Monday, April 15, 2019
Fascinating map and data highlighting prevalence and intensity of marijuana's criminal enforcement footprint
Over at the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham has this great new piece fully titled "Where the war on weed still rages: In some U.S. counties, more than 40 percent of all arrests are for marijuana possession." The title highlights the piece's themes, but the text and a map therein reinforce the point in various ways:
Marijuana possession led to nearly 6 percent of all arrests in the United States in 2017, FBI data shows, underscoring the level of policing dedicated to containing behavior that’s legal in 10 states and the nation’s capital.
But the figure obscures the considerable variations in enforcement practices at the state and local levels. In many areas of the country in 2016, more than 20 percent of all arrests stemmed from pot possession, according to newly released county-level arrest figures from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. The figure exceeds 40 percent in a handful of counties, topping out at nearly 55 percent in one Georgia county.
The data tracks arrests, not individuals, so there’s no mechanism for winnowing out repeat offenders. Nor does it include arrests for the sale or production of marijuana. But the numbers still illustrate how marijuana enforcement continues to make up a big part of many police agencies’ caseloads.
The findings reflect, in part, a few simple realities: The federal government incentivizes aggressive drug enforcement via funding for drug task forces and generous forfeiture rules that allow agencies to keep cash and other valuables they find in the course of a drug bust. And because marijuana is bulky and pungent relative to other drugs, it’s often easy for police to root out.
But given that recreational marijuana is legal throughout the West, and that two-thirds of the public supports legalization, critics view such aggressive enforcement tactics as wasteful, ineffective and even racially biased....
Nationwide, a few clear patterns emerge in the county-level arrest statistics from 2016, the latest year for which data is available. A swath of mostly conservative states, running from North Dakota through Texas, is home to many counties where marijuana enforcement accounts for 10 percent or more of all arrests — well above the national average.
But those conservative states are by no means alone. On the East Coast, New York and New Jersey stand out for relatively high arrest rates for marijuana possession. In New England, New Hampshire — the “Live free or die” state — also shows a high number of arrests relative to its neighbors.
States that have legalized marijuana, on the other hand, tend to have lower arrest rates. Colorado and Washington, where recreational use had been legal for two years at the time the data was taken, few counties attributed more than 2.5 percent of their arrests to marijuana enforcement. Not a single county in California, which legalized the drug in 2016, met that threshold. Alabama and Kentucky — which are not known for liberal marijuana policies — also appeared to place a low priority on marijuana possession enforcement.
The data shows that Dooley County, Ga., has the highest rate of marijuana arrests in the nation. Out of 422 total arrests in 2016, 230, or 54.5 percent, were for marijuana possession. The next highest was Hamilton County in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where 43.5 percent of the 130 arrests logged in 2016 targeted marijuana offenders. That’s followed by Sterling (42.1) and Hartley (42.0) counties in Texas, with South Dakota’s Edmunds County (33.3 percent) rounding out the top five.
While these counties are all small and rural, some larger counties in and around big cities also reported unusually high arrest rates. In Chesapeake, Va., (population 233,000), for instance, 23 percent of its nearly 3,600 arrests were for marijuana possession. In Maryland’s Montgomery County (population 1 million), just outside of Washington, D.C., about 20 percent of its 24,000 arrests were for pot....
Another notable component of the study is what’s missing. Individual police agencies share arrest statistics with the FBI as part of its Uniform Crime Reporting Program. But participation is voluntary, and different states use different systems to report crime and arrest data, which means that some jurisdictions have more complete coverage than others. The map above omits all jurisdictions where the reporting rate is less than 90 percent, which eliminates large parts of some states and removes others, like Illinois and Florida, completely.
Not all marijuana arrests lead to convictions or prison time. But an arrest can be highly disruptive in and of itself: Legal fees, bail and bond costs, time lost from work and the potential for pretrial detention can take a heavy toll on arrested individuals. In a number of cases, suspects have been inadvertently or deliberately killed while in police custody for possessing small quantities of pot. In one recent high-profile case, a Pennsylvania man was crushed by a bulldozer as he fled from police attempting to apprehend him over 10 marijuana plants — a quantity that is legal in other parts of the country.
Sunday, March 31, 2019
The second of four student presentation this coming week in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar will focus on federal scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act and the research and market realities impacted by the placement of marijuana in Schedule I. Here is how my student has summarized his topic, along with the background readings he has provided:
The placement of cannabis in Schedule I practically prevents comprehensive and meaningful research into its medical applications and potential harms. The federal government cites cannabis' placement in Schedule I as the reason rigorous research must be conducted before it can be rescheduled, but places restrictions on its research, because of its schedule, that are nearly impossible to overcome. Is there an alternative pathway to federal cannabis legalization, or at least rescheduling, so that more meaningful research can be conducted?
My presentation will examine U.S. drug scheduling, looking at the criteria and examples of substances in each schedule. I will then provide an overview of the FDA research model by which new drugs come to market, contrast it with the type of research conducted on cannabis, and discuss why meaningful, rigorous research into cannabis is so difficult. With this background, I will discuss the findings of a former UK drug-policy adviser that suggests substantial rescheduling is necessary, and how these findings helped initiate research into other Schedule I drugs. Finally, I will provide an overview of research into other Schedule I substances, particularly psychedelics, and how this research may accelerate the rescheduling or federal legalization of cannabis so that its impact on health may be studied more effectively.
March 31, 2019 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Minority Cannabis Business Association engages OSU College of Law 3L Chris Nani to evaluate social equity efforts in Los Angeles
I am always so very excited when students here at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law get so very excited about marijuana law and policy. One such student whose work I have spotlighted here is Christopher Nani, who took my marijuana seminar back in Fall 2017 and has been doing amazing work in this space ever since. In addition to getting articles published at the Cannabis Law Report discussing federal tax treatment of cannabis businesses (see prior posts here and here) and co-hosting a podcast focused on business development in the cannabis industry (called Cannabiz with Canna-Chris), Chris has produced this notable article detailing a "Model Social Equity Equation for the Cannabis Industry."
I describe Chris' article as notable in part because the Minority Cannabis Business Association took note of the work, and MCBA has now engaged Chris to use his equation to "score" Los Angeles. This press release, titled "MCBA Engages in Case Study to Rate Efficacy of Los Angeles’ Social Equity Program," explains:
The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) announced plans to take a score of social equity policies implemented by the city of Los Angeles intended to increase diversity in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Partnering with the MCBA on this effort is Chris Nani, an Ohio State Law student who recently released a similar study that focused on these equity policies in three other California cities.
The results of Nani’s preliminary study had outcomes for Sacramento, San Francisco and even the much-lauded Oakland program that didn’t fully meet the intent of those policies, and underlines the necessity of reassessment once these programs have been implemented. As one of the largest markets in California, Los Angeles is an important influencer in the industry and will serve as an example for future efforts on this topic.
“We are excited to see municipalities across the country starting to implement social equity programs as a way to reinvest in communities that for decades have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs,” says Kayvan Khalatbari, MCBA’s Board Chair. “Now we need to ensure their intended outcomes are being met. If they’re not, we need to reexamine those policies and work on them until we get it right. We must develop an effective and repeatable model.”
The case study will utilize an “Equity Equation”, which provides a scored assessment to rate the effectiveness of municipal social equity programs based on 10 separate factors, all of which have been determined to play a major role in the ultimate success or failure of these policies. One factor commonly cited as a barrier to entry for people of color to find a place in the cannabis industry, regardless of policies in place, is a lack of available capital.
“Social equity programs are an important progression for the cannabis industry,” says Chris Nani. “As new markets come online and use Los Angeles as a model in their own programming, it’s critical that we understand what is working and what is not. The equation I developed is meant to grade the efficacy of these programs and offer suggestions for improvement. I look forward to working with lawmakers, social equity applicants and MCBA to work towards improving these policies across the country.”
March 27, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
"The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study"
The title of this post is the title of this important new study appearing in The Lancet Psychiatry. Here is its summary:
Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of later psychotic disorder but whether it affects incidence of the disorder remains unclear. We aimed to identify patterns of cannabis use with the strongest effect on odds of psychotic disorder across Europe and explore whether differences in such patterns contribute to variations in the incidence rates of psychotic disorder.
We included patients aged 18–64 years who presented to psychiatric services in 11 sites across Europe and Brazil with first-episode psychosis and recruited controls representative of the local populations. We applied adjusted logistic regression models to the data to estimate which patterns of cannabis use carried the highest odds for psychotic disorder. Using Europe-wide and national data on the expected concentration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the different types of cannabis available across the sites, we divided the types of cannabis used by participants into two categories: low potency (THC <10%) and high potency (THC ≥10%). Assuming causality, we calculated the population attributable fractions (PAFs) for the patterns of cannabis use associated with the highest odds of psychosis and the correlation between such patterns and the incidence rates for psychotic disorder across the study sites.
Between May 1, 2010, and April 1, 2015, we obtained data from 901 patients with first-episode psychosis across 11 sites and 1237 population controls from those same sites. Daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 3·2, 95% CI 2·2–4·1), increasing to nearly five-times increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis (4·8, 2·5–6·3). The PAFs calculated indicated that if high-potency cannabis were no longer available, 12·2% (95% CI 3·0–16·1) of cases of first-episode psychosis could be prevented across the 11 sites, rising to 30·3% (15·2–40·0) in London and 50·3% (27·4–66·0) in Amsterdam. The adjusted incident rates for psychotic disorder were positively correlated with the prevalence in controls across the 11 sites of use of high-potency cannabis (r = 0·7; p=0·0286) and daily use (r = 0·8; p=0·0109).
Differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across the 11 studied sites. Given the increasing availability of high-potency cannabis, this has important implications for public health.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this recent article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy that I just recently came across. Here is its abstract:
There is a lack of research regarding law enforcement practices where recreational marijuana sales are legal. Given that legalization of recreational marijuana is expanding, lessons learned from areas with existing legalization can help inform future practices. This pilot study is an evaluation of enforcement of marijuana laws in the first two states in the U.S. to legalize sales of recreational marijuana, Colorado and Washington, several years post legalization.
We surveyed a random sample of local law enforcement agencies in the two states (25 agencies per state). We also attempted to survey the state-level marijuana enforcement agency but only Washington responded. Surveys focused on youth marijuana use, youth access to marijuana, and impaired driving but included other topics. Chi-square tests assessed differences between states (p < .05).
All local agencies reported underage use was somewhat or very common in their jurisdictions. Thirty percent of local agencies conducted enforcement targeting underage use/possession. Twenty percent of agencies overall conducted underage compliance checks at licensed stores, with more agencies conducting checks in Colorado (32%) than Washington (8%; p = .03). Most agencies in both states reported marijuana-impaired driving was somewhat or very common in their jurisdictions. One local agency in each state specifically targeted marijuana-impaired driving. The state-level agency in Washington reported that their agency is the one primarily responsible for enforcing marijuana retail laws and they conducted routine underage compliance checks at all licensed marijuana stores three times per year.
Our findings indicate that marijuana enforcement can be improved regarding sales/provision to underage youth and impaired driving in these states, particularly given that underage use and impaired driving are perceived to be common. Larger studies with additional jurisdictions and types of agencies (e.g., highway patrol) are warranted.
Sunday, March 10, 2019
New report details big decrease in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states ... but makes no mention of trend despite fear-mongering last year
In this post last year, titled "New report suggests big increase in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states... but only by leaving out California," I noted a big report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) which expressed concern about pedestrian fatalities in 2017 and spotlighted that the legalization of recreational marijuana in several states seemed to correlate with an uptick in pedestrian fatalities in those states. That prior GHSA report stressed in graphic and text how "seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and DC that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a collective 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017 versus the first six months of 2016, whereas all other states reported a collective 5.8 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities."
But, as I lamented in my post, the GHSA accounting completely left out the state of California (which also legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016), perhaps because the GHSA data from that year showed a big decrease in pedestrian fatalities in that state for the first six months of 2017. Had California been included in the analysis by GHSA, as it rightly should have been in that prior report, the data in last year's report on legalized recreational use of marijuana and pedestrian fatalities would have looked a whole lot different.
Fast forward a year, and now the GHSA has recently released its latest data and report on pedestrian fatalities. This new GHSA report expresses again a deep concern with increases in the number of pedestrian fatalities. But while last year's report mentioned marijuana 14 times, this year's report does not use the word once and does not spotlight or even mention the states that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016. Why not? Perhaps because the story looks very different this year, as seven of the eight states to legalize recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 had notable decreases in pedestrian fatalities according to the latest GHSA data: Alaska down 29%, California down 8%; Colorado down 8%, Maine down 40%, Massachusetts up 9%, Nevada down 28%, Oregon down 18%, Washington down 4%. These numbers would be notable even if pedestrian death were flat in other states, they are particularly encouraging given that so many other states saw increases in pedestrian fatalities in the first part of 2018.
Critically, these latest GHSA data showing a decrease in pedestrian fatalities in so many which have legalized recreational use of marijuana do not prove any causal relationship. And, in the same spirit, the older data did not clearly prove anything, either. Rather, there is every reason to suspect this is all just usual statistical noise.
Prior related post:
Saturday, March 9, 2019
This story at Leafy, headlined "As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America," reports on Leafy's effort to account for job creation in the legal marijuana industry. Here is how the article starts:
How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry? It’s a common question — and one the government refuses to answer. Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.
Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.
There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States.
The Leafy accounting is set forth in this relatively short document titled "Special Report: Cannabis Jobs Count." Here is an excerpt:
In early 2017, roughly 120,000 Americans worked in the legal cannabis industry. At that time, 29 states allowed medical marijuana. Four states and the District of Columbia had legalized the adult use of cannabis. National sales in legal markets topped $6.7 billion.
Today, two years later, 34 states have legalized medical marijuana. Ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult use. Annual sales nationwide are nearing the $11 billion mark. And the number of Americans directly employed in this booming industry has soared to more than 211,000.
When indirect and ancillary jobs — think of all the lawyers, accountants, security consultants, media companies, and marketing firms that service the cannabis industry — are added, along with induced jobs (local community jobs supported by the spending of cannabis industry paychecks), the total number of full-time American jobs that depend on legal cannabis rises to a whopping 296,000.
By comparison, there are currently about 52,000 coal mining jobs in the United States. American beer makers employ 69,000 brewery workers. And 112,000 people work in textile manufacturing.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article just published in the journal Justice Quarterly and authored by Lorine Hughes, Lonnie Schaible & Katherine Jimmerson. Here is the paper's abstract:
Beginning with Colorado and Washington State in 2012, longstanding bans on the sale, possession, and use of marijuana for recreational purposes have been overturned in nine states and the nation’s capital. Consistent with the logic of routine activity theory and broken windows theory, critics of legalized marijuana argue that dispensaries are magnets for crime, attracting criminal offenders to the area with large sums of cash and valuable goods. The current study addresses this possibility by examining the effects of both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries on yearly crime rates in N = 3981 neighborhood grid cells in Denver, Colorado, 2012–2015. Estimates from Bayesian spatiotemporal Poisson regression models indicate that, except for murder and auto theft, both types of dispensaries are associated with statistically significant increases in rates of neighborhood crime and disorder. The theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.
This notice about the research provides additional background and findings. Here are excerpts therefrom:
"We found that neighborhoods with one or more medical or recreational dispensary saw increased crime rates that were between 26 and 1,452% higher than in neighborhoods without any commercial marijuana activity," notes Lorine A. Hughes, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, who led the study. "But we also found that the strongest associations between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly over time."...
The study found that except for murder, the presence of at least one medical marijuana dispensary was associated with a statistically significant increase in neighborhood crime and disorder, including robbery and aggravated assault. The study also found a relatively strong association between medical marijuana dispensaries and drug and alcohol offenses, with a decline in the strength of the link after recreational marijuana was legalized. The pattern of results was similar for recreational marijuana dispensaries, though the study found no direct relation to auto theft.
The authors caution that the results of the study, based only on information from Denver immediately after legalization and before market saturation, may not be generalizable to other geographic areas. They also note that because the study relied on official police data to measure crime and disorder, it's possible that police targeted neighborhoods with marijuana dispensaries, which would over-estimate the association between these facilities and crime and disorder.
"Our findings have important implications for the marijuana industry in Denver and the liberalization of marijuana laws nationwide," suggests Lonnie M. Schaible, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, who coauthored the study. "Although our results indicate that both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries are associated with increases in most major crime types, the weak strength typical of these relationships suggests that, if Denver's experience is representative, major spikes in crime are unlikely to occur in other places following legalization."
The authors suggest that, rather than fighting to oppose legalized marijuana, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry and is expected to create more than a quarter of a million jobs by 2020, it may be more expedient to develop and support secure and legal ways for dispensaries to engage in financial transactions.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
"Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article which just today is published online in JAMA Psychiatry. Here is its front matter:
Is adolescent cannabis consumption associated with risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in young adulthood?
In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies and 23 317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with increased risk of developing depression and suicidal behavior later in life, even in the absence of a premorbid condition. There was no association with anxiety.
Preadolescents and adolescents should avoid using cannabis as use is associated with a significant increased risk of developing depression or suicidality in young adulthood; these findings should inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to reduce the use of cannabis among youth.
Cannabis is the most commonly used drug of abuse by adolescents in the world. While the impact of adolescent cannabis use on the development of psychosis has been investigated in depth, little is known about the impact of cannabis use on mood and suicidality in young adulthood.
To provide a summary estimate of the extent to which cannabis use during adolescence is associated with the risk of developing subsequent major depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior.
Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycInfo, and Proquest Dissertations and Theses were searched from inception to January 2017.
Longitudinal and prospective studies, assessing cannabis use in adolescents younger than 18 years (at least 1 assessment point) and then ascertaining development of depression in young adulthood (age 18 to 32 years) were selected, and odds ratios (OR) adjusted for the presence of baseline depression and/or anxiety and/or suicidality were extracted.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
Study quality was assessed using the Research Triangle Institute item bank on risk of bias and precision of observational studies. Two reviewers conducted all review stages independently. Selected data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The studies assessing cannabis use and depression at different points from adolescence to young adulthood and reporting the corresponding OR were included. In the studies selected, depression was diagnosed according to the third or fourth editions of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or by using scales with predetermined cutoff points.
After screening 3142 articles, 269 articles were selected for full-text review, 35 were selected for further review, and 11 studies comprising 23 317 individuals were included in the quantitative analysis. The OR of developing depression for cannabis users in young adulthood compared with nonusers was 1.37 (95% CI, 1.16-1.62; I2 = 0%). The pooled OR for anxiety was not statistically significant: 1.18 (95% CI, 0.84-1.67; I2 = 42%). The pooled OR for suicidal ideation was 1.50 (95% CI, 1.11-2.03; I2 = 0%), and for suicidal attempt was 3.46 (95% CI, 1.53-7.84, I2 = 61.3%).
Conclusions and Relevance
Although individual-level risk remains moderate to low and results from this study should be confirmed in future adequately powered prospective studies, the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern, which should be properly addressed by health care policy.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
"Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours"
The title of this post is the title of this new research published in the journal Addiction authored by Tyler Lane and Wayne Hall. Here is the article's abstract:
Background and aims
A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis impairs driving ability. We used mortality data to investigate whether the commercial sale of cannabis for recreational use affected traffic fatality rates both in states that legalized it and in neighbouring jurisdictions.
Interrupted time–series of traffic fatality rates adjusted for seasonality and autocorrelation. Changes are reported as step and trend effects against a comparator of states that had not implemented medicinal or recreational cannabis during the study period (2009–16). Sensitivity analyses added a 6‐month ‘phase‐in’ to account for lags in production. Meta‐analyses were used to derive pooled results.
Three states that legalized recreational cannabis sales [Colorado (January 2014), Washington State (June 2014) and Oregon (October 2015] and nine neighbouring jurisdictions [Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah (Colorado neighbours); British Columbia and Oregon (Washington neighbours); and California and Nevada (Oregon neighbours)].
Monthly traffic fatalities rates per million residents using mortality data from CDC WONDER and RoadSafetyBC and census data.
There was a pooled step increase of 1.08 traffic fatalities per million residents followed by a trend reduction of −0.06 per month (both P < 0.001), although with significant heterogeneity between sites (step: I2 = 73.7%, P < 0.001; trend: I2 = 68.4%; P = 0.001). Effects were similar in both legalizing (step: 0.90, P < 0.001; trend: −0.05, P = 0.007) and neighbouring sites (step: 1.15, P = 0.005; trend: −0.06, P = 0.001). The 6‐month phase‐in produced similar if larger effects (step: 1.36, P = 0.006; trend: −0.07, P < 0.001).
The combination of step increases and trend reductions suggests that in the year following implementation of recreational cannabis sales, traffic fatalities temporarily increased by an average of one additional traffic fatality per million residents in both legalizing US states of Colorado, Washington and Oregon and in their neighbouring jurisdictions.
Saturday, February 9, 2019
The cheeky title of this post is the thought I had in response to the news out of Oregon this past week, discussed in this Quartz piece headlined "Oregon has more legal cannabis than the state can consume in six years." Here are the details:
In 2018, Oregon’s legal marijuana producers grew more than twice as much as was legally consumed, leading to an oversupply that has 6.5 years’ worth of cannabis, measured by the psychoactive compound THC, on the shelves at dispensaries and wholesale distributors.
The latest data from Oregon, which adopted its legal regime in 2014, was released this week (pdf) by researchers working for Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission, which closely regulates cannabis from production to distribution....
“For Oregon, producing a lot of marijuana is not new news; producing a lot of marijuana that is tracked in the legal system is,” writes Steve Marks, the commission’s executive director. He notes that the state has garnered $198 million in tax revenue from the first three years of its legal cannabis regime, and that only 45% of estimated Oregon cannabis use is supplied by the medical marijuana market, legal home grows, or the black market.
But the current situation creates a “concern that [legally grown cannabis] may be diverted to the black market and/or out of state given current market conditions (high supply, falling prices, and a huge pipeline of applications for new entrants into the market),” writes Josh Lehner, an economist who works for the state government.
Now the question is whether the state government will take any action to push down supply by increasing producer license fees, limiting the maximum amount of marijuana grown in the state, or capping the number of licenses temporarily or permanently. The researchers do observe that the 6.5 years’ worth of THC on the shelves is a deceiving estimate, since some is likely to become stale or uncompetitive with new products.
Part of the challenge is that many legal producers are getting into Oregon’s market to lay the groundwork ahead of hoped-for changes in federal laws down the line, especially since Oregon removed a residency requirement for owners. “Businesses in Oregon’s recreational marijuana market are in some ways analogous to technology start-ups… willing to take the risk of losses today for potential large gains tomorrow,” the report notes. “However, this calculus depends on ‘tomorrow’ not being excessively far in the future and the license remaining in good standing.”
For now, the Oregon oversupply is more an “indication of speculative bets and pending market corrections,” but the longer the situation continues, the more pressure there will be on cannabis startups to make money outside the legal system.
In contrast to many other states, Oregon has relatively few limits on who can get a license to grow for the legal market. And marijuana's nickname "weed" is itself a useful reminder that marijuana is not all that hard to grown and it grows relatively quickly. So, absent certain types of regulation, it is not surprising to see an oversupply of product in the Beaver State.
February 9, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this new Civilized piece with an interesting factoid about employment in the marijuana industry. Here are the particulars (with links from the original to a notable infographic):
If there's any marker that the cannabis industry isn't slowing down, it's just how many people are now working in it.
In 2018 there were somewhere between 125,000 and 160,000 working in the legal cannabis industry, according to an infographic released by Cali Extractions using data from Statista and Marijuana Business Daily. That's no small jump up from just last year where there were only 90,000–110,000 cannabis industry workers.
That means there are more people working in state-legalized cannabis industries than there are pilots or librarians in America. And next year cannabis jobs look like they'll overtake the number of kindergarten teachers and bus drivers.
"Since 2016, revenue from cannabis has almost doubled—not many industries can show that kind of growth, even in the salad days," reads the a statement released with the infographic.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Malcolm Gladwell rightly highlights how much we do not know about marijuana (but still ignores what we know about prohibition)
Malcolm Gladwell has this new extended essay in The New Yorker asking "Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think?". The piece is somewhat focused on the forthcoming book by Alex Berenson (whose recent commentaries I have covered here and here), but it is most effective when it highlights that research on the public health consequences of marijuana remains incomplete and inconclusive. Here is how the piece starts:
A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.
For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.
Then come Chapters 5 through 13, the heart of the report, which concern marijuana’s potential risks. The haze of uncertainty continues. Does the use of cannabis increase the likelihood of fatal car accidents? Yes. By how much? Unclear. Does it affect motivation and cognition? Hard to say, but probably. Does it affect employment prospects? Probably. Will it impair academic achievement? Limited evidence. This goes on for pages.
We need proper studies, the panel concluded, on the health effects of cannabis on children and teen-agers and pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers and “older populations” and “heavy cannabis users”; in other words, on everyone except the college student who smokes a joint once a month.
Gladwell later provides some context for how we should approach modern marijuana reform in light of all this uncertainty:
Drug policy is always clearest at the fringes. Illegal opioids are at one end. They are dangerous. Manufacturers and distributors belong in prison, and users belong in drug-treatment programs. The cannabis industry would have us believe that its product, like coffee, belongs at the other end of the continuum. “Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate under full sun, sustainably, and in small batches,” the promotional literature for one California cannabis brand reads. “Using only organic methods, these stewards of the land have spent their lives balancing a unique and harmonious relationship between the farm, the genetics and the terroir.” But cannabis is not coffee. It’s somewhere in the middle. The experience of most users is relatively benign and predictable; the experience of a few, at the margins, is not. Products or behaviors that have that kind of muddled risk profile are confusing, because it is very difficult for those in the benign middle to appreciate the experiences of those at the statistical tails. Low-frequency risks also take longer and are far harder to quantify, and the lesson of “Tell Your Children” and the National Academy report is that we aren’t yet in a position to do so. For the moment, cannabis probably belongs in the category of substances that society permits but simultaneously discourages. Cigarettes are heavily taxed, and smoking is prohibited in most workplaces and public spaces. Alcohol can’t be sold without a license and is kept out of the hands of children. Prescription drugs have rules about dosages, labels that describe their risks, and policies that govern their availability. The advice that seasoned potheads sometimes give new users — “start low and go slow” — is probably good advice for society as a whole, at least until we better understand what we are dealing with.
I am not inclined to dispute much of what Gladwell has to say in this piece especially when he stresses uncertainty, but I am again eager to highlight what he ignores about the certain harms of prohibition. Notably, we still send a whole lot of drug users to prison rather than to treatment programs because of the "drug war" approach to criminalizing drug prohibitions, and we still arrest a whole lot of marijuana users. Moreover and even more importantly, the certain harms of marijuana prohibition are borne disproportionately by people of color and the poor.
I am supportive of a "start low and go slow” approach to the commercialization of marijuana based on all the uncertainty that Gladwell is eager to stress. But given the certain harms of prohibition and who is disproportionately subject to them, I do not think we can end the criminalization of marijuana soon enough.
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
There has been some real impact since recreational marijuana showed up:
- Dozens of new roofs for crumbling schools across the state.
- Sprinklers in buildings built decades before they existed.
- Security systems in an age of concern for student safety.
- Additional classrooms to alleviate relentless overcrowding.
- New gyms to replace dilapidated ones.
- New schools because older ones are unsafe to enter.
But there have also been dozens of other similar projects statewide that have gone unfunded because not enough dollars are allocated to handle them all.
While the public’s attention has focused on the roughly quarter-billion dollars a year in marijuana-related revenue that flows into state coffers, the burgeoning marijuana business also has brought a bonanza in tax revenue for dozens of municipal and county governments.
Nobody comprehensively tracks the local figures, but as Colorado marks the five-year anniversary of legalization a Denver Post analysis fleshed out a large part of the picture based on available data: In 2017, at least $71 million was collected from recreational marijuana via local taxes and the “share-backs” provided by the state, which now returns a tenth of the total raised by its own 15 percent special marijuana sales tax.
Marijuana Tax Cash Fund ... is the largest pool of marijuana tax revenue in the state. Colorado collected $251 million during fiscal year 2017-2018, and 49 percent of that went into the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund. Three funds that support K-12 education received a collective $98 million, $16.7 million went to local governments and $12.4 million went into the general fund.
State law technically allows the General Assembly to appropriate its tax fund money for any purpose, but state legislators created a set of “allowable purposes” such as mental health treatment, marijuana research and law enforcement training and to provide services to school-age children. Each year, lawmakers tinker with the cash fund by running bills to create new grants and by adjusting how much marijuana money, if any, goes into programs they created in previous years.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
I just came across this morning this remarkable article published this month in The Lancet Psychiatry titled "The global burden of disease attributable to alcohol and drug use in 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016." The array of data in the article is fascinating (and overwhelming), and here is its summary:
Alcohol and drug use can have negative consequences on the health, economy, productivity, and social aspects of communities. We aimed to use data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2016 to calculate global and regional estimates of the prevalence of alcohol, amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, and opioid dependence, and to estimate global disease burden attributable to alcohol and drug use between 1990 and 2016, and for 195 countries and territories within 21 regions, and within seven super-regions. We also aimed to examine the association between disease burden and Socio-demographic Index (SDI) quintiles.
We searched PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases for original epidemiological studies on alcohol and drug use published between Jan 1, 1980, and Sept 7, 2016, without language restrictions, and used DisMod-MR 2.1, a Bayesian meta-regression tool, to estimate population-level prevalence of substance use disorders. We combined these estimates with disability weights to calculate years of life lived with disability (YLDs), years of life lost (YLLs), and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 1990–2016. We also used a comparative assessment approach to estimate burden attributable to alcohol and drug use as risk factors for other health outcomes.
Globally, alcohol use disorders were the most prevalent of all substance use disorders, with 100·4 million estimated cases in 2016 (age-standardised prevalence 1320·8 cases per 100000 people, 95% uncertainty interval [95% UI] 1181·2–1468·0). The most common drug use disorders were cannabis dependence (22·1 million cases; age-standardised prevalence 289·7 cases per 100000 people, 95% UI 248·9–339·1) and opioid dependence (26·8 million cases; agestandardised prevalence 353·0 cases per 100000 people, 309·9–405·9). Globally, in 2016, 99·2 million DALYs (95% UI 88·3–111·2) and 4·2% of all DALYs (3·7–4·6) were attributable to alcohol use, and 31·8 million DALYs (27·4–36·6) and 1·3% of all DALYs (1·2–1·5) were attributable to drug use as a risk factor. The burden of disease attributable to alcohol and drug use varied substantially across geographical locations, and much of this burden was due to the effect of substance use on other health outcomes. Contrasting patterns were observed for the association between total alcohol and drug-attributable burden and SDI: alcohol-attributable burden was highest in countries with a low SDI and middlehigh middle SDI, whereas the burden due to drugs increased with higher SDI level.
Alcohol and drug use are important contributors to global disease burden. Effective interventions should be scaled up to prevent and reduce substance use disease burden.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable report authored by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU. Here is part of its introduction:
The centrality of the subways to the life of New York is the very reason why the public is alarmed about the condition of mass transit. The Citizens Budget Commission has systematically analyzed the failure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to maintain a state of good repair and the need for fundamental reform of the MTA’s capital spending processes. A new plan, “Fast Forward,” has been proposed to improve accessibility, deploy new technologies, update signals, and acquire 21st century subway cars.
Clearly, increased fares and congestion pricing are insufficient to deal with the long-term financial needs of the subway system. This report argues that the subways need a dedicated revenue source with the potential for growth in future decades — one that does not divert funds from other public services, and that has yet to be tapped by the state and local government. The legalization of recreational cannabis offers New York State a unique opportunity to generate a new revenue stream dedicated to mass transit.
Monday, November 19, 2018
The Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, a think tank which has given considerable attention to marijuana issues. Its latest policy brief runs nearly 100 pages and is titled "Economic and Social Costs of Legalized Marijuana." Jeff Hunt, Director of the Centennial Institute, provides a summary of sorts at the start of the report and it begins this way:
The Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University commissioned this study to better understand the economic and social costs of legalized marijuana. While much has been written about the tax revenue and total sales generated from commercial marijuana, there has been little research to understand how Coloradans are paying to mitigate the consequences of commercial marijuana.
No matter where you stand in the marijuana legalization debate, having more information is critical to making the best decisions for the future of Colorado and our nation. This report is an important first step in giving researchers and policymakers a sense of the breadth of costs associated with commercial marijuana. Furthermore, it is clear from the report that much more information is needed to fully understand the social costs associated with commercial marijuana.
The bad news is that the costs associated with commercial marijuana are only going to go up as the long-term health consequences have not been fully determined. Like tobacco, commercial marijuana is likely to have health consequences that we won’t be able to determine for decades. Those costs are not configured in this report.
This report is fair in presenting the economic benefits of commercial marijuana to Colorado including reporting tax revenue, jobs, and overall sales. It is contrasted with the economic and social costs of commercial marijuana, which took a very cautious approach in determining costs. Bottom line, the economic and social costs in this report are intentionally low and the comprehensive costs are likely much higher.
Here are the important findings from this report:
- For every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization
- Costs related to the healthcare system and from high school drop-outs are the largest cost contributors
- While people who attended college and use marijuana has grown since legalization, marijuana use remains more prevalent in the population with less education
- Research shows a connection between marijuana use and the use of alcohol and other substances
- Calls to Poison Control related to marijuana increased dramatically since legalization of medical marijuana and legalization of recreational marijuana
- About 15 people are severely burned as a result of marijuana use per year
- People who use marijuana more frequently tend to be less physically active, and a sedentary or inactive lifestyle is associated with increased medical costs
- Adult marijuana users generally have lower educational attainment than non-users
- Research does suggest that long-term marijuana use may lead to reduced cognitive ability, particularly in people who begin using it before they turn 18
- Yearly cost-estimates for marijuana users: $2,200 for heavy users, $1,250 for moderate users, $650 for light users
- 69% of marijuana users say they have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once, and 27% admit to driving under the influence on a daily basis
- The estimated costs of DUIs for people who tested positive for marijuana only in 2016 approaches $25 million
- The marijuana industry used enough electricity to power 32,355 homes in 2016
- In 2016, the marijuana industry was responsible for approximately 393,053 pounds of CO2 emissions
- Marijuana packaging yielded over 18.78 million pieces of plastic
I sense many of the numbers in this report are contestable, especially given that the executive summary notes that "costs related to the healthcare system and from high school drop-outs are the largest cost contributors." Quantifying marijuana's exact impact on the healthcare system and high school drop-outs strikes me as an inherently inexact science. But it is still interesting to see this accounting effort and see who might engage with these numbers. It is also notable that a ratio of tax revenue to costs is here for marijuana "only" 1 to 4.5 given that I have seen studies showing that that ratio of tax revenue to costs for alcohol runs roughly 1 to 10.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new research in the journal Social Science Quarterly authored by Laurel Elder and Steven Greene. Here is its abstract:
The objectives of this study were to understand why, even though women are more liberal than men on a broad range of issues, when it comes to the increasingly prominent issue of marijuana legalization, the direction of the gender gap is reversed, with women more conservative than men.
Relying on a 2013 Pew survey — unique for the extensiveness of its marijuana questions, including marijuana usage — we explore and attempt to explain the nature of this unusual gender gap. We test several hypotheses rooted in the different life experiences of women and men.
We find that women's role as mothers cannot explain this gap, and that mothers are in fact no different from those without children in terms of their support for marijuana policy, as well as their reported use of marijuana. The greater religiosity of women does play a prominent role in the gender gap on marijuana policy, but does not account for the full difference of opinion between women and men. Our findings suggest that men's greater propensity relative to women to use marijuana is a major driver behind the gender gap.
Not only are attitudes on marijuana legalization likely to continue to liberalize, but as marijuana legalization and marijuana use become normalized, rather than viewed as immoral and dangerous behavior, the existing gender gap should shrink.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
"One Month of Cannabis Abstinence in Adolescents and Young Adults Is Associated With Improved Memory"
The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Here is its abstract:
Objective: Associations between adolescent cannabis use and poor neurocognitive functioning have been reported from cross-sectional studies that cannot determine causality. Prospective designs can assess whether extended cannabis abstinence has a beneficial effect on cognition.
Methods: Eighty-eight adolescents and young adults (aged 16–25 years) who used cannabis regularly were recruited from the community and a local high school between July 2015 and December 2016. Participants were randomly assigned to 4 weeks of cannabis abstinence, verified by decreasing 11-nor-9-carboxy-∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol urine concentration (MJ-Abst; n = 62), or a monitoring control condition with no abstinence requirement (MJ-Mon; n = 26). Attention and memory were assessed at baseline and weekly for 4 weeks with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery.
Results: Among MJ-Abst participants, 55 (88.7%) met a priori criteria for biochemically confirmed 30-day continuous abstinence. There was an effect of abstinence on verbal memory (P = .002) that was consistent across 4 weeks of abstinence, with no time-by-abstinence interaction, and was driven by improved verbal learning in the first week of abstinence. MJ-Abst participants had better memory overall and at weeks 1, 2, 3 than MJ-Mon participants, and only MJ-Abst participants improved in memory from baseline to week 1. There was no effect of abstinence on attention: both groups improved similarly, consistent with a practice effect.
Conclusions: This study suggests that cannabis abstinence is associated with improvements in verbal learning that appear to occur largely in the first week following last use. Future studies are needed to determine whether the improvement in cognition with abstinence is associated with improvement in academic and other functional outcomes.
Monday, October 29, 2018
Colorado Division of Criminal Justice publishes huge new report on "Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"
As detailed in this press release, on Friday October 26, the "Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics ... released 'Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,' a report that compiles and analyzes data on marijuana-related topics including crime, impaired driving, hospitalizations and ER visits, usage rates, effects on youth, and more." Here a partial summary of the 250+ page report via parts of the press release:
Data suggests that law enforcement and prosecutors are aggressively pursuing cases against black market activity. The quantity of cases filed for serious marijuana-related crimes has remained consistent with pre-legalization levels, however organized crime cases have generally increased since 2008.
Felony marijuana court case filings (conspiracy, manufacturing, distribution, and possession with intent to sell) declined from 2008 to 2014, but increased from 2015 through 2017.
The most recent increase in filings might be in part because legislation changed the legal indoor plant count, providing law enforcement agencies with greater clarity and tools to increase their enforcement of black market activity.
Felony filings in 2017 (907) were still below 2008 filings (1,431).
Filings in organized-crime cases followed a similar pattern, with a dip in 2012 and 2013 followed by a significant increase since 2014.
There were 31 organized crime case filings in 2012 and 119 in 2017.
Filings for juveniles under 18 remain at the same level as pre-legalization.
DUI & TRAFFIC FATALITIES
The impact of marijuana consumption on the safety of drivers is a major focus, as any fatality on our roadways is a concern. More data about the impairing effects of marijuana and more consistent testing of drivers for marijuana are needed to truly understand the scope of marijuana impairment and its relation to non-fatal crashes.
The number of trained Drug Recognition Experts increased from 129 in 2012 to 214 in 2018, a 66% increase. Thousands of additional officers have been trained in Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection.
Colorado State Patrol (CSP) DUI cases overall were down 15% from 2014 to 2017.
The percentage of CSP citations with marijuana-only impairment has stayed steady, at around 7%. The percentage of CSP citations with any marijuana nexus rose from 12% in 2012 to 17% in 2016, then dropped to 15% in 2017.
About 10% of people in treatment for a DUI self-reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, compared to 86% who report alcohol as their primary drug of abuse.
The percent of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for Delta-9 THC at the 5ng/mL level decreased from 11.6% in 2016 to 7.5% in 2017.
The number of fatalities where a driver tested positive for any cannabinoid (Delta 9 or any other metabolite) increased from 55 (11% of all fatalities) in 2013 to 139 (21% of all fatalities) in 2017....
HOSPITALIZATIONS & ER VISITS
These are critical data points so we can track harmful exposure to children, inappropriate usage, and other drivers of marijuana-related hospitalizations.These and related data points prompted legislative and regulatory developments between 2014 and 2016, including child-resistant packaging requirements, requirements for edibles to be marked with a universal symbol so they can be identified even outside their packaging, limitations on the total amount of active THC in an individual retail marijuana edible, and prohibitions on the manufacturing and sales of edibles in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit.
Rates of hospitalization with possible marijuana exposures increased steadily from 2000 through 2015.
Human marijuana exposures reported to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center increased significantly from pre-legalization to 2014, then flattened out from 2014-2017.
SCHOOL DISCIPLINE & ACHIEVEMENT
New data points are helping us gain a better understanding of school discipline; overall the state is not seeing an impact of recreational marijuana use on high school graduation and drop-out rates.
The total number of suspensions, expulsions, and law enforcement referrals for any reason has remained consistent post-legalization.
Marijuana was the most common single reason for school expulsions (22%) and law enforcement referrals (24%) in the 2016-17 school year, the first full year where marijuana was reported separately as a reason for disciplinary action.
Graduation rates are up and drop-out rates are down since 2012. The Graduation rate rose steadily from a 10-year low point of 72 percent in the 2009-2010 school year to 79 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. Over that same time period, the drop-out rate decreased from 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent.
YOUTH USAGE & ATTITUDES (12-17 years)
Surveys show Colorado is not experiencing an increase in youth usage of marijuana. Preventing negative impacts on youth has been a focus of various state efforts, including public education campaigns that raise awareness about the health and legal consequences of teen marijuana use. The Marijuana Impacts report compiles and analyzes data previously released in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) to examine trends related to youth usage and impacts.
The youth marijuana rate reported via NSDUH for the 2015/16 school year (9.1%) was the lowest it’s been since 2007/08 (9.1%).
According to HKCS, the proportion of high school students reporting using marijuana ever in their lifetime or reporting past 30-day use remained statistically unchanged from 2005 to 2017.
According to HKCS, the proportion of students trying marijuana before age 13 went down from 9.2% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2017.
Alcohol was the most common substance students reported using at any point in their lives (59%) followed by e-cigarettes (44%) and then marijuana (35%).