Tuesday, December 1, 2020
A few months ago there was lots of excitement about the announced plans for the US House of Representatives to vote on H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE Act). But House leadership put off the vote until after the 2020 election, and now excitement is growing again as a vote is being discussed again. This new Marijuana Moment piece, headlined "House Leaders Propose Changes To Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Up For Floor Vote This Week," provides an effective accounting of where matters stand. Here is how it starts:
A key House committee has scheduled a Wednesday hearing to advance a bill to federally legalize marijuana toward a full floor vote, which could then happen as soon as Thursday. Meanwhile, leaders in the chamber are proposing an amendment that would make several changes to the cannabis legislation. Among the most significant revisions would be to the tax-related provisions of the bill.
The Rules Committee’s move to take up the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act follows Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announcement that the chamber would be holding a floor vote on the bill before the end of the year.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the lead sponsor of the bill, transmitted it to Rules with the series of modifications—many of them technical in nature. But beyond the tax changes, the newly proposed language also reaffirms the regulatory authority of certain federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and clarifies that cannabis can still be included in drug testing programs for federal workers. Other members of the House are likely to file proposed amendments as well, though the Democratic majority of the Rules panel will determine which ones can be made in order for floor votes later this week.
Because there is zero chance that the MORE Act will move forward in the Senate during this Congress, this House vote may seem mostly symbolic. (Indeed, this new Politico piece, headlined "Why the next Congress is unlikely to legalize marijuana," highlights why marijuana reform is likely to remain an uphill battle in the Senate even in 2021 and beyond.) But Jacob Sullum has this new Reason piece, headlined "Will a Historic House Vote on Marijuana Legalization Nudge Biden Toward More Ambitious Reforms?," which rightly suggests the vote could have an impact on Joe Biden and the work of the incoming Biden Administration. As Sullum puts it, any "historic House vote to repeal [the federal marijuana] ban would allow him to go further than he has so far without sacrificing his cherished reputation as a moderate."
I share Sullum's view that the House lame-duck vote on the MORE Act could prove to be consequential, though my take is that the answer to the question in the title of this post could and likely will prove to be the most important part of the story (perhaps along with how many Democrats vote against the MORE Act). If the MORE Act passes with only D support, the discourse over federal marijuana reforms is likely to remain quite partisan for the months and years to come. But if more than a handful of GOP Representatives vote for the MORE Act, it will become that much easier for reform advocates to portray future federal efforts as bipartisan.
Notably, Florida GOP Rep, Matt Gaetz was one of the original 29 co-sponsors of the MORE Act. The Act now has 120 co-sponsors, but Rep. Gaetz is still the only GOP Rep among that number. My understanding is that there may be a few more GOP Reps who would ultimately vote for the MORE Act. But without more than just token GOP support, I doubt even a passing vote on the MORE Act will be as consequential as many reformers might hope.
December 1, 2020 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 (0)
Monday, November 30, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Daniel G. Orenstein recently posted to SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Enforcement disparities have pervaded the history of U.S. drug control laws, particularly regarding cannabis. These disparities have systemically disadvantaged persons of color and other communities. Responding to these inequities, some state cannabis legalization campaigns have emphasized social justice goals, and states and localities have adopted cannabis social equity programs directed toward communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs encourage and assist individuals from target communities in entering the legal cannabis industry by offering access to grants, loans, and technical assistance and providing priority or preference in licensure, a significant advantage in a competitive industry.
Equity programs serve laudable goals but must be structured to mitigate the risk of corporate abuses that threaten public health. The history of tobacco control in particular offers cautionary examples of how for-profit industries can infiltrate communities by leveraging targeted marketing, building political relationships, and operating disproportionately in underprivileged areas. Equity programs’ focus on disadvantaged communities may inadvertently allow this damaging history to repeat in the cannabis industry to the detriment of the communities equity programs seek to help. This Article explores pathways that could lead to industry abuse, surveys possible restrictions within a for-profit market, and assesses options for alternative market structures, including government monopoly, mandatory nonprofit status, and mandatory public benefit company status. Among these options, compulsory public benefit status offers the best combination of current legal feasibility and advancement of social equity goals.
November 30, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 23, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this notable new publication from the CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease series authored by Jeremy Mennis. (Hat tip Marijuana Moment.) Here are the highlights and action sections that conclude the piece (with some sentences highlighted):
The map, visually dominated by blue tones, clearly shows that adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana declined in most of states. The mean annual admissions rate for all states declined over the study period by nearly half, from 60 (admissions per 10,000 adolescents) in 2008 to 31 in 2017, with state admissions rate slopes ranging from −0.42 to 0.19 (median = –0.28). State admissions rates in 2008 ranged from fewer than 1 to 218 (median = 52); in 2017 they ranged from fewer than 1 to 167 (median = 21). Admissions rates increased over the study period in only 7 states, 6 of which (excepting North Dakota) have relatively low mean admissions rates (states colored lighter orange). Low mean admissions rates tend to occur in a loose band extending from the Southwest through the South, Appalachia, and into parts of New England. All 12 states in the high mean admissions rate class sustained admissions declines, with 10 of those states having declines in the steepest category (states colored darkest blue). Consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use (12), medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends. Notably, however, 7 of 8 states with recreational legalization during the study period fall into the class with the steepest level of admissions decline.
To our knowledge, this map is the first to illustrate state level trends in adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana, and the trends depicted can inform public health responses to changing marijuana laws. Possible causes for the overall decline, and variations among states, in admissions trends include changes in attitudes toward marijuana, as well as differences among states in marijuana use and incidence of CUD, as well as in socioeconomic status, treatment availability, and health insurance (5). Whatever the causes of the observed patterns, however, this research suggests that a precipitous national decline in adolescent treatment admissions, particularly in states legalizing recreational marijuana use, is occurring simultaneously with a period of increasing permissiveness, decreasing perception of harm, and increasing adult use, regarding marijuana (4,13). These trends indicate the need for sustained vigilance in the prevention and treatment of youth CUD during this period of expanding marijuana legalization.
Sunday, November 8, 2020
In what states (and how quickly) might we now see marijuana reform through the traditional legislative process?
I mentioned briefly in this post a few days ago that the big wins at the polls for marijuana reform in red and blue states nationwide will surely have all sorts of future reform echoes. As the question in the title of this post flags, I am especially intrigued to watch, in the short term, developments in various states in which we might reasonably expect the traditional legislative process to now take up reform.
The most obvious answer to the question in the post title flows from the big win for full legalization reform in New Jersey. That result, for reasons discussed a bit in this prior post, certainly should increase the likelihood of traditional legislative reforms neighboring New York and Pennsylvania and maybe even a few other mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. I have also seen mentioned that New Mexico might be a lot more likely to move forward with reforms now that legalization prevailed in Arizona.
But, of course, New Jersey ended up having a ballot initiative this election cycle because its legislature could not agree on a framework for legalization through the traditional legislative process. New Jersey demonstrated in 2019 that even when a legislature has "the will" for marijuana reform, it might not always readily find "the way." So even if legislatures in New York and other states now seriously commit themselves to full legalization, turning that kind of commitment into completed legislation can still prove challenging.
One final element to consider here are states that seem likely to have state legalization ballot initiatives in the works for 2022. In states like Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and a few others, I wonder if legislatures might have the wisdom and foresight to consider moving forward with reform through the (somewhat controllable) legislative process rather than just allowing reform to be defined by the (advocate controlled) ballot initiative process. Interesting times.
November 8, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Because there has historically been a general lack of diversity in all sorts of government positions, I would guess that state administrators and regulators have not typically been an especially diverse bunch. But, when Cat Packer in 2017 was appointed the first Executive Director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, I started noticing the efforts in some quarters to try to ensure state and local marijuana regulators reflected more of the diversity of our great nation. (Just some of a number of other notable regulators in this space include Toi Hutchinson in Illinois, Shaleen Title in Massachusetts, Marisa Rodriguez in San Francisco.)
These stories came to mind as I saw this story out of New Jersey from The Root, headlined "America Has Yet to Achieve Racial Equity in Cannabis Reform. New Jersey Is Hoping Dianna Houenou Can Change That." I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:
[A] third of Americans (more than 111 million total) now live in states where adults can legally purchase pot. But although reform is sweeping the nation, with dispensaries popping up everywhere from Oakland and Denver to Baltimore and Chicago, America’s “green rush” has yet to substantially uplift the communities most harmed by the country’s devastating “war on drugs.” Instead, white business-owners and large corporations have disproportionately benefited from cannabis reform, prompting fresh concerns about what the future of marijuana legalization holds for the Black and Latinx communities who suffered the most from America’s punitive drug policies.
New Jersey hopes to change that narrative. On Friday morning, Gov. Phil Murphy appointed Dianna Houenou, a senior advisor with an extensive background in criminal justice reform, to lead the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will be charged with shaping the state’s cannabis laws and ensuring that the communities devastated by the New Jersey’s drug policies reap the benefits of the burgeoning industry.
“Dianna has been a critical voice for social justice and equity on my team for the past year and a half after spending several years working on the fight to legalize marijuana with the ACLU,” Gov. Murphy told The Root in a statement. “Her commitment to doing what is right and to leaving no one behind has powered our criminal justice reform agenda, and I am immensely proud that she will be continuing that commitment as Chair of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.”
“Since day one, we have said that the legalization of recreational marijuana must prioritize the communities marginalized and decimated by the failed War on Drugs,” Murphy added. “I know that Dianna is the perfect person to lead our state’s effort to create a marketplace for recreational marijuana that is equitable, fair, and inclusive of all communities.”...
New Jersey is the most populous of all the states that legalized recreational marijuana this week, and the first state in the mid-Atlantic to do so — leading Pennsylvania and New York, where lawmakers have long discussed legalization but have disagreed on how to do so. In New York, a major part of that disagreement has stemmed from questions around equity and accessibility. Nationwide, Black and Latinx Americans aren’t leading cannabis operations in significant numbers, nor have they been leading regulation or law-making efforts....
Working to make cannabis reform equitable will be no small task for Houenou and the commission, particularly in a state like New Jersey, where, despite similar rates of marijuana usage, Black people are 3.45 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. As recently as 2016, the Garden State spent $669.3 million to enforce restrictive drug policies, “despite the grave racial inequities in fuels,” writes Insider New Jersey.
Because the country has yet to really get equity in the cannabis industry right, Houenou will be leading New Jersey into uncharted territory. But if successful, the state could very well be a model for the region and the country at large.
Houenou isn’t going it alone. She has the full support of Gov. Murphy, who made marijuana legalization a signature part of his 2017 election campaign. She also understands that making cannabis reform truly equitable will be a holistic process requiring education, advocacy and buy-in from a variety of stakeholders, from law enforcement to those who lost years of their lives to drug prohibition policies. For her and the commission, equity won’t be an afterthought, as it has been in other places. “We really are looking to make sure that equity is built into a regulated structure at the onset,” she said.
Houenou stresses that under her leadership, nothing would be off the table for the commission. This includes policies already existing in other places, including prioritizing permits for those who live in neighborhoods impacted by harsh drug policies, as well as individuals who have been entangled in the court system specifically for cannabis offenses. But she’s also interested in exploring — and breaking down — other barriers to entry and ensuring that revenue from these burgeoning businesses goes back into Black communities.
November 8, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, 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)
Saturday, November 7, 2020
What a difference a decade makes: recalling marijuana reform efforts in 2010 California and now in 2020 South Dakota
Talking to one of my favorite people about the greatness and unpredictability of democracy in the USA, I realized that it is worthwhile to put the amazingly consistent pro-reform marijuana election results of 2020 in a bit of historical context. For now, I will leave it to true historians to write on a broader canvas, as I just want to highlight what a difference a decade makes.
The first very significant and well-funded campaign for statewide marijuana legalization took place in deep blue California in 2010. Then and there, California Proposition 19 lost pretty badly with 53.5% of California voters being against legalization, and only 46.5% being in favor. Notably, among the folks in avowed opposition to this reform were US Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, then CA Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, then-Democratic Attorney General Candidate Kamala Harris, and then-Prez Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder and his drug czar Gil Kerlikowske
Fast forward only 10 years, and we have seen extraordinary political, legal and social developments on so many fronts related to marijuana prohibition, and perhaps this is no more clear than the results in deep red South Dakota in 2020. This year the voters in South Dakota considered both Initiated Measure 26 to legalize medical marijuana, which passed by a vote of 70% for and only 30% against, and a state constitutional amendment for full legalization, which passed by a vote of 54% for and only 46% against. To my knowledge, there were precious few political figures who spoke out in avowed opposition to either of these reforms, and I am certain that Prez Trump's Attorney General did not weigh in on these state marijuana reform ballot measures.
This is a truly remarkable political and legal story, though perhaps even more remarkable is that we have seen no formal federal legislative reforms in this arena even over a decade of extraordinary change. I will (not-so-boldly) predict that we will see some form of federal statutory reforms over the next decade, but I am not at all confident about just when or what these reforms might look like. I will predict that 2010 CA Democratic Attorney General Candidate Kamala Harris, who is now in 2020 Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, might end up having a lot of impact on this matter.
November 7, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Some (too early) speculations on the (uncertain) future of marijuana reform after big state wins Election Night 2020
As of Wednesday morning after a very long 2020 Election Night, there is a lot which remains uncertain politically, but one matter is quite clear: marijuana reform is very popular all across the United States. As noting in this post last night, marijuana reform ballot initiatives prevails by pretty large numbers in states as diverse as Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. This Politico article, headlined "1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal," provides some political context:
New Jersey and Arizona, with 8.9 million and 7.3 million residents, respectively, are the biggest wins for advocates this year. Legalization in New Jersey is expected to create a domino effect for legalization in other large East Coast states, including Pennsylvania and New York.
South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi, while much smaller, are significant in another way: As red states, the passage of marijuana measures illustrates the shift in Republican sentiment toward marijuana.
The impact of these ballot measures will be felt in Congress, especially if Democrats regain control of the Senate. If all the measures ultimately pass, a third of House members will represent states where marijuana is legal, as will a fourth of the Senate. If Democrats end up in control of both chambers next year, expect those legal state lawmakers to be called upon to vote on significant changes to federal marijuana policy — including removing all federal penalties for using it.
As of this writing, it is still unclear who will be in the White House for the next four years, but it seems increasing clear that Democrats will not be in control of the Senate. This reality leads me to speculate that, despite the big 2020 state ballot wins, it will still be quite challenging for Congress to move forward with any significant federal statutory marijuana reforms. Whether to pursue a modest or major form of federal reform already divides Democratic lawmakers in various ways, and I doubt that Republican leadership in the Senate will be eager to prioritize or even advance various bills on this topic. If the person in the White House decides he wants to focus on this issue, these political realities could surely change. But, at this moment, it seems to me unlikely that a large number of lawmakers at the federal level will be keen to prioritize these matters in the short term.
But continued non-action at the federal level could actually make even more space for state-level reforms to continue apace. As the Politico excerpt highlights, the outcome in New Jersey should increase the likelihood of traditional legislative reforms in states like New York and Pennsylvania and maybe other northeast states. Also, the big ballot wins in red states in 2020 also makes even more likely that there will be ballot initiatives for full legalization or medical marijuana reform in a half-dozen or more states in the coming years. Just off the top of my head, I count Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma as all real possibilities for state initiatives perhaps as early as 2022.
November 4, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this exciting and timely new report authored by Dexter Ridgway and Jana Hrdinova of The Ohio State University's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. (The full glossy version of the report is at this link, an SSRN version can be found at this link.) Here is the report's abstract:
As of October 2020, eleven states and the District of Columbia have undergone a transition from medical to adult-use marijuana regimes navigating the creation of a new industry within a complex and incongruous legal framework. The collective experience of these states has created a wealth of lessons for other states that might legalize adult-use marijuana in the future. Yet not much has been written about the process of transition and how states managed the creation and implementation of the regulatory framework for an emerging industry.
This report, which draws on interviews with current and former government officials, aims to fill this gap by documenting lessons learned and decision-making behind the policies that shaped the recreational landscape in four states: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, and Oregon. The purpose of this research is to provide actionable and concrete advice to states that are transitioning, or are planning for a transition, from a medical marijuana regime to an adult-use or recreational framework. The report highlights major decision points states face in their transitions and the pros and cons of each choice, lessons learned gathered from the participants in our study, and a short discussion of major challenges each state had to face with their respective programs.y
November 3, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, October 30, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this new article recently posted to SSRN and authored by Alex Carroll. Here is its abstract:
The Supreme Court has long characterized a dog sniff as a binary investigative technique. For nearly four decades, the Court has held that a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is not a Fourth Amendment “search” because it reveals only the location of an illegal substance. Marijuana, however, is now legal in thirty-four states. Accordingly, this Article closely reexamines the Fourth Amendment’s treatment of dog sniffs.
In doing so, it makes three overarching arguments. First, a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is a nonbinary type of investigative technique in states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana. Second, a dog sniff conducted during a routine traffic stop is a Fourth Amendment “search” in those same states. Third, law enforcement agencies operating in those states must retrain or replace their drug-detection dogs.
Moving forward, the Article further demonstrates, law enforcement agencies will encounter significant challenges associated with retraining or replacing their drug-detection dogs. It therefore concludes by providing law enforcement agencies with ways to mitigate those challenges. At its core, this Article offers the judiciary and law enforcement profession with a constitutional path forward.
October 30, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 5, 2020
As always, the folks at Marijuana Moment have lots of great timely coverage about lots of timely marijuana reform topics. But as one especially interested in the intersection of criminal justice and marijuana reform issues, I found this piece from a few days ago especially worth noting:
Marijuana arrests in the U.S. declined in 2019 for the first time in four years, a new federal report shows. While many expected the state-level legalization movement to reduce cannabis arrests as more markets went online, that wasn’t the case in 2016, 2017 or 2018, which each saw slight upticks in marijuana busts year-over-year. But last year there was a notable dip, the data published this week shows.
There were a total of 545,601 marijuana arrests in 2019 — representing 35 percent of all drug arrests — according to FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. That’s down from 663,367 the prior year and 659,700 in 2017. Put another way, police across the country made a cannabis bust every 58 seconds on average last year. Of those arrests, 500,394 (92 percent) were for possession alone.
“A decline in cannabis related arrests is better than seeing an increase for a fourth year in a row, but the amount of these arrests is still abhorrent,” Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins told Marijuana Moment. “There is no reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. Arresting adult cannabis consumers has a dramatically disproportionate impact on communities of color, is a massive waste of law enforcement officials’ time and resources and does nothing to improve public health or safety.”...
“At a time when a super-majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, law enforcement continues to harass otherwise law abiding citizens at an alarming rate,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “Now is the time for the public to collectively demand that enough is enough: end prohibition and expunge the criminal records to no longer hold people back from achieving their potential.”
While there’s no solitary factor that can explain the recent downward trend in cannabis cases, there are one-off trends that could inform the data. For example, marijuana possession arrests fell almost 30 percent in Texas from 2018 to 2019, and that seems to be connected to the legalization of hemp and resulting difficulties police have had in differentiating the still-illegal version of the cannabis crop from its newly legal non-intoxicating cousin.
At the federal level, prosecutions for marijuana trafficking declined in 2019, and drug possession cases overall saw an even more dramatic decline, according to a report published by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in March. Federal prosecutions of drug-related crimes increased in 2019, but cases involving marijuana dropped by more than a quarter, according to an end-of-year report released by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in December.
October 5, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Carl Crow, 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:
Eleven states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation legalizing adult possession and use of marijuana. Of those twelve jurisdictions, only eight of those jurisdictions have active markets where the substance can be legally bought and sold, and each imposes a different taxation scheme on the flow of marijuana goods in the marketplace. This paper analyzes each tax base and then proposes a bifurcated recreational marijuana tax scheme for states that are currently thinking about legalization: (i) tax flower, bud, and trim based on weight; and (ii) tax concentrates, edibles, oils, and other “distilled” marijuana products based on potency, currently measured by THC content.
The idea behind taxing by potency is two-fold: first, the state may pursue public health goals by nudging consumers away from high-potency forms of marijuana – and prevent producers from gravitating even more strongly toward high-potency goods; second, taxing by potency may help normalize the recreational use of marijuana by encouraging society to treat marijuana more like other legal drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes. While no tax scheme is perfect, a hybrid weight/potency base combined with a sunset provision to allow further research on the area appears to be the ideal way to regulate marijuana at this moment in time.
Monday, September 7, 2020
The Daily Beast has this new piece highlighting that the bulk of the marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot in 2020 are in so-called red states. The piece is fully headlined "Marijuana Is Making Its Mark on Ballots in Red States: Republican-led legislatures have opposed legalization measures, so proponents are going right to the voters." Here are excepts:
Montana and a handful of other states this fall [will] decide whether to legalize recreational or medical marijuana. Five of the six states with ballot questions lean conservative and are largely rural, and the results may signal how far America’s heartland has come toward accepting the use of a substance that federal law still considers an illegal and dangerous drug.
Since Colorado first allowed recreational use of marijuana in 2014, 10 other states have done the same. Most are coastal, left-leaning states, with exceptions like Nevada, Alaska and Maine. An additional 21 states allow medical marijuana, which must be prescribed by a physician.
This year, marijuana advocates are using the November elections to bypass Republican-led legislatures that have opposed legalization efforts, taking the question straight to voters. Advocates point to a high number of petition signatures and their own internal polling as indicators that the odds of at least some of the measures passing are good....
Mississippi and Nebraska voters will decide on medical marijuana measures. South Dakota will be the first state to vote on legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana in the same election.
Montana, Arizona and New Jersey, all medical marijuana states, will consider ballot measures in November to allow recreational sales, a move opponents consider evidence of a slippery slope....
The Marijuana Policy Project is helping to coordinate the Montana legalization effort. Its deputy director, Matthew Schweich, said the organization does so only when polling suggests at least half of voters would support the measure. “It’s becoming normalized for people,” Schweich said. “People know that other states are legalizing it and the sky has not fallen.”
An effort to legalize marijuana in rural, conservative states would have been an uphill battle even a few years ago. But several factors have worked toward changing attitudes there, Schweich said. They include a gradually increasing acceptance in red states of neighbors that have legalized recreational pot—and seeing the tax revenue that legal marijuana brings. But perhaps the biggest catalyst toward normalizing pot use is having an established medical marijuana program, Schweich said.
After 15 years, Montana’s medical cannabis program is firmly rooted and has survived several legislative attempts to restrict it or shut it down. According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, more than 500 marijuana providers were serving 38,385 people as of July, which represents nearly 4 percent of the state’s population....
In Mississippi, 20 medical marijuana bills have failed over the years in the Statehouse. This year, 228,000 state residents signed petitions in support of a medical marijuana initiative to allow possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat more than 20 qualifying medical conditions. In response, lawmakers put a competing measure on the ballot that would restrict marijuana use to terminally ill patients and require them to use only pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products.
Jamie Grantham, spokesperson for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, called the measure an effort by the state to split the vote and derail legalization efforts. “I’m passionate about this because it’s a plant that God made and it can provide relief for those who are suffering,” said Grantham, who described herself as a conservative Republican. “If this is something that can be used to help relieve someone’s pain, then they should be able to use it.”
But opposition is starting to build. Langton, the Mississippi Board of Health member, is working with Mississippi Horizon, a group fighting legalization. Langton said he opposes the original initiative because he believes it’s “overly broad” and would allow dispensaries within 500 feet of schools and churches. It could also put Mississippi on a path toward legalized recreational use, he said. He added: “They say that marijuana is a natural plant, but poison ivy is natural, too. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you.”
September 7, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, August 14, 2020
Newsweek has brought together two leading voices in the marijuana reform conversation here under the headline "Debate: Should We Legalize Marijuana? | Opinion." Here is how the opinion editor sets up the discussion and links to the commentary:
Drug overdoses in America have inexplicably skyrocketed over the past five years. We are, it seems, facing terrible societal crises of mass despondency and lonely atomization. What's more, the stuff peddled to kids today, more potent in terms of THC level than ever before, ain't exactly your grandpa's weed from Woodstock. But on the other hand, surely the War on Drugs has been an abject failure, needlessly ruining lives and locking up youngsters who wouldn't otherwise have a chance at success in live. And as American public opinion shifts, is it finally time to fully legalize recreational marijuana?
This week, of Law Enforcement Action Partnership debates Dr. Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana on one of the perennial questions facing the American populace. We hope you enjoy the detailed, lively exchange.
- By Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), "Legalization Is the Only Way to Improve the Criminal Justice System"
By Dr. Kevin Sabet, "Legalizing Pot Is a Catastrophic Mistake"
As is often the case, these two advocates make their arguments eloquently and effectively. Franklin stresses the myriad criminal justice harms and inequities that have resulted from marijuana prohibitions; Sabet stresses the myriad public health risks and inequities that may result from marijuana legalization and commercialization. Most of their points are sound, and I often think the crux of the marijuana reform debate turns on one's perspective on whether one is more concerned with documented criminal justice harms and inequities from prohibition or with potential public health risks and inequities that may result from marijuana legalization and commercialization.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this lengthy new Politico piece. The headline, "Black Lives Matter movement sparks 'collective awakening' on marijuana policies," and the start of the piece suggests the answer to the question is yes:
States and cities across the country have overhauled their marijuana policies in recent months, propelled by the Black Lives Matter protests over racial inequality and police brutality.
Since protests began in early June, many states and municipalities have adopted new cannabis regulations. Nashville, Tenn., stopped prosecuting minor marijuana possession cases. Portland, Ore., redirected all cannabis tax revenue away from the Portland Police Bureau. Colorado’s Legislature passed a long-stalled proposal to address social equity and scrap old marijuana convictions, and Sonoma County, Calif., and New York state expanded their programs to erase cannabis criminal records....
Cannabis was legalized in Colorado almost eight years ago, but without a social equity program or the expungement of cannabis-related convictions. Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer first pushed for expungement of cannabis records in 2014 and has pressed for marijuana possession charges to be wiped ever since.
But Singer said it was the protests around racial justice that finally got the proposal to the governor’s desk with strong bipartisan support — the social equity and expungements bill only garnered one “no” vote in the state Senate. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law at the end of June.
But as the article continues, it becomes less clear if anything really big is changing with marijuana reform as racial justice gets more attention:
[M]any of the states and cities that did change their marijuana policies were already moving in that direction. Nashville spent the last six years reducing the number of marijuana arrests, before the protests motivated District Attorney General Glenn Funk to stop prosecuting possession entirely. Portland was already reassessing where cannabis tax revenue was directed, and the “defund the police” movement provided the catalyst for the city council to change the budget. In many of these cases, conversations around racial justice simply pushed legislation over the finish line in a jurisdiction that was already working on it.
And it’s clear that the racial justice conversation has not convinced the most vocal skeptics. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police is not changing its anti-legalization position. Even some Democratic lawmakers in the state remain unconvinced about the current legalization effort, despite the demonstrations....
On Capitol Hill, it isn’t clear that racial justice protests have affected the motivation to pass marijuana policy reform. While many of the issue’s most prominent advocates have been silent on federal legalization in the last two months, House leaders are now considering a vote on the MORE Act — which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and expunge some records — sometime this fall....
In June, Congress tried to reach an agreement on police reform. The House passed a sweeping policing bill largely along partisan lines. Senate Republicans introduced a more modest package of reforms, which Senate Democrats ultimately killed because it did not go far enough. Missing from either chamber’s proposal was anything that would overhaul federal marijuana policies. Even many of the most ardent champions of marijuana legalization as criminal justice reform were silent.
A few of may prior related posts:
- Is it growing clearer that marijuana reform is criminal justice reform and racial justice imperative?
- Timely reminders that marijuana reform is criminal justice reform ... especially when Black Lives Matter
- Persistently discouraging news about persistent racial disparities in marijuana enforcement
August 9, 2020 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)
"Better Branding on the Big Screen: How the Marijuana Industry Could Use Product Placement to Increase Public Support"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Tyler Riemenschneider, a recent graduate 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:
Reefer Madness is often credited for spreading anti-marijuana sentiment across the country. Could modern movies depicting marijuana have the opposite effect? This paper asks whether film can influence our opinions on marijuana use and legalization. If movies do have a persuasive effect, the marijuana industry may seek to utilize film as a way to build public support. One method for doing so would be product placement.
This paper discusses potential strategies the industry could use to implement product placement, as well as the legal and industry barriers that could prevent or minimize the industry’s ability to engage in the practice. However, a measured approach to product placement could be a viable persuasive tool for the industry.
Sunday, August 2, 2020
The question in the title of this post is prompted by the headline of this new Politico piece which is fully headlined "The pandemic is eating away at the illicit marijuana market: Legal sales have boomed since March, though it’s hard to say how many customers previously bought from illegal dealers." Here are excerpts:
The legal marijuana industry has spent years battling illegal sellers who have eaten away at its market share and undercut its prices. But the coronavirus has proven to be a boon for legal pot shops, as customers fear the risks associated with inhaling questionable products and are nervous about letting sellers into their homes.
Legal operations have moved quickly to take advantage of the situation, seizing on relaxed rules to expand shopping options in states across the country, including curbside pickups and deliveries. Also, pandemic-frazzled Americans are simply getting stoned more often.
“It's understandable that people may be more hesitant to get their products from sources that are unregulated,” said Kris Krane, CEO of 4Front Ventures, which operates dispensaries in multiple states. “They may not want to go to their dealer’s house, or they may not want to have their dealer come into their house, at a time when people are social distancing and not supposed to be interacting with people that they don't know.”
In addition, cities that never allowed pot shops in their towns, even in states where marijuana is legal, are rethinking the local bans in search of fresh tax revenue. And more people than ever are registered as medical marijuana patients: Florida added nearly 5,000 patients a week in June, and more than 50,000 since March.
The data is murky — credible sales figures on illegal marijuana transactions are inherently difficult to come by — and it’s likely that those sales are also booming as anxious Americans smoke more weed while hunkered down. But many close industry watchers believe the current circumstances are pushing more Americans into state-legal markets. Revenues are expected to hit $17 billion this year, according to New Frontier Data — a 25 percent spike over 2019.
Mitch Baruchowitz, managing partner at cannabis investment firm Merida Capital Partners, argued in a paper in May that the pandemic is “cannibalizing” the illegal market. He hasn’t seen anything in the ensuing months to change that assessment. “The vast majority of the current growth in the cannabis space is being driven by consumers transitioning from the black market to the legal market,” Baruchowitz wrote.
The boom in sales is driven in large part by new legal markets, particularly the start of recreational sales in Illinois and Michigan. But even some states with relatively mature markets have seen big spikes in sales. In Oregon, for example, monthly revenues jumped from just below $70 million during the first two months of this year to more than $100 million in May and June....
Even with this year’s rapid growth, however, the legal marijuana market is still dwarfed by illegal sales, which New Frontier estimates at $63 billion for this year. Nowhere is the underground weed market a bigger problem than in California, where it’s estimated that 80 percent of marijuana sales are still from illegal sources — and most industry officials are deeply skeptical that the pandemic will significantly alter that reality in the short term....
Michigan faces a similar problem in quashing illegal sales: The vast majority of cities in the state — including Detroit — still don’t allow recreational pot shops to operate. In addition, marijuana cultivation is still ramping up in the state, since full legalization only took effect in December. “Demand, especially in the adult-use market, is still higher than the supply as the production in the industry continues to grow,” said Andrew Brisbo, executive director of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency. “That keeps prices still higher than I think they will be in the long term.”
Industry officials are divided on whether the pandemic is eroding the illicit marijuana market, but there’s little doubt that the current economic troubles will push more states to consider legalization. That’s in large part because states' desperation for cash is only going to grow. Even if marijuana taxes would only make a difference at the margins, it undoubtedly will prove enticing to lawmakers.
Some New York lawmakers are pushing this idea, after legalization efforts failed in each of the last two years. They’ll likely face even greater pressure to enact recreational sales if New Jersey voters pass a recreational legalization referendum in November, as expected. Even in deep red states, the idea is likely to get a good look. A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has argued the state should look at allowing recreational sales, suggesting it could raise $100 million per year.
August 2, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (3)
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
This article from Marijuana Moment, headlined, "Nearly Seven-In-Ten New Jersey Voters Support Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure, Poll Finds," reports on a notable new poll suggesting that many members of the the Garden State are eager to vote to legalize marijuana. Here are the details:
A supermajority of New Jersey voters say in a new poll that they support a marijuana legalization referendum that will appear on the November ballot. The survey, which was conducted by DKC Analytics and released on Tuesday, shows that 68 percent of respondents back the policy change. That’s a seven percentage point increase compared to a separate poll on the issue released in April.
The survey also shows that voters support allowing social consumption lounges for cannabis, 50 percent to 38 percent. Most respondents (56 percent) agreed that online ordering and home delivery for marijuana products would be a “good way to provide adults with access.”
Supporters of the legalization initiative were asked to select the reasons they hold that position. Seventy percent said they feel a regulated system will curb the illicit market, 61 percent said it would generate tax revenue, 61 percent said regulations would ensure safer products, 60 percent said ending criminalization would save taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to law enforcement, 57 percent said legalization would stimulate the economy and create jobs and 43 percent said cannabis is safer than alcohol....
Another supermajority (68 percent) said people with prior low-level cannabis convictions should be able to have their records expunged. The same percentage of respondents said that marijuana tax revenue should go toward drug education and awareness programs.
“The polling results confirmed our belief that there is overwhelming support for the creation of a regulated, adult-use cannabis marketplace in New Jersey,” John Fanburg, an attorney at Brach Eichler, which commissioned the survey, said in a press release. “Respondents supported it because it will create tremendous opportunity. It will create vitally needed new businesses, the state will receive significant tax revenues and illegal sales will be dramatically reduced, if not eliminated. Voters see this as a win for everyone.”
As has historically been the case, people who identified as Democrats are more likely to support legalization (78 percent), but majorities of Republicans (57 percent) and independents (63 percent) also favor the policy change.
Another interesting finding was that most people who participated in the survey (57 percent) said they do not personally consume cannabis. The poll involved phone interviews with 500 New Jersey likely voters from July 7-12. ”The strong level of support for correcting this decades-old inequality, especially in the context of recent protests of inherent bias in law enforcement, should be well noted by our legislators who will be tasked with correcting this unfortunate consequence of the failed policy of prohibition,” Charles Gormally of Brach Eichler said.
Thursday, July 23, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this new research from multiple authors published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Here is its abstract:
Rates of adolescent substance use have decreased in recent years. Knowing whether nonmedical marijuana legalization for adults is linked to increases or slows desirable decreases in marijuana and other drug use or pro-marijuana attitudes among teens is of critical interest to inform policy and promote public health. This study tests whether nonmedical marijuana legalization predicts a higher likelihood of teen marijuana, alcohol, or cigarette use or lower perceived harm from marijuana use in a longitudinal sample of youth aged 10–20 years.
Data were drawn from the Seattle Social Development Project–The Intergenerational Project, an accelerated longitudinal study of youth followed both before (2002–2011) and after nonmedical marijuana legalization (2015–2018). Analyses included 281 youth surveyed up to 10 times and living in a state with nonmedical marijuana legalization between 2015 and 2018 (51% female; 33% white, 17% African American, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 40% mixed race or other).
Multilevel modeling in 2019 showed that nonmedical marijuana legalization predicted a higher likelihood of self-reported past-year marijuana (AOR=6.85, p=0.001) and alcohol use (AOR 3.38, p=0.034) among youth when controlling birth cohort, sex, race, and parent education. Nonmedical marijuana legalization was not significantly related to past-year cigarette use (AOR=2.43, p=0.279) or low perceived harm from marijuana use (AOR=1.50, p=0.236) across youth aged 10–20 years.
It is important to consider recent broad declines in youth substance use when evaluating the impact of nonmedical marijuana legalization. States that legalize nonmedical marijuana for adults should increase resources for the prevention of underage marijuana and alcohol use.
Saturday, July 11, 2020
The question in the title of this post is the title of this new commentary at The Nation authored by John Nichols. The piece is in the same vein as the one noted here asking why Joe Biden won't embrace legalization. Here are excerpts:
Some political issues are hard to wrestle with. Some are easy. Legalizing marijuana is easy.
A Pew Research Center survey found last fall that Americans back legalization by a 67-32 margin. The numbers spike among Democrats, 78 percent of whom favor ending this form of prohibition. But there’s also majority support — 55 percent — among Republicans. Among voters under age 30, support for legalization is sky-high.
Enthusiasm for legalization extends far beyond the large number of Americans who are recreational users of marijuana to include millions of people who recognize, as does the American Civil Liberties Union, that “Marijuana Legalization Is a Racial Justice Issue.”...
When the [Democratic] party’s task force on criminal justice reform released its policy recommendations this week, legalization was off the agenda. That was just one example of the caution that permeates the 110-page document submitted to the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafters by the six task forces that were set up in May by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his chief rival for the party’s nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders....
There’s criticism of mass incarceration and a good proposal to restrict federal funding for states that maintain cash bail systems. But there’s no plan to abolish the scandal-plagued Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or to defund the police with an eye toward establishing new law enforcement models that strive for public safety and justice....
Color of Change senior director of criminal justice campaigns Scott Roberts told Politico that Biden “still seems to embrace kind of a law-and-order lite.” That was certainly the case when it came to upending marijuana laws.
The commission rejected legalization — the popular position backed by Sanders. Instead, it stuck to the more cautious approach that’s been maintained by Biden, a supporter of the drug war during his own Senate years who has softened some but not all of his old positions. Instead of legalization, the commission proposed to “decriminalize marijuana use,” reschedule cannabis on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and leave it to the states to decide about legalization.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws concluded that the proposal “is out of step with public opinion [and] would do little to mitigate the failed policy of federal prohibition.”
“It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to move ahead with these policy proposals. Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictators of cannabis policy, and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law,” explained Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law. “Rescheduling marijuana is intellectually dishonest. Just as cannabis does not meet the strict criteria of a Schedule I controlled substance, it similarly does not meet the specific criteria that define substances categorized in schedules II through V.”
Why didn’t the commission simply endorse the Marijuana Justice Act, which has been introduced by New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker in the Senate and House Democrats Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna? Sanders supports the measure, as do two of Biden’s vice presidential prospects, Warren and Senator Kamala Harris. The answer is that Biden has a long history of opposing legalization — going so far in his resistance to the idea that, last year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that the former vice president was employing “Reagan-era talking points.”
Prior related post:
July 11, 2020 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this significant new digital book put together by Chris Nani now available via SSRN. I am proud to be able to say Chris is a former student who has been doing amazing work in the cannabis space since his time in law school (including the development of a great tool for judging social equity programs available as "Social Equity Assessment Tool for the Cannabis Industry"). In his new book, Chris has assembled short and effective essays from more than a dozen experts; here is the book's SSRN abstract:
Understanding Social Equity is a compilation of viewpoints from various authors with diverse backgrounds. From attorneys, policy analysts, and journalists to advocates, business owners, and social equity applicants, my goal was to provide as many perspectives as possible – some of which may conflict with other authors to provide regulators a wide range of respected opinions about social equity programs. Together, we believe this compilation can be used as a guide for drafters and regulators when determining minute details about how they would like to create or improve their social equity program.
The goal of this book can further be defined into four objectives:
● Educate regulators on what social equity programs are and their importance.
● Why certain criteria should be used to define social equity applicant eligibility.
● An analysis of prior social equity programs.
● Key factors for social equity programs.
I was quite honored that Chris asked me to author an essay for this book. My contribution is titled simply "Tracking Social Equity," and here is how it begins:
Chris Nani, in the first sentence of his preface to this volume, defines social equity programs as those that “seek to remediate and help individuals, families, and communities harmed by the War on Drugs.” Behind this crisp definition of social equity programs stands a series of complicated questions about just who should be the focal point for remediation and help and how these programs should be oriented and assessed. By starting to unpack these questions, we can begin to appreciate just why these programs are so important in principle and so challenging in practice.
July 7, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)