous drug policies enter the marijuana industry. Equity programs, however, will only help a chosen few priority applicants. Fundamentally opening up employment opportunities in the marijuana industry by reducing conviction restrictions has the potential to help many people who have been impacted by the drug war.
September 27, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Notable groups set forth notable set of principles for marijuana reform as New Jersey debates legalization
The on-going debate over potential marijuana reform in New Jersey is continuing to generate lots of interesting and thoughtful discussion concerning just how states ought to approach legalizing and regulating marijuana. In that vein, I was interested to see this recent press release from Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey titled "AFP-NJ Supports Principles for Safe and Responsible Marijuana Reform" in conjunction with this document titled "Seven Principles To Guide A Successful And Well-Regulated Marijuana Market." Here are parts of the press release:
Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey (AFP-NJ) ... announced that it has co-signed a set of principles with the Reason Foundation’s Drug Policy Project regarding the state’s effort to legalize marijuana. If passed, S- 2703, the New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Act would legalize possession and personal use of marijuana for New Jerseyans over the age of 21 and would create the Division of Marijuana Enforcement and licensing structure.
Erica Jedynak, State Director of Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey issued the following statement in support of components of S- 2703:
“For too long, New Jerseyans have had their lives upended due to non-violent offenses like the recreational use of marijuana. In partnership with the Reason Foundation’s Drug Policy Project, we encourage lawmakers to follow the policy principles outlined for a successful and well-regulated marijuana market. These principles will help our state exercise its constitutional right to create a safely regulated marijuana market that spares generations of New Jerseyans from getting trapped in an endless and senseless cycle of incarceration. While S-2703 is not perfect in its current form, it makes good strides toward reshaping our criminal justice system and bringing it into the 21st century. Eventually, AFP-NJ hopes that a fully-realized effort to legalize recreational marijuana enhances public safety, provides second chances, and is free of cronyism and overregulation.”
Dr. Adrian Moore of Reason issued the following statement in support of components of S- 2703:
“As states move to legalize medical and adult use marijuana, it is vital that sensibly regulated free and competitive legal markets emerge to entirely replace black markets and all their ills. We are focused on helping to learn and adopt best practices and informed understanding of how markets work to the legislative and regulatory process of legalizing marijuana.”
The articulation of "Seven Principles To Guide A Successful And Well-Regulated Marijuana Market" makes for an interesting short read, and here are the listed "principles" without the accompanying paragraph of explanation:
1. Recognize There Is A Limit To The Tax Burden The Industry Can Bear.
2. Do Not Place Unnecessary Limits On The Number Of Licenses.
3. Award Licenses Based On Competency And Business Acumen.
4. Allow Business Owners To Operate Within A Scale And Structure They Can Manage.
5. Establish Parameters For Local Governments.
6. Regulations Based On Evidence And Allowing Alternative Approaches.
7. Do Not Penalize People For Acts That Are No Longer Crimes.
September 27, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Come see great panel on "Marijuana Policy in America" at "Laboratories of Democracy: Drug Policy In The United States"
The second part of the title of this post is the title of this exciting event taking place in Washington DC next week that I have had the honor of helping to plan. The event will include a panel discussion on the opioid crisis and a panel discussion on marijuana reform, and here is the event's full description:
Drug use and substance abuse are circumstances that no longer impact only a small percentage of our population. In 2016, over 20 million Americans dealt with a substance use disorder, and the CDC estimates that more than 10 percent of the American population use some form of illegal drug each month. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 58 percent of those in state prisons and 63 percent of those sentenced to state jails meet the medical criteria for drug dependence or abuse.
The Ohio State University’s newly established Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC), with support from the Charles Koch Foundation, will host Laboratories of Democracy: Drug Policy in the United States. This important event will bring together leading academics, members of law enforcement, policymakers, think tank scholars, community advocates, media figures, and other influencers from different spheres and perspectives to discuss the diverse and challenging policy questions that have emerged in the drug policy area.
The event will be held at The Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC on September 25, 2018 from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The experts speaking at this event have used their knowledge to propose positive drug policy solutions to tackle the difficult problems faced by our country, and the program will engage attendees in an action-oriented discussion on how our country can move forward with positive solutions to addiction and substance abuse.
Monday, September 17, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today delivered these remarks at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration event titled "Ideas to Impact: A Dialogue to Address Drug-Impaired Driving." Here are excerpts:
It is especially important that we get the word out about this because currently there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. Some even seem to suggest that marijuana and other drugs do not pose accident risks.
In recent years, a number of states have repealed their prohibitions on marijuana use. As a result, too many people think that marijuana is legal and that it is even legal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
That’s wrong. Federal law has not changed and drugged driving laws have not changed. Drugged driving is illegal on every inch of American soil. People need to understand that.
There is another common myth out there, as well: that marijuana doesn’t impair driving. That’s also wrong. Marijuana use slows reaction time and inhibits motor coordination and decision-making abilities. That makes driving much more dangerous.
The bottom line is this: if you’re driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, then you’re risking your life — and the life of everyone else on the road.
One European study found that drivers high on marijuana were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal crash as a sober driver.
Here in this country, the Governors Highway Safety Association put out a report back in May that says that — of those who are tested for drugs or alcohol — more drivers killed in car accidents last year tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. And by far the most common drug was marijuana, not opioids. Nearly a quarter of all drivers killed in car accidents who were tested had marijuana in their system — twice as many as tested positive for opioids.
In recent years, it has been getting worse. According to last year’s version of the report, the number of drivers killed in car accidents who tested positive for marijuana increased by nearly one-fifth from 2006 to 2016.
According to the Denver Post, the number of drivers killed in car accidents in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2016. And so, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died of drug overdoses in recent years, another several thousand have died because of drug-impaired driving — either their own or that of someone else.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The latest issue of the International Review of Psychiatry has a collection of interesting looking articles with titles like "Marijuana matters: reviewing the impact of marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, & exploring policy implications and barriers to research" and "Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds make haste: leveraging methodology from research on tobacco, alcohol, and opioid analgesics to make rapid and policy-relevant advances in cannabis science." There are too many interesting looking pieces to cite them all here, but I can quote the start of the editorial introduction:
The allowance of cannabis to be used as a medicine in the absence of adequate data to inform basic clinical decision-making is rooted in compassion for individuals with life-threatening illness, or substantially debilitating illness, and no other course for treatment. However, this relatively simple tenet has now morphed into a large-scale for-profit industry that is fraught with public health concerns. Access to cannabis has been expanded to include treatment for a multitude of health conditions, many of which are neither life-threatening nor debilitating, and for which effective alternative treatments exist. Data from which to determine the risk-benefit for an individual considering the use of cannabis is sparse at best. Quality control issues abound in this industry as there are no established standards for cultivating, processing, testing, or labeling cannabis products. There is also concern over advertisements and product labeling that include misleading or unsubstantiated health claims, as these products have not been vetted by traditional drug development methods. The speed in which cannabis policies are changing is rapid, and the fact that these are happening as a direct result of legislation or by voter referendum is reckless given the absence of consensus standards and, in many cases, appropriate regulatory oversight. The impact of revised cannabis laws, both with respect to medicinal use for a variety of health conditions, and for non-medicinal (aka ‘recreational’) use of cannabis by adults, will likely have a substantial impact on psychiatry.
This special issue of the International Review of Psychiatry is focused on cannabis science, but with a very targeted theme of cannabis regulatory science. Recently in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was granted regulatory authority over all nicotine and tobacco products. This was a landmark event, and has engendered a bolus of thoughtful, policy-oriented research that has already resulted in tobacco regulations which are likely to positively impact public health in the US and abroad. Studies have included careful scientific evaluation of the impact of nicotine on cigarette reinforcement and self-administration, packaging and flavoring on youth initiation, the harm reduction effects associated with nicotine delivery devices other than cigarettes, and other important topics. The parallel need for a cannabis regulatory science is urgent. Novel products and cannabis delivery devices are rolling onto the shelves of dispensaries at a rapid rate, product development appears to be geared towards high potency/high dose products, and it is all being carefully marketed to increase consumption. Contributions in this issue highlight lessons learned from tobacco, alcohol, and opioid regulatory science that are relevant to cannabis, detail important factors surrounding tobacco and cannabis co-use, and detail the potential impacts of regulatory changes on cannabis use in the workplace.
September 12, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 7, 2018
Elon Musk often generates a lot of media attention, especially from news outlets like CNBC. But this CNBC article, headlined "Elon Musk smokes weed, sips whiskey on Joe Rogan's podcast," reports on the reasons he is making a lot of news today:
Billionaire Elon Musk took viewers by surprise late Thursday when he smoked marijuana and drank whiskey during a live interview. The Tesla chief executive was speaking with comedian Joe Rogan, an advocate of legalizing weed, on his live internet show when he was handed the joint....
"Is that a joint? Or is it a cigar?" Musk asked Rogan before being told it was a cigarette containing marijuana, which is legal in California, and tobacco. Asked whether he had tried it before, the entrepreneur said: "Yeah, I think I tried one once."
"You probably can't because of stockholders," Rogan said, to which Musk retorted: "I mean it's legal, right?"....
Musk insisted he was not on weed at the time during an extensive interview with The New York Times. The executive shocked investors when he said he was considering taking the firm off the stock market at $420-a-share — 420 being a popular code term for cannabis.
"It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419," he told the Times. "But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There's a reason for the word 'stoned.' You just sit there like a stone on weed."
Traders are concerned the company may still need a capital injection to help with its cash burn problems. Tesla shares were down 1.2 percent Friday in premarket trade.
These subsequent CNBC stories suggest that Musk will continue to garner attention for his marijuana use (but not his whisky drinking):
Chris Talyor at is already troubled by where this is going, as evidence by this new Mashable piece headlined "OK, everybody: Stop pot-shaming Elon Musk"
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Though regular readers might be a bit tired of my eagerness to reference my recent extended article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," I am not at all tired of the idea that marijuana reform should always focus on criminal justice concerns and that new revenues emerging from the new marijuana industry out to be committed to criminal justice needed. So I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to develop this Issue Brief through the Scholars Strategy Network to stress key parts of my longer work under the headlined "How States Can Ensure That Today's Marijuana Reforms Also Ameliorate Harms Inflicted On Past Offenders." Here is an excerpt from this short commentary:
A new criminal justice institution could be funded by the taxes, fees, and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and assigned the mission of developing policies and practices to minimize the economic and social burdens that persist for those previously convicted of marijuana offenses.
Ex-offenders are often saddled with collateral sanctions at the local, state, and federal levels and have to deal with the widespread availability of their criminal records. These challenges justify the establishment of a permanent restorative institution in every jurisdiction, funded by fractions of the new resources generated by the legal marijuana industry and associated taxes.
A new Commission on Justice Restoration could be a public agency mandated to address the cumulative undue harms of prior convictions. The Commission could provide a much-needed clearinghouse and site for analyzing hard-to-collect data about the collateral consequences of convictions, and provide a centralized and impartial forum for statewide policymaking to redress these collateral consequences, to conduct and disseminate research on the fiscal and social costs of these collateral consequences, and to advocate for steps that can be taken to reduce long- term harms.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
This new piece by multiple authors appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides an interesting snapshot of marijuana use and users based on a survey administered in October 2017. The piece is titled "Smoking, Vaping, and Use of Edibles and Other Forms of Marijuana Among U.S. Adults," and here are some of the notable findings:
Among all respondents, 14.6% reported marijuana use in the past year and 8.7% reported use in the past 30 days. The prevalence of marijuana use in the past year was 20% (95% CI, 17.9% to 22.2%) in states where recreational use is legal, 14.1% (CI, 12.6% to 15.6%) in states where medical use is legal, and 12% (CI, 10.7% to 13.4%) in states where no use is legal.
A total of 12.9% of respondents reported smoking marijuana, 6% reported using edibles, 4.7% reported vaping, 1.9% reported using concentrates, and 0.8% reported using topicals. Overall, 6.7% reported using multiple forms in the past year. Prevalence of any use was inversely related to age, with persons aged 18 to 34 years reporting the highest use.... Men were more likely than women to use marijuana in any form and to use multiple forms (Table 1). Reported use was similar among racial groups.
Among persons who used multiple forms, 53% reported smoking and using edibles whereas 31% reported smoking and vaping. The prevalence of use of edibles was 11% (CI, 9.4% to 12.6%) in states where recreational use is legal, 5.1% (CI, 4.1% to 6.0%) in states where medical use is legal, and 4.2% (CI, 3.4% to 4.9%) in states where no use is legal. Baked goods/pastries and candies were the most common forms of edibles used by U.S. adults.... A limitation of our study is that those who participated in an online survey cohort may differ from those who did not, limiting generalizability. Respondents also may have underreported rates of use.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
I just came across this recent research available on-line in "preprint" with the same title as this post and authored by a collection of researchers. Here is its abstract with its significant conclusion highlighted:
Background and Aims:
The evolving legal status of cannabis in the United States and other countries necessitates the development of evidence-based regulatory policies to minimize risks associated with cannabis misuse. A prominent public health concern is whether legalization will lead to an expansion of the illegal cannabis market, with illegal cannabis acting as an economic substitute. Empirical data on this data on this issue is virtually nonexistent. This study used a behavioral economic approach to investigate substitutability of legal and illegal cannabis in legalized catchment areas in the U.S.
Adult cannabis users (N=740; Mean age = 33.8; 52% female; 73% Caucasian) were recruited using an online crowdsourcing platform from U.S. states with legalized recreational cannabis. A modified substitution-based marijuana purchase task assessed cannabis consumption from concurrently available legal (e.g., a dispensary) and illegal (e.g., a dealer) sources. Participants indicated the amount of cannabis they would consume from each source while prices of the two options were either held constant ($10/gram) or escalated ($0-$60/gram). Consumption values were used in demand curve modeling to generate quantitative indices of price sensitivity and elasticity.
Both legal and illegal fixed-price cannabis options had significant positive cross-price elasticities (ps < .001). However, the legal alternative had a substantially greater effect on consumption and elasticity of illegal cannabis (∆elasticity = 0.0018; F(1,37) = 148, p<.0001) than the opposite scenario (∆elasticity = 0.0002; F(1,37) = 47, p<.0001), indicating asymmetric substitution. Demand for legal cannabis was significantly greater than illegal cannabis (p< .0001).
Cannabis users treat legal cannabis as a superior commodity compared to illegal cannabis and exhibit asymmetric substitutability. Cannabis price policies that include higher consumer costs for legal cannabis relative to contraband would not be expected to incentivize and expand the illegal cannabis market.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Taking the problem of marijuana addiction seriously and thinking seriously about dynamic policy responses
I have recently seen a number of thoughtful pieces about marijuana addiction, and it seems worthwhile to do a quick round-up here:
From Annie Lowrey at The Atlantic, "America’s Invisible Pot Addicts: More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead."
From Jonathan Stea at Slate, "Cannabis Addiction Is Not Heroin Addiction. That Doesn’t Make It Any Less Real. A large minority of people have trouble with cannabis, and for those people, it’s important to find help."
From Rachel Browne at Vice News, "Inside Marijuana Anonymous, the group for people addicted to weed"