Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Is marijuana legalization likely to be a staple of all major Democratic campaigns in 2022?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Hill piece headlined "Crist says as Florida governor he would legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records."  Here are excerpts:

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) on Thursday said that he would expunge criminal records of those facing certain marijuana-related charges and legalize the drug if he is elected the governor of Florida.  “Let me be clear: If I’m elected governor, I will legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a video posted on his Twitter on Thursday. “This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida.”

Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2022, discussed different elements of his gubernatorial platform focused on racial equity in the state, including expunging criminal records for those who have received marijuana-related charges, specifically third-degree felonies and misdemeanors, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The former Florida governor and Senate hopeful also said that he was in favor of decentralizing the marijuana industry, allowing people to personally grow marijuana plants.  He noted that money made through marijuana sales would fund things such as drug treatment programs and police agencies, according to the news outlet.

Crist, who was a Republican while he was in the governor's mansion from 2007 to 2011, acknowledged that his stance, among others, had changed on marijuana use.  As governor, he had signed harsh anti-marijuana legislation, which included targeting growing the plant.

His comments were criticized over Twitter by Democratic opponent Nikki Fried, who is also running to take on DeSantis. The state Agriculture commissioner, who has been previously supportive of legalizing marijuana and was a former marijuana lobbyist, according to Tallahassee Reports, accused him of imitating her political stance.

“Imitation is flattery, but records are records. People went to jail because Republicans like @CharlieCrist supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills. Glad he's changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back. Legalize marijuana. #SomethingNew,” Fried tweeted.

Crist last year voted to end marijuana from being prohibited and criminalized federally. “We know that people across racial and income levels use marijuana at the same rate.  And yet, for decades, it's been poor, Black, and/or Hispanic folks targeted for prison on marijuana charges,” Crist said in a statement in December.  “That tells me that marijuana has been legal now for a while if you had the right skin tone or the right paycheck.”

I surmise that all major Democratic candidates have finally figured out that marijuana reform is a popular position. It will be interesting to watch if this issue could become significant debate topic is red-leaning swing states like Florida and Ohio that have big 2022 elections. I am inclined to believe this topic still is more fringe than fundamental in broader political discourse, but even topics that only move the electorate a little bit could prove consequential sometimes.

October 17, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 8, 2021

Senators Booker and Warren call upon DOJ to "decriminalize cannabis using its existing authority"

As reported here, two notable US senators "are urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to decriminalize marijuana on his own" by "asking Garland and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to use powers granted them under the Controlled Substances Act to deschedule — or decriminalize — marijuana at the federal level." The letter to this effect from the desk of Senator Elizabeth Warren and joined by Senator Cory Booker is available at this link, and it starts this way:

We write to urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decriminalize cannabis using its existing authority to remove the drug from the Federal controlled substances list. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), the Attorney General can remove a substance from the CSA’s list, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level via this descheduling process would allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit, begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.  While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis.

The letter goes on to explains the DOJ descheduling process this way:

The executive branch has the authority to initiate the process of cannabis descheduling.  The CSA empowers the Attorney General to initiate proceedings to reschedule or deschedule a drug, either individually or at the request of the HHS Secretary or another interested party.  The Attorney General then seeks a scientific and medical evaluation from the HHS Secretary, including the Secretary’s recommendations as to the appropriate scheduling for the drug or whether the drug should be descheduled.  If the Secretary recommends descheduling a drug, that recommendation is binding on the Attorney General.  However, if the Secretary recommends retaining a drug in the same schedule or moving it to a different schedule, that recommendation is not binding and the Attorney General may still choose to initiate a rulemaking procedure to deschedule or reschedule the drug.

October 8, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Is the marijuana industry where everyone is going back to work?

Download (10)The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable lengthy new Washington Post article, fully headlined "Greener pastures: Marijuana jobs are becoming a refuge for retail and restaurant workers: An estimated 321,000 Americans now work in the legal cannabis industry, outnumbering the country’s dentists, paramedics and electrical engineers." Here are excerpts:

After a year on the front lines, Jason Zvokel traded in his 15-year career as a Walgreens pharmacist for a different kind of drugstore: a marijuana dispensary.

Now instead of administering vaccines and filling prescriptions, he’s helping customers make sense of concentrates, tablets and lozenges. His pay is 5 percent lower, he says, but the hours are more manageable. “I am so much happier,” said Zvokel, 46, who’s worked in retail since he was 18. “For the first time in years, I’m not miserable when I come home from work.”

The cannabis industry is riding a pandemic high: Marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities — deemed “essential” by many states at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis — became an early refuge for retail and restaurant workers who had been furloughed or laid off. The industry has continued to grow, adding nearly 80,000 jobs in 2020, more than double what it did the year before, according to data from the Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics.

An estimated 321,000 Americans now work in the industry, a 32 percent increase from last year, the report found, making legal marijuana one of the nation’s fastest-growing sectors. In other words: The United States now has more legal cannabis workers than dentists, paramedics or electrical engineers....

That surge in cannabis hiring has put pressure on traditional employers — particularly in the 18 states and the District where recreational marijuana use is legal — to ease drug testing requirements. Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer, said in June that it would stop screening employees for cannabis use and would support federal legislation to legalize marijuana. A number of other employers, including retailers, restaurants and city governments have also dropped such requirements in an effort to attract workers in a labor market where job openings outpace the number of unemployed Americans 10.9 million to 8.4 million.

Workers’ rights groups are pressing for broader unionization in the cannabis industry, calling it a critical time to establish well-paying jobs with proper protections. With the right policies, they say, the industry could become a pipeline to middle-class jobs, much like the manufacturing industry used to be....

Brianna Price recently left a job as a grocery stocker to become a “budtender” — an industry term for a sales associate — at a dispensary. She’s been promoted three times in the year she’s worked there, and now oversees all purchasing and a staff of nine.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said Price, 31, of Midland, Mich., who worked as a paralegal for eight years before she was laid off early in the pandemic. She took a part-time job at the supermarket chain Aldi, but says it paid so little that she had to move back in with her parents. There were other downsides, too: Her shifts often started at 5 a.m. and sometimes consisted of standing outside, wiping down shopping carts for hours on end....

At the Hempire Collective in Loomis, Mich., where she works, sales have more than doubled in the last year, to roughly $500,000 a month, according to co-owner Mario Porter. He’s expanded his dispensary staff from seven to 12, and expects to hire more this year. Many of his new employees, he said, come from retail jobs that they left during the pandemic.

September 24, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 3, 2021

"Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines for reducing health harms from non-medical cannabis use: A comprehensive evidence and recommendations update"

The title of this post is the title of this new article by multiple authored appearing in the International Journal of Drug Policy. Here is its abstract:

Background

Cannabis use is common, especially among young people, and is associated with risks for various health harms.  Some jurisdictions have recently moved to legalization/regulation pursuing public health goals.  Evidence-based ‘Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines’ (LRCUG) and recommendations were previously developed to reduce modifiable risk factors of cannabis-related adverse health outcomes; related evidence has evolved substantially since.  We aimed to review new scientific evidence and to develop comprehensively up-to-date LRCUG, including their recommendations, on this evidence basis.

Methods

Targeted searches for literature (since 2016) on main risk factors for cannabis-related adverse health outcomes modifiable by the user-individual were conducted.  Topical areas were informed by previous LRCUG content and expanded upon current evidence. Searches preferentially focused on systematic reviews, supplemented by key individual studies.  The review results were evidence-graded, topically organized and narratively summarized; recommendations were developed through an iterative scientific expert consensus development process.

Results

A substantial body of modifiable risk factors for cannabis use-related health harms were identified with varying evidence quality.  Twelve substantive recommendation clusters and three precautionary statements were developed.  In general, current evidence suggests that individuals can substantially reduce their risk for adverse health outcomes if they delay the onset of cannabis use until after adolescence, avoid the use of high-potency (THC) cannabis products and high-frequency/-intensity of use, and refrain from smoking-routes for administration.  While young people are particularly vulnerable to cannabis-related harms, other sub-groups (e.g., pregnant women, drivers, older adults, those with co-morbidities) are advised to exercise particular caution with use-related risks.  Legal/regulated cannabis products should be used where possible.

Conclusions

Cannabis use can result in adverse health outcomes, mostly among sub-groups with higher-risk use.  Reducing the risk factors identified can help to reduce health harms from use.  The LRCUG offer one targeted intervention component within a comprehensive public health approach for cannabis use.  They require effective audience-tailoring and dissemination, regular updating as new evidence become available, and should be evaluated for their impact.

September 3, 2021 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Rounding up some of the round-ups of the many comments submitted on early draft of federal Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

6a00d8341bfae553ef0223c85155dc200c-320wiAs detailed in this prior post, in mid July 2021, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, unveil what was described as a "discussion draft" of a lengthy federal marijuana reform bill titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).  The full text of this CAOA "discussion draft" is available here, and  marijuana reform advocates (and opponents) unsurprisingly has a whole lot that they wanted to discuss about this discussion draft.  September 1 was the deadline for the submission of comments, and I received multiple emails from multiple groups promoting their comments.  Helpfully, I have seen a few press pieces that serve to round up some of the comments:

From Cannabis Wire, "As Comments Close on the Most Comprehensive Cannabis Reform Plan in Congress, Themes Emerge"

From Law360, "Pot Advocates Advise Careful Rollout Of Federal Legalization"

From Marijuana Moment, "Senators Flooded With Input On Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill"

From MJ Biz Daily, "Marijuana trade groups offer comments on Schumer’s federal legalization bill"

The Marijuana Moment piece provides a particularly fulsome review of (and helpful links to) lots of the submitted comments.  Here is how it sets up the review:

While legalization proponents have widely celebrated the introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), they have some suggestions for improvement — principally as it concerns issues of social equity, licensing, tax policy and interstate commerce.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are the lead sponsors of the legislation, and after releasing a draft version of the measure in July, they opened a public comment to receive input on what will be a revised measure the senators plan to formally introduce.

Pro-reform organizations like NORML, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and Hemp Roundtable made their voices heard — and while they generally applauded the senators’ work to end federal cannabis prohibition, they had some recommendations for revisions.  Prohibitionist groups also weighed in with thoughts about the proposal can be changed to better reflect their concerns with the overall policy of legalization.

A few prior related posts: 

September 2, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 27, 2021

"Fair Lending for Cannabis Banking Justice"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece authored by Benjamin Seymour now on SSRN. Here is its abstract:

This Comment offers a fair lending solution to promote racial equity in federal cannabis banking reform: amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to ensure individuals previously arrested, charged, or convicted for selling, cultivating, or possessing marijuana will not therefore be precluded from loans to start legal cannabis businesses. Given disparities in the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws, this amendment would provide racial justice benefits, while also encouraging entrepreneurship.  As a market-based social justice effort, this amendment offers a bipartisan approach to one of the most vexing and contentious issues in marijuana banking reform.

This Comment briefly surveys the federal statutes that have led to an under-banked cannabis industry and discusses the costs of cash for marijuana businesses.  It then examines prior reforms proposed by academics, executive-branch officials, and legislators.  Finally, this Comment explores the racial equity concerns that these proposals fail to address and develops a fair lending approach for justice in marijuana banking reform.

August 27, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 23, 2021

"Legalization Without Disruption: Why Congress Should Let States Restrict Interstate Commerce in Marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper now available on SSRN authored by Robert Mikos and Scott Bloomberg.  Here is its abstract:

Over the past twenty-five years, states have developed elaborate regulatory systems to govern lawful marijuana markets.  In designing these systems, states have assumed that the Dormant Commerce Clause (“DCC”) does not apply; Congress, after all, has banned all commerce in marijuana.  However, the states’ reprieve from the doctrine may soon come to an end.  Congress is on the verge of legalizing marijuana federally, and once it does, it will unleash the DCC, with dire consequences for the states and the markets they now regulate.

This Article serves as a wake-up call.  It provides the most extensive analysis to date of the disruptions the DCC could cause for lawmakers and the marijuana industry. Among other things, the doctrine could spawn a race to the bottom among states as they compete for a newly mobile marijuana industry, undermine state efforts to boost participation by minorities in the legal marijuana industry, and abruptly make obsolete investments firms have made in existing state-based marijuana markets.  But the Article also devises a novel solution to these problems.  Taking a page from federal statutes designed to preserve state control over other markets, it shows how Congress could pursue legalization without disruption.  Namely, Congress could suspend the DCC and thereby give state lawmakers and marijuana businesses time to prepare for the emergence of a national marijuana market.  The Article also shows how Congress could make the suspension temporary to allay any concerns over authorizing state protectionism in the marijuana market.

August 23, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 9, 2021

"How Many States Have Legalized Adult Recreational Cannabis?"

Werner-simon-legalization-logo-map-with-newest-adult-rec-conn-july--2021-(1)-(002)The title of this post is the title of this effective new piece by Julie Werner-Simon at Cannabis Business Times.  The subheadline highlights one theme of the piece: "The answer depends on how we define 'legalized'."  Here are excerpts:

There is one cannabis question that is regularly searched across a variety of Internet platforms: How many states have legalized adult recreational use of cannabis as of today?  As a cannabis law professor and a legal analyst for emerging cannabis businesses, I often am asked that very question.  My response is always the same, no matter the date or the year: “It depends on how legalization is defined.”

State-based cannabis legalization can happen in two ways.  One way is evidenced by those states which permit voters to place topics on the ballot for a vote.  The other way is through the legislature, when a state’s assembly writes and passes legalization legislation which is ultimately signed off by that state’s chief executive.

When defined like that, Connecticut became the 19th U.S. state to legalize adult recreational use when, on June 22, 2021, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont signed into law a bill passed by the Connecticut legislature....

But these numbers will fall like dominos and change with those passed this year each reverting back one number depending on what happens in the highest court of South Dakota.  That state was one of five that had cannabis initiatives on the ballot in the November 2020 election (the others were Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, and New Jersey).

Every cannabis ballot measure in those states prevailed with gusto.  Voters overwhelmingly supported legalizing adult recreational usage in Arizona, New Jersey, and Montana; medical cannabis usage in Mississippi; and both medical and adult recreational use in South Dakota.  But, once the voters made their wishes known, in two of the states, South Dakota and Mississippi, there was a backlash by government officials and the courts.

Some of South Dakota’s elected representatives (including that state’s governor) started a campaign to undermine the will of the voters and invalidate both the medical and adult recreational initiatives passed by a significant majority of South Dakota’s voters.  The same thing played out in Mississippi where government officials challenged, in court, the enactment and enforcement of that state’s voters’ legalization plans....

On February 8, 2021, a South Dakota state court judge ruled against the voters and invalidated South Dakota voters’ passage of an adult recreational cannabis ballot initiative.  Recreational legalization proponents appealed the decision to the South Dakota Supreme Court.  The highest state court in South Dakota heard oral arguments (for and against) on April 28, 2021.  The parties’ presentations and the justices’ commentary did not give a clear indication of what the high court decision will be. As of publication time, it is not clear how the South Dakota justices will decide.

So, how many states have legalized adult-use cannabis?...  Under the definition of legalization in this article, since South Dakota’s adult recreational program is on appeal but voters in South Dakota approved the initiative, it is more than appropriate that South Dakota remains (precariously) on our voters-have-legalized-adult-rec list.

The “how many states have legalized adult recreational use” question will be decided by the five justices who comprise the South Dakota Supreme Court.  It is expected to happen soon as their summer break ends with the beginning of the South Dakota Supreme Court’s September term.  If that court tosses the recreational use legalization measure, and South Dakota comes off the adult recreational legalization list, Connecticut will no longer be the 19th adult-use state, it will become the 18th. New Mexico then would follow suit and revert to number 17, Virginia to number 16, and New York to number 15.

August 9, 2021 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 30, 2021

Notable and dynamic marijuana legalization efforts in bellwether (or deep red) Ohio

Download (19)Perhaps because I live and work in Ohio, I still tend to consider the state a national bellwether politically.  But, in recent elections (due in part to gerrymandering as well as to other factors), the state has been quite red politically with  GOP candidates winning the vast majority of statewide and local elections.  Whether now considered a bellwether or a deep red state, recent developments on the marijuana reform front strike me as quite interesting and worth watching in the months ahead.  Here are the basics from two great Marijuana Moment articles:

From July 15, "Ohio Lawmakers To File First-Of-Its-Kind Marijuana Legalization Bill As Activists Pursue Local Reforms":

Ohio lawmakers are preparing to file a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. This would mark the first time such a proposal to allow recreational cannabis commerce has been introduced in the legislature. Rep. Casey Weinstein (D) is sponsoring the legislation alongside Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D). While the text of the measure has not yet been released, the lawmakers circulated a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues on Thursday to shore up support for the effort in advance of its formal introduction....

The bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It will also include provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.

A 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementation and then being divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).

From July 27, "Ohio Marijuana Activists Launch Ballot Campaign To Push Lawmakers To Enact Legalization":

Ohio marijuana activists have a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation.  Voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative, and advocates suspended a campaign to place another measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.  But on Tuesday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched a new effort to implore legislators to enact the policy change.

The group submitted the requisite 1,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday.  Officials now have 10 days to review the summary and text to ensure that it is “fair and truthful” and approve it for circulation. Several existing medical cannabis businesses are backing the measure....

Unlike past efforts, the new measure is a statutory, rather that a constitutional, proposal.  If supporters collect 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters, the legislature will then have four months to adopt the measure, reject it or adopt and amended version.  If lawmakers do not pass the proposal, organizers will then need to collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the measure before voters on the ballot in 2022.

The start of an statutory initiative campaign, which gives the Ohio General Assembly a chance to act on proposed reforms before the proposal goes directly to the voters, strikes me as especially shrewd and interesting.  This approach will likely keep the issue in the news in ways that ought to be helpful to reform proponents (e.g., they can discuss tax revenues and the need for Ohio to keep up with its reform neighbors); and this approach may require many state legislators to have to express a position on reform in a run-up to an off-year election in which a topic like marijuana reform could help turn out some extra voters.  Interesting times.

July 30, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

"Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Alcohol Purchasing: A Difference-in-Differences Analysis"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by Collin Calvert and Darin Erickson now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Background:  Whether recreational cannabis legalization is associated with changes in alcohol consumption (suggesting a potential substitution or complementary relationship) is a key question as cannabis policy evolves, particularly given the adverse health and social effects of alcohol use.  Relatively little research has explored this question.

Methods This study examined the association between recreational cannabis legalization and alcohol purchasing in the U.S. using an interrupted time series design. We used data from the Nielsen Consumer Panel (2004-2017) from 69,761 households in all 50 states to calculate monthly milliliters of pure ethanol purchased for four beverage categories (beer, wine, spirits, and all alcohol products). We used difference-in-differences models and robust cluster standard errors to compare changes in milliliters of pure ethanol purchased.  We fit models for each beverage category, comparing three “policy” states that have legalized recreational cannabis (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) to states that had not legalized recreational cannabis.  In one set of models, a single control state was selected that matched pre-policy purchasing trends in the policy states.  In another set, policy states were compared to all states that had not legalized recreational cannabis.

Results:  Compared to all other states that did not legalize recreational cannabis, Colorado households showed a 13% average monthly decrease in purchases of all alcoholic products combined (estimate: 0.87; CI: 0.77, 0.98) and a 6% decrease in wine (0.94; CI: 0.89, 0.99).  Estimates in Washington were suggestive of an increase in spirits purchased in both the unrestricted (1.24; CI: 1.12, 1.37) and restricted sample (1.18; CI: 1.02, 1.36).  Oregon showed a significant decrease in monthly spirits purchased when compared to its selected comparator state (0.87; CI: 0.77, 0.99) and to all other states without legalized recreational cannabis (0.85; CI: 0.77, 0.95).

Conclusions Results suggest that alcohol and cannabis are not clearly substitutes nor complements to one-another.  Future studies should examine additional states as more time passes and more post-legalization data becomes available, use cannabis purchase data and consider additional methods for control selection in quasi-experimental studies. 

July 22, 2021 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Some federal reform headlines a week after introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

My Google and Twitter feeds have not been buzzing about the release last week of the discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, and that has lead me to think nobody is too excited about its particulars. That said, it is still an important bill-in-development, and I thought it worthwhile to round up some of the reactions and commentary I have seen in response:

From The American Prospect, "High Hurdles for Commonsense Cannabis Reform: The plan unveiled by the Senate majority leader is doomed to languish despite massive public support for legalization."

From Bloomberg, "U.S. Pot Legalization Bill Gets a Frosty Reception"

From Daily Breeze (editorial), "Latest federal marijuana bill a total dud"

From Fox Business, "Democrats' marijuana legalization bill leaves Canopy Growth CEO optimistic"

From Politico, "Amazon endorsed legal weed. Will it now fight to make it happen?"

July 20, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Highlighting all the great content in BULR's issue on "Marijuana Law 2020: Lessons From the Past, Ideas for the Future"

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"Higher Me: Marijuana Regulation in the Workforce and the Need for State Legislated Employee Protections"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Lily Boehmer, a recent graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  (This paper is yet another in the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)   Here is this latest paper's abstract:  

Although illegal under federal law, states have increasingly pushed the cannabis legality boundary by legalizing the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana at the state level. In the space between diverging federal and state law, such actions have created a dire situation for employees; employees in states that have legalized the use of marijuana can be fired for arguably legal conduct. Legalization of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products increase the risk of termination and litigation for employees and employers. State legalization is not what it purports it to mean.

This paper examines the current legal framework of cannabis regulation, discusses the historical, legal precedent of an employer’s right to terminate an employee in contrast to recent case law providing protection and hope to employees, and analyzes why some employers have stopped marijuana drug testing in response to faulty testing and diminished applicant pools.  Ultimately, this paper argues that, absent federal legalization of marijuana, states must protect employees’ off-duty marijuana use through express state legislation.  Legalization cannot be fully actualized until employees can use marijuana without employment repercussions.

July 13, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 5, 2021

Cannabis Freedom Alliance releases "Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis"

Cannabis-freedom-allianceI mentioned in this post a few months ago the launch of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, which is a prominent coalition with a stated mission to "end the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis in the United States in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market."  I was now pleased to see that, right around the traditional July time we celebrate our nation's deep commitments to freedom, this Alliance has released this new white paper titled "Recommendations for Federal Regulation of Legal Cannabis."  Here is part of the start of this notable 14-page document:

If major marijuana reform legislation is to be taken seriously in Congress this year, there are many aspects it must address. These include everything from federal regulation and tax issues to financial services, clinical research, the contours of interstate commerce and technical barriers to trade, social equity, criminal justice, and respect of states’ reserved powers. There is a danger that federal legalization, done incorrectly, could produce outcomes even more adverse than the status quo.

This analysis provides an overview of each of these subtopics and provides general recommendations to help guide the effort toward federal legalization of marijuana that will achieve the following goals:

• Establishing a regulatory framework that promotes public safety while allowing innovation, industry, and research to thrive.

• Ensuring individuals previously involved in the illicit market can effectively secure a second chance and contribute to the legal market.

• Creating low barriers to entry and non-restrictive occupational and business licensing so that large companies and new entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field.

• Imposing a total tax burden – federal, state, and local combined – that does not incentivize the continuation of gray or black markets and ensures competitive global footing for a vibrant, novel U.S. industry.

July 5, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Marijuana liberty in America showing rapid growth as we mark Independence Day 2021

8ca3db280b69645a74c9f43cd763bbd9In a 1788 letter to James Madison, George Washington had a wonderful quote that seems especially fitting to highlight on a marijuana blog on Independence Day 2021:  “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”  I have long thought that one of many reasons marijuana prohibitions have proved unsuccessful is because cannabis is itself a "plant of rapid growth" and so is readily cultivated in so many places by so many people no matter when the law formally provides or permits. 

Of course, this quote strikes me as especially fitting circa July 4, 2021 after the 2020 election in which adult-use ballot initiatives passed handily in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota while medical marijuana initiatives passed overwhelmingly in Mississippi and South Dakota.  And in the first half of 2021, we have already seen four more states legalize fully adult use of marijuana  (Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Virginia) and also seen Alabama enact medical marijuana reform.  The liberty to use marijuana, once it took root after the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington in 2012, has seen a decade of growth that has been even more rapid than anyone might have reasonably predicted.

That said, though fans of marijuana freedom certainly have plenty to celebrate today, the recent suspension of US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson serves as a reminder that we are still a very long way from being fully free from marijuana prohibitions.  Most fundamentally, blanket prohibition of marijuana for any and all uses is still the federal law of the land in the Land of the Free, and there is little reason to be optimistic that this will change before we celebrate Independence Day 2022.  Though many consider access to cannabis fundamental to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," there is still much work to do before we can truly declare independence from laws that make it a crime to grow and consume this particular "plant of rapid growth."

July 4, 2021 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 27, 2021

"Seeds of Change: Strategies to create an equitable cannabis industry"

Download (9)The title of this post is the title of this notable new report authored by Janessa Bailey with Leafly.  I recommend the full report's explanation, accounting and scoring of various aspect of social equity in cannabis reform.  Here is how the report gets started:

Over the past decade, cannabis legalization has offered new economic opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people across the United States.  But those opportunities have not been extended to all Americans.

In the nine years since Colorado and Washington first legalized marijuana for all adults, we’ve learned that past inequities and current barriers aren’t erased by simply declaring cannabis legal.

The systems of discrimination built into 80 years of prohibition won’t be erased by hope and wishful thinking. Their dismantling requires proactive steps on the part of state and municipal policymakers.

Cannabis is the nation’s fastest-growing industry.  As of June 2021, 38 states have some form of legalized cannabis, with 19 states and Washington, DC, allowing legal use for all adults.  The $18.3 billion dollar industry now supports 321,000 full-time American jobs, and cannabis entrepreneurship and employment have exploded over the past five years.

But as legalization and the growing cannabis industry have expanded, it has become increasingly clear that opportunities in cannabis are not fairly accessible to all Americans.

Seeds of Change offers eight strategies to create a fair and equitable cannabis industry, assesses each legal adult-use state on its implementation of those strategies, and illuminates the often-hidden barriers that contribute to the current disparities in cannabis.

In other words: Here’s what’s needed, here’s how legal states are doing, and here’s why these strategies are necessary.

June 27, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Red state marijuana reforms not yet leading to GOP Senator support for federal reform

Natalie Fertig of Politico has this effective new piece highlighting that Senate Republicans do not seem to be moving off their opposition to broad federal  marijuana reform even as more and more red states enact reform.  The piece is headlined "Republicans are watching their states back weed — and they’re not sold," and here are excerpts:

Marijuana’s popularity boom in red states isn’t breaking through with conservatives on Capitol Hill, pinching an already narrow path to federal legalization.

A growing number of Republican senators represent states that have legalized recreational or medical cannabis — six approved or expanded marijuana in some form just since November.  But without their support in Congress to make up for likely Democratic defectors, weed falls critically short of the 60 votes needed to advance legislation.

Montana’s Steve Daines and South Dakota’s Mike Rounds, both Republicans, said they don’t support comprehensive federal cannabis reform, no matter what voters back home voted for....

Lawmakers whose constituents have already approved some form of legal marijuana are seen as the most likely to support loosening federal restrictions, but so far Republican senators appear largely unmoved by the will of voters when it comes to weed.  In some states, such as Montana and South Dakota, marijuana did better on the ballot than their senators.

POLITICO spoke with a dozen GOP senators who represent medical or recreational cannabis markets in recent days. None committed to vote to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, but Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said they were open to discussing ways to remove federal cannabis penalties.  Others, however, said they were not on board with any type of federal cannabis legislation.

June 27, 2021 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, June 22, 2021

Expanding how we think about social equity in the cannabis space

I flagged in this post the great Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) event that took place earlier this month titled "Social Equity 2.0: Expanding Horizons."  Though I may be a bit biased, I think this 90-minute event was a terrifically interesting discussion of different ways to think about equity in the marijuana reform space  But do not take my word for it, and everyone can now watch the full event via the video link on this page.  In addition, Alyson Martin of Cannabis Wire authored this effective review of the panel discussion under the headline "What’s the Future of Cannabis Equity?"  Here is how the review gets started:

Today, there is no uniformity in how states with legal cannabis approach equity. In other words, within the state-by-state patchwork of cannabis laws, there exists an equity patchwork, though lessons learned are emerging. 

Last week, the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law hosted regulators and policymakers to discuss how cannabis law reform and subsequent rules can be centered on equity and can “lift” communities harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of prohibition. Panelists discussed how regulators can achieve economic empowerment and restorative justice, and how best to reinvest in communities. 

Prior related posts on prior related events:

June 22, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Connecticut on verge of becoming 18th state to fully legalize marijuana (and fifth state in 2021)

Connecticut-recreational-legalization-scaledAs reported in this local article, headlined "A bill legalizing marijuana cleared the Connecticut House of Representatives on Wednesday; the measure could receive final approval in the Senate on Thursday," it looks like the Nutmeg State is now getting very close to legalizing marijuana fully for adult use.  Here are the basics:

Following more than seven hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives avoided a threatened gubernatorial veto and approved a revised bill that would legalize marijuana in the state.

The measure cleared the House by a largely party-line vote of 76 to 62. Twelve Democrats joined all but one Republican -- Rep. Rick Hayes of Putnam -- in voting no. The bill could come up for a final vote in the Senate as soon as Thursday.

“Connecticut’s time has finally come,” declared Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport, who helped shepherd the bill through the House. “We take the next step as this chamber in recognizing the war on drugs has failed us and the criminalization of cannabis was the wrong course of action for our state and for our nation.”

Rep. Juan Candelaria, a New Haven Democrat who has been advocating for the legalization of cannabis for years, said the bill has one of the nation’s strongest social equity provisions. “We’re able to repair the wrongs of the past and ensure that these communities who have been disproportionately impacted are made whole,’' Candelaria said.

The sweeping, 300-page bill, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, contains a number of provisions, from setting limits on THC content to funding programs to address addiction and mental health. But for many lawmakers, the most vexing part of the legislation is the equity section, which is designed to provide those hurt by the criminalization of cannabis would have an expedited opportunity to enter the potentially lucrative market.

Paul Mounds, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief of staff, said an earlier version of the bill did “not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted.”

At a briefing before the debate began, House Speaker Matt Ritter said most members of the Democratic caucus are comfortable removing the language Lamont finds objectionable. After all, he said, it was not part of the original bill that lawmakers crafted in coordination with Lamont’s office.

The bill’s equity provision was a key sticking point, but it wasn’t the only issue some lawmakers found objectionable. Republicans expressed opposition to the very notion of a legal marijuana market, saying it would lead to a rise in crime, a spike in addiction and a host of other societal ills. Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, said his criticism of the measure is based on science. He cited a study by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that found marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds rose in states that legalized cannabis. “Youth use will increase,’' he said.

Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, noted that much of the marijuana debate focused on equity and the marijuana marketplace. “I know there are good people in this chamber,’' she said. “I know this is motivated by wanting to right the wrongs of the past ... please, this is not the way.”...

Not all of the opponents were Republicans. Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a moderate Democrat from Westport, said he has long struggled with marijuana legalization. “This is a tough vote,’' Steinberg said. “Frankly no state to date has done well in their first pass in introducing marijuana. ... I’m still uncomfortable. I fully expect we will be back next year and the year after that making needed changes to ensure safety and reliability and equity.” Steinberg introduced and later pulled an amendment that would have barred “home grown” cannabis in Connecticut. He ultimately voted yes on the bill....

Debate over the question of social equity unfolded over the past few days, creating chaos at the Capitol and at one point, throwing the fate of legalization into question. The earlier version of the bill backed by Lamont contained a geographic definition of equity, giving preference to people from cities that have borne the brunt of the war on drugs. But late Tuesday, right before the Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill, the equity provision was changed to include people with prior marijuana convictions.

At a press conference Wednesday, Jason Rojas, the House majority leader who helped craft the legislation, said it makes sense to him that people who have been hurt by the criminalization of cannabis are among those who are first in line for a license. “I think it’s appropriate to consider someone’s criminal history in terms of defining an equity applicant,” Rojas said. Ritter, however, echoed some of Lamont’s concerns. “Do I think that you should get a leg up because you got pinched [for] marijuana at 19 at Wesleyan? No, I don’t,” he told reporters before the House session began.

The marijuana legalization effort has stalled for at least five years at the Capitol. But this year, it appeared to have fresh momentum and Lamont’s strong support. Despite that, the bill only came up for debate in the Senate for the first time last week. The Senate approved the bill but because time ran out before the House could vote, the legislature convened in a special session this week to take up the bill.

June 17, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning 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, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 10, 2021

"Data, Damn Lies, and Cannabis Policy: Reefer Madness and the Methodological Crimes of the New Prohibitionists"

The title of this post is the title of this article published earlier this year in the journal Critical Criminology and authored by Jon Heidt and Johannes Wheeldon.  Here is its abstract:

The rapid pace of cannabis legalization in North America has provoked a backlash that is predictable and discouraging.  The New Prohibitionists, distinct but related to their predecessors, the Old Prohibitionsists, have offered scholarship rife with conceptual errors, methodological flaws, and practical oversights.  While their advice would likely hasten that which they seek to decrease, they overlook the costs of returning to practices associated with prohibition.  To counter simplistic research interpretations and ill-considered policy, we present a critically informed research program on cannabis and crime based on previous scholarship.  Our work is designed to apply replacement discourse and refocus research to withstand the tendency for justice systems to subvert, rather than embrace, reform.  Cannabis legalization has been decades in the making and serious questions remain for proponents, opponents, and policymakers.  Society, however, will be far worse off if the mistakes of reefer madness are repeated.

June 10, 2021 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)