Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Taking stock of the state of modern marijuana politics circa late 2019

Writing in Forbes, Mike Adams has this amusing commentary under the headline ""Federal Marijuana Legalization Is A Lock – But How, When?". Here are excerpts:

Although pro-pot groups insist that 2019 has been the best year ever in the realm of cannabis reform, the reality is not much progress has transpired.  It is only revered as the “best year” because even less occurred in the years that came before it.  But no matter how you size it up, nothing plus bupkis still equals squat.  In spite of everything, marijuana remains illegal across most of the United States.

At the state level, many advocates predicted that New York and New Jersey would be the next to legalize weed.  Well, that didn’t happen.  In fact, Illinois swooped in and legalized first, making both states look like dorks.  But aside from that, no other significant pot laws were passed at the state level in 2019.  We also learned that police are still out there arresting more than 600,000 pot offenders nationwide every year — mostly small timers, too.

In addition, some states, like California, are having trouble curbing the black market, and tainted pot products, most of which were initially believed to be counterfeits, are finding their way into legal dispensaries.  To make matters worse, the cannabis industry, as a whole, is struggling to keep it together long enough to see profitability. Layoffs are prevalent and some of the nation’s most popular cannabis magazines are at risk of going under.  There’s just no possible way that 2019 should be considered a banner year for cannabis.

Federally speaking, parts of Congress dilly-dallied around with the notion of forging some kind of change in the realm of national cannabis reform, but the powers against it are still too strong to penetrate.  Rumor has it that the cannabis trade’s legislative pride and joy known as the SAFE Act is presently being gnawed on by rats in the basement of the Senate chamber.  Its last words were reportedly, “Y’all know I’m not really a marijuana bill, right?”  And the MORE Act, the proposal that got everyone to stop giving two-flying squirts about SAFE, well, that sucker has already been buried out behind the Capitol building alongside last year’s great green hope, the STATES Act.  Remember that one?  No?  Don’t feel bad, no one does.  No one cares.  The point is that cannabis hopefuls have spent all year yapping about legislation that doesn’t have what it takes to go the distance.

But the stakes are about to change in 2020, which could set the nation up for legal weed the following year.  There’s only one catch.  Americans – 66 percent of which are on board with legalizing the leaf the same as beer and tobacco – have to vote in the next election.  And for the right people.

The first thing all cannabis hopefuls need to come to grips with is that the SAFE Act and the MORE Act are dead.  No, that’s not official or anything.  There hasn’t been a press release issued saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican-dominated Senate are refusing to entertain these bills before year’s end.  But trust me on this one – SAFE and MORE are finished.

They could, however, be resurrected in 2020.  But for either of them to get any further attention, the legislative process would have to start from the very beginning.  And unless the Republicans in the Senate have a change of heart in the next few months, the prospect of getting these bills or any others aimed at legalizing weed nationwide isn’t going much further next year than they did in 2019.  Remember, as of January, Congress is still playing with the same losing team.

It is the November election when all the magic could happen.  It’s a time when the stoner stars could align and contribute to getting America high again.  But that all depends on the nation’s political loyalty when it comes time to vote.  There are several Senate seats up for grabs.  It is conceivable that the Democrats could win these seats and take control over the Senate. If that happens, McConnell, the man presently standing in the way of cannabis reform in the U.S, would be dethroned as Senate Majority Leader.  That’s when the cannabis debate could really find its footing in both chambers.  Because there would no longer be anyone on the Hill that cares enough to try to stop it.  And anyone who did oppose would surely be out voiced by Democratic rule.

Furthermore, a Democratic president (except for Joe Biden) would undoubtedly support most cannabis legislation, and there is even a solid chance that President Trump would sign off on it if he wins a second term.  Unless, of course, Trump decides to make a statement by stamping it with a veto just to prevent the Democrats (the same ones trying to have him impeached) from making any progress.  Grudges tend to have an extremely long shelf life when it comes to politics.

But here’s the deal.  If both Trump and the Democrats find success in the next election, the best-case scenario for getting marijuana legalization done at the federal level in 2021 is for Trump to make it his idea and let the Democrats follow suit.

December 11, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"Cannabis Trademarks and the First Amendment"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Robert Greenberg.  Here is its abstract:

A review of Supreme Court trademark litigation interpreting the First Amendment as well as recent trademark litigation at the state and federal levels.  The prohibition on immoral trademarks has been steadily eroding as a result of First Amendment litigation at the United States Supreme Court.  In light of recent Supreme Court decisions on trademark registrations and free speech, the question then becomes: Is the ban on cannabis trademark registrations justifiable in light of the First Amendment in view of these recent cases?  The issue of whether the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) should or will issue registrations in light of this recent line of cases is discussed.

November 26, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"The Complicated Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Parenting"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Kathryn Foust, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the sixteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The fifteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)    Here is this latest paper's abstract:

The intersection between marijuana and parenting is both highly controversial and largely unexplored.  Despite the trend of legalization (medicinal and recreational) across the country, there is a widening discrepancy between criminal laws and child welfare policies.  Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, a parent might still be charged with child abuse or neglect as a result of his or her marijuana use.  Although second-hand marijuana smoke has proven to be a relatively low risk of harm to children, other areas of concern have not been adequately studied, such as the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.  Despite the lack of reliable scientific studies on the impact of ingestion by children, some initial studies have shown a marked increase in frequency of accidental ingestions and resulting hospital treatment in states that have legalized marijuana.  The palatability and attractiveness of “edibles” is likely the cause of this measurable and dramatic increase. Overall, parental marijuana use has been inadequately studied by science, but some reliable data is available which could be used overhaul existing children’s services policies.

Prior student papers in this series:

November 20, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"A special exception for CBD in foods and supplements?"

X13596446The question in the title of this post is the headline if this notable new editorial in the journal Drug Discovery Today authored by Patricia Zettler and Erika Lietzan.  (Disclosure/humble brag: Professor Zettler is on the Ohio State College of Law faculty and a member of our Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)  Here are excerpts from the start and end of the piece:

In the last two years the cannabidiol (CBD) market has exploded. Consumers can purchase CBD-containing oils, lotions, gummies, tea, coffee, water, popcorn, and cereal, on store shelves and online. Celebrities and athletes are touting the benefits of these products, and sales are forecast to exceed $20 billion in the next five years.  This market explosion has coincided with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2018 approval of the first CBD drug (Epidiolex), for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in children, as well as the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed cannabis with low levels of delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol (THC) — “hemp” — from the federal list of controlled substances.  And it comes on the heels of nearly 40 states enacting comprehensive laws to legalize cannabis for medical use (and sometimes recreational use) within their borders.

Yet significant questions remain about the legal status of these widely available CBD products.  Most sales of CBD-containing foods and supplements violate the “drug exclusion rules” in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).  But FDA has yet to enforce those rules, apart from sending warning letters to a few sellers.  The agency is instead considering what approach to take.  Several former agency officials — including former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — have urged FDA to create a sensible, science-based path forward for consumer products.  The time is ripe for the agency, lawmakers, health care providers, the drug discovery community, and the public to consider the purpose of the drug exclusion rules and what a different approach — exempting CBD — might mean for consumer and patient access and safety, as well as innovation incentives....

As a practical matter, CBD-containing foods and supplements may be here to stay.  Lawmakers or FDA may decide that the drug exclusion rules are unwarranted for CBD, given the federal descheduling of hemp, state legalization of cannabis products, and (eventually) rigorous evidence that CBD products are relatively safe.  But FDA should not default into this position simply because a robust, albeit unlawful, market has already emerged.  A decision to give CBD special treatment should be made thoughtfully and with public participation, accounting for possible gains in consumer access and choice, as well as the lost opportunity to learn, and harness, CBD’s full therapeutic potential.

November 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"The Evolving Federal Response to State Marijuana Reforms"

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

The states have launched a revolution in marijuana policy, creating a wide gap between state and federal marijuana law.  While nearly every state has legalized marijuana in at least some circumstances, federal law continues to ban the substance outright.  Nonetheless, the federal response to state reforms has been anything but static during this revolution.  This Essay, based on my Distinguished Speaker Lecture at Delaware Law School, examines how the federal response to state marijuana reforms has evolved over time, from War, to Partial Truce, and, next (possibly) to Capitulation.  It also illuminates the ways in which this shifting federal response has alternately constrained and liberated states as they seek to regulate marijuana as they deem fit.

November 6, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Notable new poll explores Americans' views on CBD and marijuana

This new Politico piece reports on this interesting new polling that seems to me to present the deepest accounting of (shallow?) views on a range of cannabis related issues.  Here is part of the Politico piece: 

Americans now think marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes, according to new polling results from POLITICO and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health released Monday. Just 1 in 5 Americans believe marijuana is very harmful to people who use it. Twice as many said the same about alcohol, 52 percent characterized e-cigarettes as very harmful and 80 percent said tobacco cigarettes are very harmful....

The poll shows marijuana largely has avoided a perception hit following nearly 2,000 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, including at least 37 deaths. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 80 percent of vaping products linked to lung problems contained THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana. Most of the vaping products tied to the outbreak were bought on the black market, although a handful of deaths have been tied to products purchased through state-legal marijuana dispensaries. The poll was conducted in early October, at least a month after news broke of health issues associated with vaping....

The market for CBD products has exploded since hemp was legalized under the 2018 farm bill, with Americans using it to treat everything from back pain to cancer. But despite widespread use, many Americans don't know what it is.

Nearly half of respondents indicated they weren’t familiar with CBD. Yet CBD is widely seen by the general public as a benign substance. Only 8 percent of total adults polled and 5 percent of those familiar with CBD said they think it is very harmful.

A majority of people familiar with CBD said they want little to no interference or regulation by the federal government. Only half of those who knew what CBD was thought the Food and Drug Administration should regulate the safety of products that contain it. The FDA is wrestling with how it should regulate the rapidly growing industry.

Of consumers familiar with CBD, 55 percent said they should be able to buy it over the counter if they think it‘s effective for them — whether or not a clinical trial has proven that it actually is. And more than 3 out of every 5 CBD users say they’d consider using their favorite products even if the FDA found that the product doesn’t actually help in the way it claims to....

While 67 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents support federal marijuana legalization, only 45 percent of Republicans are on board. That translates to 62 percent of Americans supporting federal legalization, a huge leap from the 44 percent of Americans who thought legalization was a good idea in 2009...

But when it comes to CBD, there is no partisan divide. According to the Harvard poll, 13 percent of Republicans and Democrats indicated they use CBD products. In addition, 83 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans think it should be sold in drugstores like CVS or Walgreens. The real CBD divide is generational: 21 percent of adults under 30 use it, versus 11 percent of adults over 65.

November 5, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Has the 'M' word been framed? Marijuana, cannabis, and public opinion"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Robert Mikos and Cindy Kam.  Here is its abstract:

Over the past two decades, a growing cadre of US states has legalized the drug commonly known as “marijuana.”  But even as more states legalize the drug, proponents of reform have begun to shun the term “marijuana” in favor of the term “cannabis.”  Arguing that the “M” word has been tainted and may thus dampen public support for legalization, policy advocates have championed “cannabis” as an alternative and more neutral name for the drug.  Importantly, however, no one has tested whether calling the drug “cannabis” as opposed to “marijuana” actually has any effect on public opinion.

Using an original survey experiment, we examine whether framing the drug as “marijuana” as opposed to “cannabis” shapes public attitudes across a range of related topics: support for legalization of the drug, moral acceptance of its use, tolerance of activities involving the drug, perceptions of the drug’s harms, and stereotypes of its users. Throughout each of our tests, we find no evidence to suggest that the public distinguishes between the terms “marijuana” and “cannabis.”  We conclude with implications of our findings for debates over marijuana/cannabis policy and for framing in policy discourse more generally.

November 4, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bronx Borough Prez issues new marijuana reform report focused on social justice issues

Marijuana-report-cover-bxbpI was intrigued to see this short but compelling report released this week by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. titled "Marijuana Justice in New York: The Path to Reform." The report gives special attention to issues of criminal justice reform and economic empowerment, and here and the report's six recommendations as set forth in its executive summary:

Proposal 1: Community Reinvestment. Low-income and minority communities across the state that have been disproportionately affected by past marijuana criminalization should see the benefits of legalization. Some of the revenue from legalization should be returned to these communities in the form of grants and other opportunities.

Proposal 2: Second Chances for Job Applicants who Fail Drug Tests for Marijuana. Many New Yorkers have failed drug tests for marijuana in the past, which has prevented them from getting a job. Employers should be encouraged to call these job-seekers back for future openings, and services should be available to help these individuals find employment.

Proposal 3: Equity in Licensing. The marijuana industry in New York State should reflect the population of New York State. The state should ensure that licenses are granted to qualified equity applicants so that those harmed by marijuana criminalization will be able to benefit from its legalization. The licensing system should ensure that small and minority-owned businesses are able to participate in the industry so that large, out-of-state companies cannot box them out.

Proposal 4: Access to Capital and Banking Services. Currently, banks are reluctant to engage with the marijuana industry. The state should ensure access to funds for small marijuana businesses so that the industry is not dominated by larger businesses that do not reflect the diversity of the state. New York State should advocate for Congress to pass a law protecting financial institutions from prosecution for legal cannabis-related activities.

Proposal 5: Automatic Expungement. The decriminalization bill introduced an expungement mechanism in New York State for the first time and provided that low-level marijuana offenses could be expunged. A legalization bill must make more former marijuana offenses subject to expungement as well. Past criminal convictions limit opportunities, and the enforcement of marijuana laws has fallen disproportionately against minorities and low-income communities.

Proposal 6: Ending Family Separations because of Marijuana. Currently, a positive drug test for marijuana is sufficient to start a child neglect investigation. No families should be broken apart because a parent, particularly a new parent, tests positive for marijuana.

October 26, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"Pop Culture's Influence on Recreational Marijuana Use & Legislation: A Case Study on Snoop Dogg"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Abby Graves, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the fourteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The thirteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:

Marijuana has taken a long journey through the court of public opinion; from condemned fringe use in minority communities and by jazz musicians through the 20s and 40s, to its heyday in the 60s and 70s era of Woodstock and Bob Dylan, only to be villainized again in the 80s and 90s.  Today, the public perception of marijuana is dawning a new era of acceptance, in no small part thanks to its normalization in rap music and white America’s embrace of men like Calvin Broadus, also known as Snoop Doggy Dogg.  Modern popular culture has slowly changed the public perception of recreational marijuana use and paved the way for legalization.  Social scientists have been able to link the lyrics in popular music to the attitudes in popular opinion, and this paper will focus on the influence of hip hop, gangsta rap, the cult of celebrity, and Snoop Dogg himself on modern legalization efforts and cannabusiness.

Prior student papers in this series:

October 23, 2019 in Music, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus to hold hearing on "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers."

As reported here via Marijuana Moment and as made official on this Senate webpage, the Senate International Narcotics Control Caucus is scheduled to hold a two-panel hearing on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 2:30pm under the title "Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers."  Here is the "Witness List":

Panel I Consisting of:

  • Jerome Adams, MD, Surgeon General of the United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
  • Nora Volkow, MD, Director, National Institute of Drug Abuse, North Bethesda, MD 

Panel II Consisting of:

  • Robert Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, University of California-San Diego, San Diego, CA
  • Staci Gruber, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • Sean Hennessy, Pharm.D, Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
  • Madeline Meier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Here is some context from the Marijuana Moment article:

While the panel has released few details about the meeting, the list of witnesses gives some indication about what kind of subject matter will be covered.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is set to participate in the first panel. The official is an outspoken critic of cannabis reform, decrying increased THC potency and decreased perception of marijuana risks among youth. He issued an advisory in August warning the public about marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), will join Adams on that panel. While often skeptical about claims about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis such as its ability to help people overcome addiction to opioids, Volkow has repeatedly stated that the Schedule I status of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act is inhibiting research into the plant....

For the caucus’s second panel, four professors from universities across the country will weigh in on marijuana and public health. Robert Fitzgerald of the University of California at San Diego, Staci Gruber of Harvard Medical School, Sean Hennessy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Madeline Meier of Arizona State University are scheduled to testify.

Fitzgerald and Gruber have led departments within their respective schools that have conducted studies into marijuana, such as Gruber’s research demonstrating that the use of medical cannabis can improve cognitive functioning. Meier is well-known for her 2012 study linking frequent marijuana use to a drop in IQ.

October 22, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 21, 2019

"Cannabis Legalization in State Legislatures: Public Health Opportunity and Risk"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Daniel Orenstein and Stanton Glantz now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Cannabis is widely used in the U.S. and internationally despite its illicit status, but that illicit status is changing.  In the U.S., 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, and 11 states and D.C. have legalized adult use cannabis.  A majority of state medical cannabis laws and all but two state adult use laws are the result of citizen ballot initiatives, but state legislatures are beginning to seriously consider adult use legislation.  From a public health perspective, cannabis legalization presents a mix of potential risks and benefits, but a legislative approach offers an opportunity to improve on existing legalization models passed using the initiative process that strongly favor business interests over public health.

To assess whether state legislatures are acting on this opportunity, this article examines provisions of proposed adult use cannabis legalization bills active in state legislatures as of February 2019 to evaluate the inclusion of key public health best practices based on successful tobacco and alcohol control public health policy frameworks. Given public support for legalization, further adoption of state adult use cannabis laws is likely, but legalization should not be viewed as a binary choice between total prohibition and laissez faire commercialization.  The extent to which adult use cannabis laws incorporate or reject public health best practices will strongly affect their impact, and health advocates should work to influence the construction of such laws to prioritize public health and learn from past successes and failures in regulating other substances.

October 21, 2019 in 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, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"The Cannabis Effect on Crime: Time-Series Analysis of Crime in Colorado and Washington State"

Justice_quarterly_front_and_The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors just now published in the journal Justice Quarterly.  Here is its abstract and part of its conclusions:

Abstract

Previous studies based on relatively weak analytical designs lacking contextualization and appropriate comparisons have reported that the legalization of marijuana has either increased or decreased crime.  Recognizing the importance for public policy making of more robust research designs in this area during a period of continuing reform of state marijuana laws, this study uses a quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series design to determine if, and how, UCR crime rates in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana, were influenced by it.  Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington.  We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states....

Conclusions

Authors of previous studies (Berenson, 2019; NHIDTA, 2016; Smart Approaches to Marijuana. (2018) argue that legalization is associated with an increase in crime.  Our results suggest that cannabis laws more broadly, and the legalization of recreational marijuana more specifically, have had minimal effect on major crime in Colorado or Washington State.  We observed virtually no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational marijuana legalization or retail sales on violent or property crime rates, except for a significant decline of burglary rates in Washington.  There were some immediate increases in crime at the point of legalization, but these did not result in long-term effects.  It is difficult to study trends for less serious crimes, as the UCR only includes arrest data for these offenses and not offenses known.  Though NIBRS data presents an attractive alternative, not all of Washington is NIBRS compliant and many of the agencies that are reporting NIBRS data have not done so for a long enough period of time pre-legalization for time series modeling to be examined.  Still, the results related to serious crime are quite clear: the legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a significant upward trend in crime rates.  Our results are robust in that we examined the first two states to legalize marijuana and compared them to states with no marijuana laws at all.  Moreover, we estimated our models in a variety of manners, including models with different interruption points, single-group interrupted time series analyses, and as a set of pooled cross-sectional models. None of our models revealed long term effects of marijuana legalization on serious crime rates.

In concert with recent research results from Makin et al. (2019), our results from Colorado and Washington suggest that legalization has not had major detrimental effects on public safety.  Having said this we would caution that it would also be premature to suggest that legalization renders substantial increases in public safety, as the rates of most crimes remained steady in this study in the post-legalization period and because crime is not the only measure of public safety.  Additional work is needed to examine the effect of legalization on other public safety outcomes, including public and mental health measures.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data"

Thanks to this posting at Marijuana Moment, I just now saw a study with the same title as the title of this post.   This study, which was authored by Erin Farley and Stan Orchowsky and was supported "using funding from the National Institute of Justice, between the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Justice Research and Statistics Association," sought "to address three research questions: (1) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on criminal justice resources in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon?; (2) What are the impacts on criminal justice resources in states that border those that have legalized marijuana? This includes Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas; and (3) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on drug trafficking through northern and southwest border states?  This includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington."

Notably, the paper highlights that state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs) "were unable to provide the requested information" to answer these questions as a result of the fact that the requested data "did not exist because they were not being tracked or they were being tracked/collected but were not readily available because they were not being reported in any systematic way to a centralized agency." Data limitations notwithstanding and subject to other caveats about analytical challenges, the report ends noting "some general conclusions can be offered based on the analyses of the quantitative and qualitative data presented here."  Here are excerpts from these conclusions:

First, it indeed seems to be the case that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana results in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases.  Whether we look at arrests or court case filings for possession or distribution, marijuana related offenses seem to have decreased in Oregon and Washington since legalization of recreational use. In most cases, these decreases appear to have started well before legislation was enacted, perhaps reflecting changes in law enforcement policies and practices in anticipation of the coming policy changes.

Interviews with law enforcement officials, though based on the perceptions of only a small number of respondents, provided insight into a number of concerns with regard to legalization of marijuana, including the potency of marijuana products, increased marijuana use among youth, and increases in incidents of drugged driving.  All of these anecdotal “findings” may potentially be verified empirically, provided that law enforcement agencies collect the requisite data and make it available for analysis. It should also be noted that several of the law enforcement officers interviewed indicated that methamphetamine and heroin were much larger problems for their agencies than was marijuana.

Our efforts to address the second question, regarding border states, were limited by the lack of availability of data in these states.  Nevertheless, for the data we examined, we saw no evidence that marijuana legalization had an impact on indicators in border states. Marijuana-related arrests and charges did not increase in either the state as a whole or, in the case of Nebraska, in counties that directly border the state that legalized marijuana, after legalization. It is possible that additional indicators or a longer follow-up time period might reveal impacts in these states and localities.  The few interviews we conducted in one border state (Nebraska) suggested increases in the potency of marijuana and in incidents of driving under the influence of marijuana. Again, these are perceptions that should be verified by future research.

The third question, related to drug trafficking, was particularly challenging to address.  Relatively few individuals were charged with trafficking in the data we examined, and it is difficult to identify other indicators of trafficking in state and local data.  However, in the data we did examine we found no indications of increases in arrests related to transportation/trafficking offenses.  Interview results suggested that drug trafficking had indeed increased in some states, including border states. Again, it is possible that different indicators, examined over a longer period of time, might reveal impacts of marijuana legalization on drug trafficking.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Cannabis Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by William J. Meadows, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the thirteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The twelve prior papers in this series are linked below.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:

This paper discusses how states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis are struggling to subdue the black market.  One of the goals of legalization was to defeat the black market and create a safer legal market for cannabis products.  However, the black market still persists today, and in many states, it is actually dominating the legal market.  This paper analyzes several reasons why consumers choose the black market, and it discusses several advantages black-market producers have over the legal market.  Finally, this paper offers several possible solutions to this problem, such as working with the black market and decreasing barriers to entry in the legal market.

Prior student papers in this series:

October 7, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tobacco historian makes case for why and how "Marijuana Reform Should Focus On Inequality"

The quoted part of the title of this post is the headline of this new Atlantic commentary authored by Sarah Milov.  The piece caught my eye in part because the piece's author, a history professor at the University of Virginia, is also the author of an interesting sounding new book, The Cigarette: A Political History.  Here are some excerpts from this new Atlantic commentary:

Especially because Americans of color have borne the brunt of the drug war, they deserve to share in the marijuana boom now taking hold across the country.  And if America’s long history with another smokable intoxicant — tobacco — is any guide, government rules will decide who can profit from growing the crop.  At the moment, though, those rules favor well-connected corporate growers rather than independent farmers, much less independent farmers of color....

Making up for the brutal inequalities of the drug war should be a major goal of marijuana reformers — but so far, the reality isn’t working out that way.  state that reforms its marijuana laws must decide how it will allocate production rights.  Right now, states severely restrict the number of licenses awarded to cannabis growers, ensuring corporate domination of the industry.  In New York, where medical marijuana is legal, just 10 companies own licenses to cultivate and dispense marijuana.  Competition is fierce over the licenses, which can sell for tens of millions of dollars — even before an ounce of marijuana is sold.  For this reason, licenses tend to go to well-financed pot conglomerates that own cultivation facilities in multiple states.

That outcome should not come as a surprise.  A federally supported program set rules for tobacco growers from the Great Depression until early this century.  Its history suggests that production regulations, when done right, can be a powerful tool to spread wealth — but also that, when done wrong, they are a highly efficient way of excluding people from an industry....

But for all its flaws, the tobacco program succeeded at what it was meant to do: endowing a designated class of Americans with a way of life that buoyed entire regional economies.  Because of strict production restrictions, tobacco farms were among the smallest for any staple commodity, which forestalled the consolidation of farms and an exodus of residents from rural areas.  And there were many tobacco farmers in the middle stratum of the farm income ladder, and relatively few at the top.  Small tobacco farms could still provide for a decent standard of living because tobacco was a high-value crop.  Growing even a small amount could be lucrative.  In 1980, an acre of cigarette tobacco was worth $2,700, as opposed to $150 for corn or $250 for soybeans.  “There is absolutely nothing on this Earth that can compete with tobacco money,” a USDA economist told The Washington Post in 1980.  Except, he added, “illegal smoking material.”...

Now that “illegal smoking materials” are legal in many states, the licensure system for marijuana cultivation is poised to replicate some of the oligopolistic features of the tobacco program, while thwarting its genuinely redistributive ones.  Instead of charging would-be cannabis growers for the privilege of growing, states should award licenses to a larger number of applicants from communities that have been hit hard by the War on Drugs.  Much as small-scale tobacco farms anchored entire communities across the Southeast, cannabis cultivation on a human scale, rather than a corporate one, can build wealth within communities of color where opportunities to amass property have been denied—  frequently at the hands of the government.

Indeed, the excesses of the drug war aren’t the only reason to enact more inclusive policies for marijuana farming.  U.S. agricultural policy, too, has throughout its history been skewed against African Americans.  When black farmers have availed themselves of government programs, they have frequently found discrimination and, ultimately, dispossession.

But those same tools can be put to work in the opposite direction.  The tobacco program was devised to address the emergency of the Great Depression, and it did so in a way that sustained the livelihoods and communities of a targeted group of Americans.  The effects of the War on Drugs are no less severe for communities of color, and the need for opportunity is no less urgent.

October 6, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Noticing how some major cannabis players are responding to vaping crisis

I have notices a number of new stories and reports about a number of marijuana reform groups and marijuana industry players responding to the recent worrisome vaping illnesses and deaths.  Here is a partial round-up:

From Americans For Safe Access, "ASA Creates Patient-Focused Recommendations in Light of the Vaping Crisis"

From Marijuana Policy Project, "Nation’s Largest Marijuana Policy Reform Group Releases Report on Cannabis Vaping Regulations"

From Marijuana Moment, "Hundreds Of Companies Sign Letter Calling For Marijuana Descheduling To Prevent Vaping Injuries"

October 3, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

"Contribution of Marijuana Legalization to the U.S. Opioid Mortality Epidemic: Individual and Combined Experience of 27 States and District of Columbia"

The title of this post is the title of this new forthcoming research article authored by Archie Bleyer and Brian Barnes.  Here is its abstract:

Background

Prior studies of U.S. states as of 2013 and one state as of 2015 suggested that marijuana availability reduces opioid mortality (marijuana protection hypothesis).  This investigation tested the hypothesis with opioid mortality trends updated to 2017 and by evaluating all states and the District of Columbia (D.C.).

Methods

Opioid mortality data obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used to compare opioid death rate trends in each marijuana-legalizing state and D.C. before and after medicinal and recreational legalization implementation and their individual and cumulative aggregate trends with concomitant trends in non-legalizing states.  The Joinpoint Regression Program identified statistically-significant mortality trends and when they occurred.

Results

Of 23 individually evaluable legalizing jurisdictions, 78% had evidence for a statistically-significant acceleration of opioid death rates after medicinal or recreational legalization implementation at greater rates than their pre-legalization rate or the concurrent composite rate in non-legalizing states.  All four jurisdictions evaluable for recreational legalization had evidence (p <0.05) for subsequent opioid death rate increases, one had a distinct acceleration, and one a reversal of prior decline.  Since 2009-2012, when the cumulative-aggregate opioid death rate in the legalizing jurisdictions was the same as in the non-legalizing group, the legalizing group′s rate accelerated increasingly faster (p=0.009).  By 2017 it was 67% greater than in the non-legalizing group (p<0.05).

Conclusions

The marijuana protection hypothesis is not supported by recent U.S. data on opioid mortality trends.  Instead, legalizing marijuana appears to have contributed to the nation′s opioid mortality epidemic.

October 1, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rocky Mountain HIDTA releases sixth annual report on "impact" of marijuana legalization in Colorado

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Programs (HIDTAs) are, as explained here, a special kind of drug-enforcement task force that was "created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 [and] provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States." The Rocky Mountain HIDTA has been especially focused on marijuana reform in Colorado, and it has produced regular annual reports around this time under the title "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact." Volume six of that report, which runs around 70 pages and was just release, can be accessed at this link.

Here are excerpts from the report's executive summary highlighting some of coverage:

Section I: Traffic Fatalities & Impaired Driving

  • Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31 percent.
  • Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 in 2013 to 115 people killed in 2018....

Section II: Marijuana Use

Since recreational marijuana was legalized:

  • Past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58 percent and is 78 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
  • Adult marijuana use increased 94 percent and is 96 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
  • College age marijuana use increased 18 percent and is 48 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.
  • Youth marijuana use decreased 14 percent and is 40 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.

Section III: Public Health

  • The yearly number of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 54 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).
  • The yearly number of marijuana-related hospitalizations increased 101 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).

As I have noted before, the these RMHIDTA "Impact" reports are clearly exclusively interested in emphasizing and lamenting any and all potential negative impacts from marijuana reform in Colorado while deemphasizing and mariginalizing any and all potential positive impacts. This bias toward emphasizing the negative and ignoring positive impacts is most obvious in terms of the report's (almost non-existant) discussion of the economic development and tax revenues resulting from legalization. Jobs created by marijuana reform are not mentioned anywhere in the report, and a short discussion of tax revenues in the final sections of the report highlights only what a small portion of the overall state tax revenue is represented by marijuana taxes.

But, as I have also said before, despite these reporting biases, this report still usefully assembles lots of data and usefully represents the latest, greatest effort by the law enforcement community to make the case that marijuana reform in Colorado is a failed experiment.  Serious students of marijuana law and policy should take the time to review what this report says and how it is saying what it is saying, while also keeping in mind what data is not here assembled.

September 18, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Exploring the intersection of police work and marijuana (and marijuana reform)

This past week bought two notable news pieces on the ever-important and ever-dynamic intersection of policing and marijuana.  Here are headlines, links and small excerpts:

From the AP, "In era of legal pot, can police search cars based on odor?":

Sniff and search is no longer the default for police in some of the 33 states that have legalized marijuana.  Traditionally, an officer could use the merest whiff of weed to justify a warrantless vehicle search, and whatever turned up — pot, other kinds of illegal drugs, something else the motorist wasn’t allowed to have — could be used as evidence in court.

That’s still true in the minority of states where marijuana remains verboten.  But the legal analysis is more complicated in places where pot has been approved for medical or adult use, and courts are beginning to weigh in.  The result is that, in some states, a police officer who sniffs out pot isn’t necessarily allowed to go through someone’s automobile — because the odor by itself is no longer considered evidence of a crime.

From the New York Times, "Officers Said They Smelled Pot. The Judge Called Them Liars.":

Police officers can often justify a search with six words: “I smelled an odor of marijuana.” Courts in New York have long ruled if a car smells like marijuana smoke, the police can search it — and, according to some judges, even the occupants — without a warrant.

But in late July, a judge in the Bronx said in a scathing opinion that officers claim to smell marijuana so often that it strains credulity, and she called on judges across the state to stop letting police officers get away with lying about it. “The time has come to reject the canard of marijuana emanating from nearly every vehicle subject to a traffic stop,” Judge April Newbauer wrote in a decision in a case involving a gun the police discovered in car they had searched after claiming to have smelled marijuana.

September 16, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Fatal crashes in the 5 years after recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington"

The title of this post is the title of this new research by multiple authors published in the November 2019 issue of the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.  Here is its abstract:

Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but the effects of legalization on motor vehicle crashes remains unknown. Using Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, we performed difference-in-differences (DD) analyses comparing changes in fatal crash rates in Washington, Colorado and nine control states with stable anti-marijuana laws or medical marijuana laws over the five years before and after recreational marijuana legalization.  In separate analyses, we evaluated fatal crash rates before and after commercial marijuana dispensaries began operating in 2014.

In the five years after legalization, fatal crash rates increased more in Colorado and Washington than would be expected had they continued to parallel crash rates in the control states (+1.2 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: -0.6 to 2.1, p = 0.087), but not significantly so.  The effect was more pronounced and statistically significant after the opening of commercial dispensaries (+1.8 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: +0.4 to +3.7, p = 0.020).  These data provide evidence of the need for policy strategies to mitigate increasing crash risks as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

September 15, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)