Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"Cannabis, Marijuana, Weed, Pot? Just Call It a Job Machine"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable and lengthy new New York Times article.  Here are excerpts:

Although cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, 33 states now allow its sale at least for medical purposes.  Ten of them, including California, have legalized recreational use.  And as new markets open and capital continues to flood in, the cannabis industry has become, by some measures, one of the country’s fastest-growing job sectors.

The jobs range from hourly work at farms and stores to executive positions.  They also span the country. Columbia Care, a medical cannabis company that is based in New York and has 500 employees, has indoor farms and manufacturing plants in Massachusetts, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Arizona and the District of Columbia.

It’s hard to know exactly how many jobs there are in the legal cannabis business.  The United States Labor Department collects data from cannabis farms and retailers, but does not provide figures for the industry. Still, listings for cannabis-related positions have rocketed to the top echelon of the fastest-growing-job categories on sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, said the company’s data put the number of cannabis jobs nationwide at 200,000 to 300,000.  Most of those jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale, consisting of rote agricultural work like plant trimming ($10 to $15 an hour) and “budtenders” (about $25,000 a year), who help customers decide what kind of cannabis they want and then weigh and bag it.

But as the industry expands, there has also been a strong demand for better-paid positions like chemists, software engineers, and nurses who consult with patients about using cannabis for anxiety and other medical conditions.  “The early signs are that this will grow rapidly,” Ms. Pollak said....

The pioneers who brought the industry out of the shadows are being joined by professional managers and executives — “talent,” in corporate speak — who have had careers in other industries.  For upper-level managers and executives, companies say they prefer candidates with a background in highly regulated industries like alcohol or pharmaceuticals....

After a decade in pharmaceutical marketing at companies including Gilead Sciences, Julie Raque recently became the vice president for marketing at Cannabistry Labs, a cannabis research and testing company in Chicago.  She was intrigued by the industry and eager to join a start-up, but had to take a pay cut in exchange for company stock — and to accept that her decision might be a one-way door.  “I highly doubt companies would want to hire me back,” she said.  “I knew I was about to do something big, and since then I’ve not looked back, because I’m having so much fun.”

A few prior related posts:

April 25, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Real research to support the unreal attention the food industry now gives to 4/20

As I mentioned in a prior post,  I am not all that keen on all the marijuana buzz devoted to 4/20.   But I am certainly keen on getting a bargain, and this USA Today article highlights how many food retailers are eager to make much of the holiday.  The article is headlined "4/20 specials: 'High' priority list of munchie deals at Pizza Hut, Carl's Jr., Lyft, more," and here is how it sets up the list of offersns:

Saturday is a high-ranking made-up holiday. It's 4/20, aka Weed Day or Pot Day, and that means specials for cannabis fans across the country, regardless of whether they can legally buy pot in their state or not.

This year, more major restaurant chains are getting in the holiday mood including Pizza Hut, which has a sweet brownie deal, and Boston Market with its buy-one-get-one free Pot Pie deal. Plus, Carl’s Jr. says it is the first chain to test a CBD-burger at one Denver location only on Saturday.....

Unlike marijuana, another cannabis species, hemp has almost none of the psychoactive compounds that cause a user to get high. Now that it's no longer labeled a controlled substance, more businesses have the opportunity to create hemp-based products, from tinctures to lotions.

Here are some of munchie deals, not drug deals, though you might find a discounted buzz Saturday....

Whether you think this is misguided or masterful marketing, there is a bit of science behind these tie-ins. Specifically, consider this recent article on SSRN authored by Michele Baggio and Alberto Chong titled "Recreational Marijuana Laws and Junk Food Consumption: Evidence Using Border Analysis and Retail Sales Data."  Here is its abstract:

We use retail scanner data on purchases of high calorie food to study the link between recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) and consumption of high calorie food.  To do this we exploit differences in the timing of introduction of marijuana laws among states and find that they are complements.  Specifically, in counties located in RML states monthly sales of high calorie food increased by 3.1 percent for ice cream, 4.1 for cookies, and 5.3 percent for chips.

April 20, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Terrific coverage of all sorts of issues via Reason's "Weed Week"

As a general matter, I am not too keen on all the marijuana buzz devoted to 4/20.  But, as a specific matter, I really like what folks at Reason have a put together in a "Weed Week" series of pieces.  Here are the pieces posted to date: 

April 18, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Canada Has Made Pot Super Boring"

Download (19)The title of this post is the headline of this interesting New Yorker commentary authored by Stephen Marche. Here are excerpts:

This 4/20 will be different, at least in Canada.  It will be the first celebration of marijuana since the country made pot legal in October, 2018.  The time passed since the end of prohibition hasn’t been long enough to establish any direct consequences from legalization so far, but one thing has already become painfully clear from Canada’s experiment. When you make pot legal, you make it super, super boring....

Other than new signs at the airport warning the more dull-witted Canadian citizens to dispense of their marijuana in the appropriate receptacles before leaving the country, it was hard to notice any real change after the passage of the marijuana laws.  The pot dispensaries, semi-underground before the end of prohibition, were supposed to disappear, but went on just as before.  They’ve just becoming increasingly polished.  The place where I buy my weed looks like a Pottery Barn, and it was so busy the other day that they gave me one of those buzzers they hand out at Shake Shack to tell you when your order is ready.  I had to wait twenty minutes.

It’s also money that’s making pot boring.  Recently, I went to a champagne-and-hot-wings party — a superb concept, by the way — in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto, and it felt like half the people attending were in the cannabis industry in one way or another; many of them had transitioned from hedge funds.  Marijuana stocks have overtaken real estate as the standard conversational go-to of Toronto dinner parties.  And you have not understood how banal marijuana can be until you overhear two parents watching their kids at a swimming lesson discuss how I.S.O. 9000 certification affects the marketing efforts for stocks of C.B.D.-extract companies....

Even a few months after legalization, I find myself wondering how much of the pleasure of marijuana came from its illicitness.  When you used to pass around a joint, you were sharing a little naughtiness, a tiny collective experience of rebellion.  Now, at a party, when you a pass around a joint, you’re basically saying let’s go stare at things for a while.  When I see cops on the street today, there is nothing I do that might upset them.  We are on the same side, utterly.  It’s pathetic.

There may still be dangers to marijuana, of course.  The public-health effects of legalization are, as yet, unknown.  Nobody knows whether legalization will lead to higher rates of teen-age mental illness, or to traffic accidents.  But, already, it is unimaginable that marijuana would be made illegal again.  Even with the brief distance of a few months since the end of prohibition, the sheer stupidity of the drug war appears absolute. Marijuana isn’t worth the attention of the police.  It’s not even that good a drug. It wouldn’t be in my top five, anyway.

One of the most important consequences of marijuana’s legalization is that the drug can now be studied. We might learn how it works and what it does to people. Clinical trials will replace the loose collection of vague anxieties and promotional pseudoscience that have dominated discussions of marijuana up to this point in history.  It will finally be possible to think sensibly about marijuana. And what could be more boring?....

It has to be said, in boredom’s defense, that it’s the cure for a great number of evils.  The cliché holds that America is losing the war on drugs, but it’s not quite accurate. Cocaine and heroin have never been cheaper.  Overdose deaths recently topped car accidents as a more likely cause of death for adults in the United States.  But America is very much winning the war on drugs that are legal: tobacco use has declined sixty-seven per cent since 1965, and drunk-driving fatalities by forty-eight per cent since 1991.  Of course, the way America reduced the use of these drugs wasn’t by killing bad guys and arresting users en masse, but by treating them like social problems with collective solutions.  Yawn.  No one’s going to make a season of “Narcos” out of that.

Canada is proving, once again, the deep political power of boredom: if you want to suck the power and glamour out of drugs, let the government run them.

April 18, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 12, 2019

"The Canna(business) of Higher Education"

The title of this post is the title of this paper just posted to SSRN and authored by Shelby Slaven, who is a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here is the paper's abstract:

While the idea of legalizing cannabis for adult use is gaining on acceptance among the public, the past and current policies on both, the state and federal level, have resulted in dearth of research on the efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes as well as possible societal and health consequences of recreational use.  Institutes of higher education are best positioned not only to reform research on the substance, but to train a generation of cultivators, distributors, and healthcare professionals, and while doing so address some of the historical harms perpetrated by the policies of the War on Drugs.  Students are seeking out ways to capitalize on a growing market and remedying past discrimination should be a top priority.  This paper first provides an overview of cannabis legalization as it stands today, the political efforts that got it here, and those that will move it forward.  It then discusses institutes of higher education and the efforts to bring cannabis into the classroom.  Lastly, this paper argues that Historically Black Colleges and Universities can provide education, training, and a foot in the door for Black individuals who have suffered harsher criminal penalties in the name of the war on crime.

April 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law 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)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Exploring the "complicated relationship between marijuana use and parenting"

The fourth and final planned presentation (both this week and for the semester) by a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar will look closely at the intersection of marijuana use and parenting. Here's a brief summary of the student's approach to this topic, along with some relevant articles she assembled:

As states increasingly legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, one largely unexplored area is the complicated relationship between marijuana use and parenting.  As with other substances (both legal and illicit), marijuana can have a significant impact on the lives of both parents and children.  Parents who use marijuana likely have conflicting interests and may prioritize their own use over the care of their children.  This could take the form of neglect, through inadequate supervision, or through misallocation of family resources to buy marijuana and other non-essentials.  Parents who use marijuana also risk exposing their children to marijuana in any number of ways.  Second-hand smoke is an obvious risk, as is the potential for children to gain access to marijuana (particularly edibles).

Expectant and breast-feeding mothers are also of particular concern, as there is some data linking marijuana use at these critical stages in development to a whole host of lifelong issues in children.  As with most issues surrounding marijuana use, there simply is not yet enough data in this area.  For example, although some studies have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to particular developmental problems, existing studies have not been able to isolate marijuana as the cause (as opposed to other drugs, nicotine, etc.).  I plan on providing background on existing public health research, giving examples of how various states are dealing with this issue, and presenting issues that have not been adequately addressed by research or policy.

Readings:

"The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Child Maltreatment: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1995-2014"

"Marijuana and Child Abuse and Neglect: A HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT"

"The Contentious Issue of Parents Who Smoke Pot"

"Is Smoking Marijuana Child Endangerment?"

"No Cause for Marijuana Case, but Enough for Child Neglect"

April 10, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

More encouraging expungement news out of California cities thanks to proactive district attorneys

In my article, "Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices," I gave justified credit to work being done at the state and local level in California to ensure marijuana reform is operationalized  as a form of criminal justice reform.  I am pleased to see this work continuing, especially as described in this news release from the LA DA titled "Los Angeles, San Joaquin County District Attorneys Announce Code for America Partnership to Reduce, Clear Cannabis Convictions."  Here is how the release starts:

District Attorneys Jackie Lacey of Los Angeles County and Tori Verber Salazar of San Joaquin County joined with Code for America today to announce a cutting-edge, criminal justice reform partnership to automatically clear more than 50,000 eligible cannabis convictions under Proposition 64.

The two counties are among the first in California to take part in Code for America’s pilot program that proactively identifies convictions that qualify for resentencing or dismissal under the voter-approved initiative in November 2016.

“We have partnered with Code for America to take on this monumental effort in the state’s most populous county,” District Attorney Lacey said. “As technology advances and the criminal justice system evolves, we as prosecutors must do our part to pursue innovative justice procedures on behalf of our constituents. This collaboration will improve people’s lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future. Helping to clear that path by reducing or dismissing cannabis convictions can result in someone securing a job or benefitting from other programs that may have been unavailable to them in the past. We are grateful to Code for America for bringing its technology to our office.”

“The war on drugs led to decades-long racial disparities in cannabis-related arrests and convictions,” said Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We have a responsibility to right these wrongs by utilizing the latest innovations in technology, such as Code for America’s Clear My Record initiative, to ensure that people who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs get the second chance they deserve.”

“Since the passage of Propositions 47 and 64, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the Public Defender’s Office and the Superior Court, have worked collaboratively to successfully implement the law in a timely and efficient manner,” said San Joaquin County Public Defender Miriam Lyell in joint statement with District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “We have seen firsthand the capabilities of the Clear My Record tool to facilitate the record clearing process and provide a much-needed service to our community, restoring families along with tremendous cost savings to the People of the State of California. This powerful tool represents the best of public-private partnerships: harnessing the power of technology to create new pathways of opportunity for members of our community with convictions.”

“In the digital age, automatic record clearance is just common sense,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America. “Thanks to the leadership of District Attorneys Lacey and Salazar, we’ve shown how records clearance can and should be done everywhere. When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief. Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation.”

Both offices have been working with Code for America since July 2018 to develop a system that examines cannabis convictions. There is estimated to be approximately 50,000 eligible convictions in Los Angeles County. There are an additional 4,000 eligible convictions in San Joaquin County.

Recognizing that California’s record clearance process was not designed for the digital age, this historic partnership demonstrates a growing momentum for technology-assisted record clearance in California. It builds on last month’s announcement that Code for America’s Clear My Record technology helped San Francisco dismiss and seal more than 8,000 cannabis convictions.

The references to Code for America’s work in San Francisco is both timely and a bit dated. I say that because of this recent tweet by the SF DA:

April 4, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Examining the development of cannabis churches and religious freedom

The last of four exciting presentations planned this week for my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar concerns the intersection of marijuana use and religion claims.  Here is how my student describes her project along with her selected background reading:

Since its founding, religious freedom has remained a core value of the United States.  Recently, small groups of individuals have tried to apply this core value to the use of cannabis, specifically with establishing “cannabis churches.”  These churches offer congregants a space to come together as a community and consume cannabis as a way to experience a new level of spirituality.  Cannabis churches have popped up in both states where recreational consumption is legal (in Colorado, for example) and in states where recreational consumption is illegal (Indiana). 

In Colorado, the founders of the International Church of Cannabis have been charged with public consumption.  In Indiana, the founder of the First Church of Cannabis asserts that his church is protected under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  As more cannabis churches are established in other states, the main question that church founders will need to answer is whether the use of cannabis is a sincerely held religious belief deserving of protection.

Links:

• "Cannabis Churches and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act"

• "Future of public pot smoking in Denver may be impacted as International Church of Cannabis co-founder heads to court Tuesday"

•  "About Us" page for the International Church of Cannabis

• "How The First Church of Cannabis Got Serious"

• "Smoking Cannabis Is Not Covered Under Religious Freedoms Law, Says Indiana Judge"

April 3, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 1, 2019

"Can Legal Weed Counter Decades Of Discriminatory Drug Enforcement?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline given to this Connecticut public radio show which aired today.  I am very grateful to Professor Jenny Roberts, who was part of the show, for sending me the link to the show and also for providing this summary:

As you may know, Connecticut's proposed bill has some really interesting social justice/equity provisions – not only with expungement, but also with who will actually get the licenses in Connecticut.  The show also explored issues of how those affected negatively by drug laws over the years might now get funding, etc, to start a marijuana business. State Sen. Gary Winfield, who is sponsoring part of the legislation, is on the whole time and well worth a listen, and a Boston Globe journalist joined for one segment on the Massachusetts social equity situation.

Here is how the show's website describes the 50-minute segment:

With recreational marijuana on sale in Massachusetts, Connecticut lawmakers are looking at legalizing recreational cannabis more seriously than ever.  Meanwhile, research continues to show that the enforcement of drug laws in recent decades has disproportionately impacted communities of color.  This hour, we ask: if Connecticut legalizes recreational marijuana, can it do so in a way that corrects some of this history of discriminatory enforcement?

We talk with Judiciary co-Chair Senator Gary Winfield, who is calling for putting equity at the front of legalization efforts.  And we check in about how racial justice has — or hasn’t — come along with legalization in states that already have legal weed, from Massachusetts to California.

April 1, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Minority Cannabis Business Association engages OSU College of Law 3L Chris Nani to evaluate social equity efforts in Los Angeles

Download (3)I am always so very excited when students here at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law get so very excited about marijuana law and policy.  One such student whose work I have spotlighted here is Christopher Nani, who took my marijuana seminar back in Fall 2017 and has been doing amazing work in this space ever since.  In addition to getting articles published at the Cannabis Law Report discussing federal tax treatment of cannabis businesses (see prior posts here and here) and co-hosting a podcast focused on business development in the cannabis industry (called Cannabiz with Canna-Chris), Chris has produced this notable article detailing a "Model Social Equity Equation for the Cannabis Industry."  

I describe Chris' article as notable in part because the Minority Cannabis Business Association took note of the work, and MCBA has now engaged Chris to use his equation to "score"  Los Angeles.  This press release, titled "MCBA Engages in Case Study to Rate Efficacy of Los Angeles’ Social Equity Program," explains:

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) announced plans to take a score of social equity policies implemented by the city of Los Angeles intended to increase diversity in the burgeoning cannabis industry.  Partnering with the MCBA on this effort is Chris Nani, an Ohio State Law student who recently released a similar study that focused on these equity policies in three other California cities.

The results of Nani’s preliminary study had outcomes for Sacramento, San Francisco and even the much-lauded Oakland program that didn’t fully meet the intent of those policies, and underlines the necessity of reassessment once these programs have been implemented.  As one of the largest markets in California, Los Angeles is an important influencer in the industry and will serve as an example for future efforts on this topic.

“We are excited to see municipalities across the country starting to implement social equity programs as a way to reinvest in communities that for decades have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs,” says Kayvan Khalatbari, MCBA’s Board Chair. “Now we need to ensure their intended outcomes are being met.  If they’re not, we need to reexamine those policies and work on them until we get it right. We must develop an effective and repeatable model.”

The case study will utilize an “Equity Equation”, which provides a scored assessment to rate the effectiveness of municipal social equity programs based on 10 separate factors, all of which have been determined to play a major role in the ultimate success or failure of these policies.  One factor commonly cited as a barrier to entry for people of color to find a place in the cannabis industry, regardless of policies in place, is a lack of available capital.

“Social equity programs are an important progression for the cannabis industry,” says Chris Nani. “As new markets come online and use Los Angeles as a model in their own programming, it’s critical that we understand what is working and what is not.  The equation I developed is meant to grade the efficacy of these programs and offer suggestions for improvement.  I look forward to working with lawmakers, social equity applicants and MCBA to work towards improving these policies across the country.”

March 27, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rounding up just some (of so many) stories about CBD

There is so much talk and so many stories about CBD, I know I can barely scratch the surface on this topic.  But it seems this past week I have seen an especially notable number of notable stories on this front.  Below I provide a partial round-up, and suggested particular attention to the first linked piece for its science and thoughtfulness:

March 27, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 25, 2019

New Jersey shows, yet again, the challenges of marijuana legalization done via the traditional legislative process

NJ-legalize-marijuana-1-800x533Full adult-use marijuana legalization has a strong winning record when the issue has been taken directly to voters via ballot initiative.  This reform has proven much more difficult through the traditional legislative process, with only Vermont able to pass a limited (non-commercialized) version of reform this way.  Today, after lots of debate in the state, New Jersey proved yet again how challenging this can be as detailed in this local story headlined "Legal weed won’t happen right now in N.J. Lawmakers call off big vote."  Here are the basics:

Leaders of the state Legislature have canceled a planned vote Monday on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in New Jersey, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney is set to announce.

“While we are all disappointed that we did not secure enough votes to ensure legislative approval of the adult use cannabis bill today, we made substantial progress on a plan that would make significant changes in social policy,” Sweeney, New Jersey’s top state lawmaker, said in a statement provided to NJ Advance Media. Sweeney. D-Gloucester, added that the “fight is not over.”

It’s expected that lawmakers will schedule another vote this year, but it’s unclear when that will happen. “We need to learn from this experience and continue to move forward,” Sweeney said." While this legislation is not advancing today, I remain committed to its passage.”

The vote fell apart after Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democratic state leaders spent more than a week feverishly trying to wrangle enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Legislature to pass the Democratic-sponsored measure. But top lawmakers said they wouldn’t hold the vote if they weren’t guaranteed to have both the 21 votes they need in the state Senate and the 41 they need in the state Assembly. As of Monday afternoon, multiple sources said, there were only 17 or 18 members of the Senate who would vote yes. But that still left leaders a few votes short....

Sweeney said earlier this year said he wouldn’t schedule another vote until after the November elections at the earliest. If they can’t get enough votes by then, it’s possible leaders could opt for asking New Jersey voters to decide in a ballot referendum next year whether to legalize weed.

The crumbling of Monday’s vote is a tough pill for Murphy, who made legalizing marijuana a key plank in his platform when he won election in 2017. He and top Democratic lawmakers have been hoping for more than a year to have New Jersey join 10 other states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized pot. But they prefer to become only the second state to do it legislatively, rather than through a ballot referendum.

Monday’s development also postpones two other measures tied to the bill: one that would expand the state’s oft-criticized medial marijuana program and another that would expunge thousands of pot convictions in the state. Murphy has said his administration will now move to dramatically increase the number of licenses for cultivators of medical marijuana as a backup plan.

Murphy and proponents of legal pot say the goal of legalization is to increase tax revenue for the state, create a brand new industry, and improve social justice because black people are three times more likely to be arrested on pot charges than whites. Recent polls have found a majority of New Jerseyans support legal pot. But many lawmakers — Democratic and Republican — have been leery, saying it could erode public safety, lead people to try more dangerous drugs, and damage communities of color.

March 25, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

"Marijuana Legalization: Dealing with the Black Market"

The title of this post is the title of a presentation to be made by one of my students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week.  Here is part of his explanation of his topic and links to some background reading:

Summary:

I will be looking at the prevalence (and in some cases, the dominance) of the black market for marijuana in jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana. I will specifically be looking at states that have legalized recreational use. However, I may still look at states that have only legalized medical marijuana because the black market still dominates in many of those states as well.

A major argument for marijuana legalization is potential revenue, but the black market can steal a significant amount of revenue from states.  Additionally, the existence of a black market is detrimental to public health and safety for a variety of reasons, including the distribution of potentially laced products. 

At first, I was surprised by just how dominant the black market remains in states that have legalized. For example, in California the black market is estimated to be worth 4 times the legal market. But consider major reasons why consumers choose to purchase cannabis products from the black market:

  • The black market offers much cheaper weed with no sin taxes;
  • The black market is able to sell higher potencies of marijuana;
  • The black market is able to sell larger amounts of marijuana;
  • The black market is oftentimes much more convenient.

Another reason people choose the black market is because they are familiar with it. Someone who has had a dealer for years is not all of a sudden going to switch to buying from a legal source.  Additionally, the black market (generally) has no age restrictions, so the black market still exists for minors who wish to use marijuana products.

I also plan on talking about the regulations on legal cannabis providers and how those contribute to the struggle to subdue the black market (ex: marketing, banking, barriers to entry, supply problems, lax enforcement of black market).  Finally, although I recognize that wholly eliminating the black market is infeasible, I will analyze potential solutions to the problem, such as deregulating (decreasing barriers to entry, lowering the age restriction, increasing enforcement, increasing strength of legal products, etc.) and working with the black market dealers.

Background Resources:

"Can a marijuana dispensary’s budget pot put illegal dealers out of business?" (discussing Nevada’s lower cost product dubbed the Black Market Killer) 

"Marijuana Black Market ‘Business Has Never Been Better’ In Canada Despite Legalization, Cannabis CEO Warns" (discussing Canada’s struggle with the black market)

"'I deliver to your house': pot dealers on why legalization won't kill the black market" (interview with two black market dealers in Canada)

"How marijuana entrepreneurs can outsmart black-market competitors" (discussing ways to possibly beat the black market)

"California’s black market for pot is stifling legal sales. Now the governor wants to step up enforcement" (discussing California’s black market)

"Marijuana Advertising Rules Challenge California Businesses" (discussing marketing regulations (including <30% of Minors Rule)

March 24, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Examining public and individual health issues amidst debates over marijuana reform

After a well-deserved week off for spring break, the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform Seminar are back at it this coming week with presentations on their research topics.  The first presentation this week will focus on health issues, and here is how my student has described his topic, along with the background readings he has provided for his classmates (and the rest of us):

I will be looking at the various public and individual health issues – both real and imagined – pertaining to the national debate over marijuana in general and legalizing the drug's recreational use in particular.  Special attention will be given to the way in which our society's normative value judgments have dictated how we view marijuana products in the context of public health. 

As a result, I will be examining a number of associated issues including whether edibles are safer than smoking marijuana, marijuana's addictiveness or lack thereof, the cognitive and non-cognitive health problems that can be caused by regularly using marijuana products, and whether the accidental consumption of edible marijuana products by children is a legitimate cause for concern. 

Finally, I will also offer my thoughts on how we can most effectively respond to the genuine health risks posed by a post-legalization America.

1) Manisha Krishnan, We Fact-Checked an ER Doctor Who Said Weed Edibles Can Kill Kids, Vice (Aug. 21, 2018)

2) Douglas A. Berman, New Report Details Big Decrease in Pedestrian Fatalities in Marijuana Legalization States…but Makes No Mention of Trend Despite Fear-mongering Last Year, Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform (Mar. 10, 2019)

3) Nora D. Volkow et al., Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use, 370(23) New Eng. Med. J. 2219 (2014)

4) DrugAbuse.com, Joints vs. Edibles: How Marijuana Affects the Body (last visited Mar. 15, 2019)

5) National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Chapter Highlights (Jan. 12, 2017)

March 16, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Is the NHL the future of marijuana in pro sports?"

Download (11)The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable recent ESPN article that a terrific student of mine made sure I did not miss.  Here is how the lengthy piece gets started and an excerpt reviewing the NHL's notable approach to positive drug tests:

Player X is in the NHL.  After home games, he has a routine . Typically, he'll meet a few teammates at a local restaurant for a late dinner.  He likes to order steak after games -- medium rare, with a side salad and mashed potatoes.  Then he'll go home.

Player X sometimes has a hard time unwinding; it was a day of unbounded stimulation.  He woke up and arrived at the rink for a morning skate and meetings, went home to nap, returned to the arena for warm-ups (bright lights and eardrum-blasting music), then exerted his body for 20-something sub-one-minute shifts during which he shoves, sprints, reaches, shoots, gets hit and sometimes bleeds on the ice.  By the time he gets home at night, he needs something to ease the process of getting to bed.  So he'll often reach for his weed pen and take a few hits.  "Just to relax," he says.  "Honestly, it's the easiest and most natural way for me to fall asleep and be ready for the next day."

Because Player X is on a Western Conference team based in a state in which there are broad laws legalizing marijuana, he knows he's not doing anything wrong.  Actually, he's doing what he estimates thousands of others who live in his city do every night as well.

And because he plays in the NHL -- and not, say, the NFL, NBA or MLB -- he knows he won't be punished.

Society's views on marijuana are evolving -- fast.  On Oct. 16, Canada became the largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana.  Coupled with results from the midterm elections in the United States, this is the landscape: Of the 31 teams in the NHL, 28 play in states where players have access to legal marijuana, whether it is for medicinal or recreational purposes.  That's the highest percentage (90.3) of any of the major four North American pro leagues, but hardly an anomaly.

This might surprise you: Of the 123 teams across MLB, the NBA, NHL and NFL, 45 play in states or provinces where recreational marijuana is legal (36.6 percent). Another 56 play in jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal (45.5 percent).  That's a whopping 82 percent of teams (101 of 123) that are playing in areas where their employees can legally purchase either medicinal or recreational marijuana....

Dr. Dave Lewis and Dr. Brian Shaw are the physicians who run the NHL and NHLPA's joint Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) Program.  If they determine Player X's test features "abnormally high levels" of THC, they flag it.  The veil of anonymity is then lifted, and the two doctors will contact Player X.  They can recommend he enters the SABH, in which they'll develop an individualized treatment plan for him. Neither the NHL nor NHLPA needs to know that he's in the program.

The league won't punish Player X at all for his test. If he chooses to enter the SABH, Dr. Lewis and Dr. Shaw have the power to levy fines, suspensions or other penalties if conditions are breached.  However, the player is not required to enter the program if he doesn't want to.

"The thing that we're really looking for is if there's a guy that has an issue or a problem and he needs help -- that's what we're trying to capture in that program," says longtime NHL defenseman Mathieu Schneider, now a senior executive at the NHLPA . "I do think it has worked very well.  We have a tremendous amount of faith in the doctors that run the program.  Confidentiality in that program is of the utmost importance."

I have long thought it notable (and not a mere coincidence) that the "whitest" major sports league, the NHL, has the most tolerant approach to marijuana and other drugs.  This ESPN article does not focus on racial issues, but rather is focused on the possibility that other major sports leagues could be attracted to the treatment-oriented marijuana policies in the NHL.  I certainly like that idea, but I am not sure why this kind of public-health approach to marijuana use ought to only benefit elite athletes.  We have used punitive models for dealing with drug use and abuse for so long, the idea that a person would not get punished by his employer for a position drug test seem surprising when it should be the norm.  

March 15, 2019 in Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Minority Cannabis Business Association produces new "Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance"

There is much discussion in marijuana reform circles about how states and localities can best ensure the new growing marijuana industry develops in a diverse, socially equitable way. The latest effort to advance this agenda comes from the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), which has now released this interesting new "Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance." Here is part of the preface of this model ordinance:

This Model Municipal Social Equity Ordinance (“Model Ordinance”) is intended to be used by municipalities that have adopted ordinances to regulate, zone and license local cannabis businesses, or are currently considering draft ordinances to do so.  As such, this Model Ordinance does not include recommended provisions for general license types (other than to add license types that lower barriers to entry or mitigate on-going criminalization of cannabis consumption), nor does it include detailed zoning and land use provisions.  The drafters of this model ordinance assume those provisions are already incorporated within the adopting municipality’s general licensing ordinance, and that the general licensing ordinance already reflects the particular circumstances of its local community.

We also assumed that the types of licenses which may be available, and the general regulatory framework surrounding cannabis businesses will be largely predetermined by the state in which the adopting local jurisdiction sits.  As such, the Model Ordinance contains only those provisions necessary to create a baseline framework for adopting and advancing social equity in the cannabis industry as official public policy -- a “minimum viable product” designed to be broadly adopted and tailored as necessary by each adopting jurisdiction.  Prevailing political realities in each jurisdiction will vary, and the Model Ordinance includes bolded and bracketed substantive terms that may be revised as necessary....

The Drafting Committee finalized this version of the Model Ordinance after incorporating input received on two previous working drafts.  The First Discussion Draft was previously circulated in October 2018 and presented to the attendees of the MCBA Policy Summit, as well as the members of the MCBA Policy Committee and the MCBA Board of Directors.  Their input was incorporated by the Drafting Committee into the Second Discussion Draft. The Second Discussion Draft was circulated for input to the MCBA Board of Directors, the NCIA Policy Council staff, Drug Policy Alliance staff as well as other select stakeholders for additional input before being finalized. Finally, please note that this Model Ordinance is intended to be a living documents, and one that can be continually improved upon. The Drafting Committee invites any and all input on the Model Ordinance, and expects to publish updated versions of the Model Ordinance periodically.

Interestingly, though the heart of the Model Ordinance is a social equity program, these heading from the model proposal show that more is covered than just business issues:

Section 1: Short Title

Section 2: Cannabis Social Equity Program

Section 3: Good Faith Effort for Equity in Employment

Section 4: Community Benefits Agreement

Section 5: Community Reinvestment Fund

Section 6: Record Change Provisions

Section 7: No Additional Restrictions Allowed on Entry Into the Cannabis Industry

Section 8: Data Collection

Section 9: Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

Section 10: Permitting Social Consumption Lounges

Section 11: Eliminating Suspicionless Drug Testing

March 12, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Latest polling data shows overwhelming support for medical marijuana reform and notable age gap in support for full legalization

The results of the latest Quinnipiac University national poll with questions on marijuana reform can be found at this link, and here is how the results on these questions are summarized:

Legalized Marijuana

American voters say 60 - 33 percent "the use of marijuana should be made legal in the U.S." There is a very small gender gap, but a wide age gap:

  • Voters 18 to 34 years old support legalized marijuana 85 - 12 percent;
  • Voters 35 to 49 years old support it 63 - 30 percent;
  • Voters 50 to 64 years old support it 59 - 35 percent;
  • Voters over 65 years old are divided on legalized marijuana as 44 percent support it, with 49 percent opposed.

Voters support medical marijuana, if a doctor prescribes it, 93 - 5 percent.

American voters support erasing criminal records for marijuana possession 63 - 29 percent.  Republicans are divided as 45 percent support erasing records, with 47 percent opposed. Every other listed party, gender, education, age and racial group supports erasing criminal records.

"The baby boomers say no to the drug that helped define an era, while the millennials say bring it on," [Tim] Malloy [assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll] said. "In between are enough voters to rubber stamp legalizing marijuana for recreation as well as medical reasons."

The results on these questions are here also broken down by gender, education levels and racial background.  Interestingly, there is no real gender gap on these questions in this latest poll, but there is a small racial gap on a few of the questions.

March 7, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

"Achieving Equity in the Marijuana Industry: Should State's Implement Social Equity Provisions into their Regimes?"

As mentioned in a recent post, this time of year students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are advancing research projects/papers around topics of their choosing, and they are starting to gear up for in-class presentations.  The presentation includes the requirement that they provide for posting here materials/links with background reading and information for the discussion they will lead.  This coming week a student will be discussing the topic that serves as the title of this post, and here is his description of his plans:

I will examine how minorities have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs and the consequences we still face today as a result of this enforcement.  I will focus on the regimes that various states have put in place to address social equity, proposals states/localities are currently facing, the challenges of implementing these types of regimes, and what I consider the best solution to the social equity issue.  Below are sources for the presentation: the first two examine why social equity regimes are necessary; the next three discuss regimes in place and the issues they have faced.

  1. Trevor Hughes, New Marijuana Laws in 2019 Could Help Black and Drug Dealers go Legal, USA Today (Feb. 21, 2019)

  2. Janell Ross, Legal Marijuana Made Big Promises on Racial Equity – and Fell Short, NBC News (Dec. 31, 2018) .

  3. State Medical Marijuana Social Equity Plan Comparison

  4. Laura Hancock, Judge Tosses Ohio Medical Marijuana License Requirements for Minority GroupsCleveland.com (Nov. 16, 2018) 

  5. Celene Adams, Challenges – and Controversy – Swirl Around Marijuana Social Equity Programs in California, Marijuana Business Daily (Nov. 29, 2018)

March 2, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Senator Cory Booker introduces "Marijuana Justice Act of 2019"

D0frrINXQAI1noaAs reported in this press release, US Senator Cory Booker has joined with a number of other Democrats to formally introduce his social-justice-oriented federal marijuana reform bill.  Here are comments from the bill's sponsors (many of whom are running for President) from the press release, as well as some particulars and a link to the full bill:

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), today reintroduced their landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

"The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it's been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals," said Booker.  "The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level."

"But it's not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana.  We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs.  And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time.  The end we seek is not just legalization, it's justice."

"The War on Drugs has destroyed lives, and no one continues to be hurt more than people of color and low-income communities," said Wyden. "There is a desperate need not only to correct course by ending the failed federal prohibition of marijuana, but to right these wrongs and ensure equal justice for those who have been disproportionately impacted."

"Millions of Americans' lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities," said Gillibrand. "Currently, just one minor possession conviction can take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail down the road.  It is shameful that my son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana, and legalizing marijuana is an issue of morality and social justice.  I'm proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation's failed drug policies."

"As I said during my 2016 campaign, hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for possession of marijuana every single year," said Sanders. "Many of those people, disproportionately people of color, have seen their lives negatively impacted because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That has got to change. We must end the absurd situation of marijuana being listed as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin. It is time to decriminalize marijuana, expunge past marijuana convictions and end the failed war on drugs."

"Marijuana laws in this country have not been applied equally, and as a result we have criminalized marijuana use in a way that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color. It's time to change that," said Harris. "Legalizing marijuana is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do in order to advance justice and equality for every American."

"Marijuana should be legalized, and we should wipe clean the records of those unjustly jailed for minor marijuana crimes. By outlawing marijuana, the federal government puts communities of color, small businesses, public health and safety at risk." said Warren.

"This long-overdue change will help bring our marijuana laws into the 21st century. It's past time we bring fairness and relief to communities that our criminal justice system has too often left behind." said Bennet....

The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color. Beyond removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances - making it legal at the federal level - the bill would also automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and it would reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. This community reinvestment fund could be used for projects such as job training programs, re-entry services, and community centers.

The bill would also incentivize states through the use of federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color.

By going further than simply rescheduling marijuana with expungement and community reinvestment, Booker, Lee, and Khanna's bill is the most far-reaching marijuana legislation ever to be introduced in Congress.

The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge's review of marijuana sentences.

Full text of the bill is here.

The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 looks nearly identical to the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017, so prior commentary of the MJA as in prior posts here and here remain germane.

February 28, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"All 2020 presidential candidates now support marijuana legalization efforts — even the Republicans"

Download (2)The title of this post is the title of this recent Boston Globe piece. Here are excerpts:

When it comes to marijuana, Elizabeth Warren of 2012 would probably not recognize Elizabeth Warren of 2019.

Seven years ago, Warren opposed legalization. In 2015, the US senator from Massachusetts said she was “open” to it. In 2016, she said, she voted for it privately at the ballot box. Now she’s one of marijuana’s top cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, championing a measure to protect the pot industry in states where it’s legal.

Warren’s evolution is not unique — in fact, 2020 will see the first US presidential race in which every candidate, at least so far, favors some path to legalization.

All 12 official Democratic candidates, as well as the potential Republican hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, told the Globe they now support full nationwide legalization, Canada-style. President Trump, meanwhile, has said he supports states’ rights to legalize.

“There’s been a tremendous evolution — marijuana legalization, if you look back, was really something for fringe candidates,” said John Lapp, a Democratic national campaign strategist.“It’s just not very controversial at all now.”

For Democrats, especially, being for cannabis legalization might be as much of a litmus test in 2020 among voters as is being for abortion rights. But they must face their past stances with honesty, political strategists say. In 2008, now-US Senator Kamala Harris touted her high conviction rates for drug dealers as a district attorney, and Joe Biden, the former vice president — who is likely to run, but hasn’t announced — was long an evangelist for the war on drugs.

A quarter-century ago, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton did damage control by saying he tried pot while he was a Rhodes scholar in England, but “didn’t inhale.” Running in 2007, Barack Obama found it politically acceptable to admit he had smoked marijuana as a young man, and “the point was to inhale” — but he called it “a mistake.”’...

Now politicians, particularly Republicans, have a more politically safe way of supporting cannabis: by advocating for states’ rights, said Steve Fox, a cannabis lobbyist with VS Strategies. “At this point, the greatest driving factor at the federal level is simply the fact that it’s legal in so many states,” Fox said.

To combat the rising momentum, the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana is producing a guide for candidates that it says will be backed by medical associations. “Candidates will have a simple choice: They can either follow the pot lobby or they can follow the science,” said executive director Kevin Sabet....

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has made legalization a core part of his presidential campaign, said his position has much more to do with addressing racial disparities in policing than it does with freedom for recreational use. “I am pleased to see public sentiment moving as it is, but I have an approach to marijuana legalization that sees it as a justice issue and not just as an adult-use issue,” Booker said. “The damage that the enforcement and prohibition has done to our country is outrageous, unacceptable, and violates our values.”...

In New Hampshire this election cycle, candidates are likely to be asked about marijuana, as the Legislature there moves toward possibly passing legalization this year. Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has vowed to veto such a measure.

But don’t expect many candidates to focus their campaigns on marijuana. It’s not just safe now — it’s too safe. To stand out in a crowded field, Lapp recommends that a candidate take on affordable health care, immigration, or college debt — “something where there’s some upside and downside, some passion and some risk. I’m just not sure that’s the case with marijuana anymore.”

February 28, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)