Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"Cannabis Employees Now Outnumber Pilots and Librarians in America"

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.

January 9, 2019 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Malcolm Gladwell rightly highlights how much we do not know about marijuana (but still ignores what we know about prohibition)

Gladwell-malcolmMalcolm 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.

January 8, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Notable review of where Colorado marijuana tax revenues are going

CD31POTTAXCASHFUNDThe Denver Post has a notable new series of article looking at tax revenues from its marijuana industry. Here are links to the pieces, with an interesting passage from each within:

Part 1: "Pot money helps schools, but not as much as you might think."

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. 

Part 2: "Legalization raised a slew of money for main streets and other local public projects."

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.

Part 3: "Almost half of Colorado’s marijuana money can go wherever lawmakers wish."

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.

January 1, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Remarkable big picture look at global diseases attributable to alcohol and drug use

Download (24)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:

Background

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.

Methods

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.

Findings

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.

Interpretation

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.

December 9, 2018 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"A New Revenue Source for Mass Transit: Legalizing and Taxing Cannabis"

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.

December 5, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Notable accounting of "Economic and Social Costs of Legalized Marijuana"

Download (3)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.

November 19, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Gender and the Politics of Marijuana"

QuarterlyThe 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:

Objectives

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

November 14, 2018 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"One Month of Cannabis Abstinence in Adolescents and Young Adults Is Associated With Improved Memory"

Download (24)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.

October 30, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Colorado Division of Criminal Justice publishes huge new report on "Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"

CDPS Banner Image (Grey)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 HIGHLIGHTS:

CRIME

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%).

October 29, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Effective "2018 midterm report" with visuals on modern politics and policy of marijuana reform

The folks at PoliFact have this lengthy new piece under the headline "Marijuana legalization in 5 charts: A 2018 midterm report" that is worth reading in full. This infographic under the title "Potential $7 Billion Recreational Marijuana Tax Revenue, By State," highlighting revenue from marijuana reform is alone worth the click-through, and here are excerpts from the piece providing a glimpse at what the "5 charts" cover:

About two in three Americans now favor marijuana legalization, a record-high measure of public support for a drug the federal government still puts in the same category as LSD and heroin.

With a majority of states now permitting legal use in some form, and several states poised to relax their laws this November, we decided to take a graphical look at the country’s most popular illicit drug.

Changing attitudes

Experts pointed to a number of reasons to explain the dramatic shift in Americans’ opinion of marijuana legalization over a relatively short timespan....

State marijuana laws

American laws around marijuana are complicated....

State tax revenue

Taxing marijuana can yield a large pot of money for states. The data is still somewhat scarce given that legalization is still in its infancy....

Criminal justice

The country’s decades-long crackdown on drugs has had a disproportionate impact on minorities....

Social impact

Some experts said the pros of legalization far outweighed the cons, while others said it’s too early to tell....

October 28, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

"The Impact of Cannabis Access Laws on Opioid Prescribing"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN authored by Benjamin J. McMichael, R. Van Horn and W. Kip Viscusi. Here is its abstract:

While recent research has shown that cannabis access laws can reduce the use of prescription opioids, the effect of these laws on opioid use is not well understood for all dimensions of use and for the general United States population.  Analyzing a dataset of over 1.3 billion individual opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2017, which were aggregated to the individual provider-year level, we find that recreational and medical cannabis access laws reduce the number of morphine milligram equivalents prescribed each year by 6.9 and 6.1 percent, respectively.  These laws also reduce the total days supply of opioids prescribed, the total number of patients receiving opioids, and the probability a provider prescribes any opioids net of any offsetting effects.  Additionally, we find consistent evidence that cannabis access laws have different effects across types of providers and physician specialties.

October 21, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Trends in Publications on Medical Cannabis from the Year 2000"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new article in the journal Population Health Management authored by Yulia Treister-Goltzman, Tamar Freud, Yan Press, and Roni Peleg.  Here is its abstract:

Widespread use of cannabis as a drug and passage of legislation on its use should lead to an increase in the number of scientific publications on cannabis.  The aim of this study was to compare trends in scientific publication for papers on medical cannabis, papers on cannabis in general, and all papers between the years 2000 and 2017.  A search of PubMed and Web of Science was conducted.

The overall number of scientific publications in PubMed increased 2.5-fold.  In contrast, the number of publications on cannabis increased 4.5-fold and the number of publications on medical cannabis increased almost 9-fold.  The number of publications on medical cannabis in Web of science increased even more (10-fold).  The most significant number of publications was in the field of psychiatry.  In the fields of neurology and cancer treatment there was a significant increase in the years 2011–2013. There was a rise in the number of publications on children and the elderly after 2013.  The specific indications with the largest number of publications were HIV (261), chronic pain (179), multiple sclerosis (118), nausea and vomiting (102), and epilepsy (88).  More than half of the publications on medical cannabis originated from the United States, followed by Canada.  More than 66% of the publications were original studies. 

The spike in the number of scientific publications on medical cannabis since 2013 is encouraging.  In light of this trend the authors expect an even greater increase in the number of publications in this area in coming years.

October 16, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Prediction of hundreds of millions in tax revenues for Michigan if citizens vote for marijuana legalization

Infographic Individual ChartsThis local article, headlined "Estimated tax haul from marijuana sales would grow to $134 million per year," reports on a report on tax revenues being predicted if Michigan were this fall to become the 10th in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana. Here are some details:

By the time Michigan’s recreational marijuana market is fully fleshed out, $134.5 million in tax revenues will be flowing into the state’s coffers annually. But there’s a big caveat: Michigan voters will first have to pass a ballot proposal on Nov. 6 to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

The figures for state tax revenues — from the 6-percent sales tax and a 10-percent excise tax — come from VS Strategies, a Colorado-based cannabis consulting firm hired by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is spearheading the campaign to legalize pot in Michigan. “We’re estimating $520 million in taxes from 2020-24,” said Andrew Livingston, a policy analyst with VS Strategies. “By 2023, Michigan will reach maturity with sales of just under $1.5 billion (for both medical and recreational marijuana).”

The revenues from recreational use will grow from $53.7 million in the first year to $134 million by the time the market matures, he said. When you add in the 6 percent sales tax and 3 percent excise tax on medical marijuana sales, the tax revenues jump another $40 million, according to the VS estimates.

The numbers are based on estimates of nearly 1 million Michiganders who have said that they’ve used marijuana in the past month and who could be expected to buy marijuana on a regular basis. Another 3.5 million people in Michigan have said they have used marijuana in their lifetime. The total number of marijuana users includes 300,000 people who are registered as medical marijuana users, Livingston said. Michigan’s tax rate is far lower than many of the other nine states that have legalized pot for recreational use... Michigan’s proposed rate is lower than other states in order to be more competitive and to attract more people to the state’s budding marijuana market, coalition spokesman Josh Hovey said.

The first $20 million in tax revenues for each of the first two years would go to research into the effects of marijuana use on different health ailments, including PTSD in veterans. Of the remainder, 35 percent would go toward roads, 35 percent to schools and 30 percent to the counties and communities that allowed marijuana businesses in their towns.

But the projected tax revenues, even when the market is fully established, fall well below the taxes generated in Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, which collected $247.3 million in taxes in 2017.

Livingston said the Western states have higher numbers of users and he doesn’t expect Michigan to exceed those numbers. According to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health done for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2016, about 14.4 percent of Colorado’s population, or 727,000 people, used marijuana in the past month while 8.9 percent of Michigan’s population, or 886,000 people, used marijuana in the past month. “Mountain states have always led the rates of past-month consumption,” he said.

Michiganders shouldn’t just look at the tax revenues coming in from marijuana legalization, said Scott Greenlee, director of Healthy and Productive Michigan, a group opposing the ballot proposal. “What impact would it have in Michigan with a $57-billion budget? It’s just not that significant,” he said. “And then we have to deal with the unintended consequences of fighting increased addiction. I wonder if there would be anything left for Michigan other than a bad policy that will affect the state for decades to come.”

He said the 35 percent of tax revenues that would go toward improving Michigan’s roads would be a drop in the bucket for the state’s 120,000 miles of roads. “According to MDOT, the cost to improve roads is about $1 million per lane,” Greenlee said. “In their best case scenario, 35 miles of one lane of roads would be improved thanks to this new tax.”

Hovey said the coalition never promised that the marijuana tax revenues would be a cure-all for Michigan’s budget woes. “This will help fund the state’s most important needs. And we’ll be saving millions in wasted costs of continuing to enforce the prohibition of marijuana laws,” he said. “And I think the majority of the state’s residents would agree that our roads need more revenue.”

October 3, 2018 in Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Interesting new data from the FBI concerning marijuana (and other drug) arrests in 2017

Over at Forbes, Tom Angell has already mined the latest new FBI crime data to focus on marijuana arrests via this piece headlined "Marijuana Arrests Are Increasing Despite Legalization, New FBI Data Shows." Here are excerpts:

Marijuana arrests are rising in the U.S., even as more states legalize cannabis. There is now an average of one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds, according to a new FBI report released on Monday.

The increase in marijuana arrests — 659,700 in 2017, compared to 653,249 in 2016 — is driven by enforcement against people merely possessing the drug as opposed to selling or growing it, the data shows.

Last year, there were 599,282 marijuana possession arrests in the country, up from 587,516 in 2016.  Meanwhile, busts for cannabis sales and manufacturing dropped, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.

The increase in cannabis possession arrests comes despite the fact that four additional states legalized marijuana on Election Day 2016. While among those states, legal recreational sales were only in effect in Nevada by the end of 2017, the prohibition on possession for adults was lifted soon after the successful votes there as well as in California, Maine and Massachusetts....

Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.  Drug arrests as a whole also increased last year, up from 1,572,579 in 2016. There is now a drug bust every 19 seconds in the U.S.

As with all data, there are lots of stories and possible spins within. Though overall marijuana arrests went up, this was because possession arrests went up (only) 2% while arrests for more serious marijuana offenses went down 8%. Given the reality that a lot more people had access to "legal" marijuana but were still not allowed to use it in public spaces and a lot more people were involved in marijuana manufacturing and sales under state laws, these national data probably can and should be seen as evidence that marijuana reform is "working" to some extent to reduce the criminal justice footprint of marijuana prohibition.

September 24, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Taxation and Market Power in the Legal Marijuana Industry"

the title of this post is the title of this new paper now available via SSRN authored by Brett Hollenbeck and Kosuke Uetake. Here is its abstract:

In 2012 the state of Washington created a legal framework for production and retail sales of marijuana.  Eight other states have subsequently followed.  These states hope to generate tax revenue for their state budgets while limiting harms associated with marijuana consumption.  We use a unique dataset containing all transactions in the history of the industry in Washington to evaluate the effectiveness of different tax and regulatory policies under consideration by policymakers and study the role of imperfect competition in determining these results.

We document that overall demand is relatively inelastic, that restrictions on entry result in retailers with significant market power, and that cost shocks are more than fully passed through from retailers to consumers.  We combine these empirical estimates to calculate the relationship between revenue and the tax rate, the dead-weight loss of taxation and the share of the tax burden that falls on consumers and producers, each of which are significantly effect by imperfect competition. 

We find that despite having the nation's highest tax rate, Washington still has significant scope to increase revenues by raising the tax rate on retail marijuana sales.  That is, they are still on the upward sloping portion of the laffer curve.  The amount of revenue generated by a given tax increase is also significantly larger due to retailer market power than it would be under perfect competition.  We also find significant social costs of taxation, roughly 2 dollars are lost to consumers and producers for every dollar of tax revenue generated.

September 23, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 17, 2018

AG Jeff Sessions laments drug-impaired driving with special mentions of marijuana

Jeff-sessions-attorney-general-630x354Attorney General Jeff Sessions today delivered these remarks at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration event titled "Ideas to Impact: A Dialogue to Address Drug-Impaired Driving." Here are excerpts:

It is especially important that we get the word out about this because currently there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. Some even seem to suggest that marijuana and other drugs do not pose accident risks.

In recent years, a number of states have repealed their prohibitions on marijuana use. As a result, too many people think that marijuana is legal and that it is even legal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

That’s wrong. Federal law has not changed and drugged driving laws have not changed. Drugged driving is illegal on every inch of American soil. People need to understand that.

There is another common myth out there, as well: that marijuana doesn’t impair driving. That’s also wrong. Marijuana use slows reaction time and inhibits motor coordination and decision-making abilities. That makes driving much more dangerous.

The bottom line is this: if you’re driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, then you’re risking your life — and the life of everyone else on the road.

One European study found that drivers high on marijuana were twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal crash as a sober driver.

Here in this country, the Governors Highway Safety Association put out a report back in May that says that — of those who are tested for drugs or alcohol — more drivers killed in car accidents last year tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. And by far the most common drug was marijuana, not opioids. Nearly a quarter of all drivers killed in car accidents who were tested had marijuana in their system — twice as many as tested positive for opioids.

In recent years, it has been getting worse. According to last year’s version of the report, the number of drivers killed in car accidents who tested positive for marijuana increased by nearly one-fifth from 2006 to 2016.

According to the Denver Post, the number of drivers killed in car accidents in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2016. And so, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died of drug overdoses in recent years, another several thousand have died because of drug-impaired driving — either their own or that of someone else.

September 17, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Latest issue of International Review of Psychiatry focused on cannabis science

Download (4)The latest issue of the International Review of Psychiatry has a collection of interesting looking articles with titles like "Marijuana matters: reviewing the impact of marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, & exploring policy implications and barriers to research" and "Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds make haste: leveraging methodology from research on tobacco, alcohol, and opioid analgesics to make rapid and policy-relevant advances in cannabis science." There are too many interesting looking pieces to cite them all here, but I can quote the start of the editorial introduction:

The allowance of cannabis to be used as a medicine in the absence of adequate data to inform basic clinical decision-making is rooted in compassion for individuals with life-threatening illness, or substantially debilitating illness, and no other course for treatment. However, this relatively simple tenet has now morphed into a large-scale for-profit industry that is fraught with public health concerns.  Access to cannabis has been expanded to include treatment for a multitude of health conditions, many of which are neither life-threatening nor debilitating, and for which effective alternative treatments exist. Data from which to determine the risk-benefit for an individual considering the use of cannabis is sparse at best.  Quality control issues abound in this industry as there are no established standards for cultivating, processing, testing, or labeling cannabis products.  There is also concern over advertisements and product labeling that include misleading or unsubstantiated health claims, as these products have not been vetted by traditional drug development methods.  The speed in which cannabis policies are changing is rapid, and the fact that these are happening as a direct result of legislation or by voter referendum is reckless given the absence of consensus standards and, in many cases, appropriate regulatory oversight. The impact of revised cannabis laws, both with respect to medicinal use for a variety of health conditions, and for non-medicinal (aka ‘recreational’) use of cannabis by adults, will likely have a substantial impact on psychiatry.

This special issue of the International Review of Psychiatry is focused on cannabis science, but with a very targeted theme of cannabis regulatory science.  Recently in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was granted regulatory authority over all nicotine and tobacco products.  This was a landmark event, and has engendered a bolus of thoughtful, policy-oriented research that has already resulted in tobacco regulations which are likely to positively impact public health in the US and abroad.  Studies have included careful scientific evaluation of the impact of nicotine on cigarette reinforcement and self-administration, packaging and flavoring on youth initiation, the harm reduction effects associated with nicotine delivery devices other than cigarettes, and other important topics.  The parallel need for a cannabis regulatory science is urgent.  Novel products and cannabis delivery devices are rolling onto the shelves of dispensaries at a rapid rate, product development appears to be geared towards high potency/high dose products, and it is all being carefully marketed to increase consumption.  Contributions in this issue highlight lessons learned from tobacco, alcohol, and opioid regulatory science that are relevant to cannabis, detail important factors surrounding tobacco and cannabis co-use, and detail the potential impacts of regulatory changes on cannabis use in the workplace.

September 12, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Debating the relationship between marijuana legalization ans opioid overdose deaths

The current (September 2018) issue of JAMA Internal Medicine has three very short pieces (a comment and two replies) discussing and debating research concerning the connection between marijuana reforms and opioid overdose deaths:

 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use  by Archie Bleyer, MD; Brian Barnes, CSWA, MAC, CADC III

 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use—Reply by Ashley C. Bradford, MPA; Amanda Abraham, PhD; Grace Bagwell Adams, PhD
 Opioid Death Rate Acceleration in Jurisdictions Legalizing Marijuana Use—Reply by Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD; Hefei Wen, PhD

The first of these pieces asserts that the "opioid crisis appears to be worsening where marijuana has been legalized, despite fewer opioid prescriptions, and as such, constitutes evidence for the gateway hypothesis and against the marijuana protection hypothesis."  The other two pieces sharply take issue with the claims for the first one.

September 10, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Notable new survey data on marijuana use in the United States circa fall 2017

This new piece by multiple authors appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides an interesting snapshot of marijuana use and users based on a survey administered in October 2017. The piece is titled "Smoking, Vaping, and Use of Edibles and Other Forms of Marijuana Among U.S. Adults," and here are some of the notable findings:

Among all respondents, 14.6% reported marijuana use in the past year and 8.7% reported use in the past 30 days. The prevalence of marijuana use in the past year was 20% (95% CI, 17.9% to 22.2%) in states where recreational use is legal, 14.1% (CI, 12.6% to 15.6%) in states where medical use is legal, and 12% (CI, 10.7% to 13.4%) in states where no use is legal.

A total of 12.9% of respondents reported smoking marijuana, 6% reported using edibles, 4.7% reported vaping, 1.9% reported using concentrates, and 0.8% reported using topicals. Overall, 6.7% reported using multiple forms in the past year. Prevalence of any use was inversely related to age, with persons aged 18 to 34 years reporting the highest use.... Men were more likely than women to use marijuana in any form and to use multiple forms (Table 1). Reported use was similar among racial groups.

Among persons who used multiple forms, 53% reported smoking and using edibles whereas 31% reported smoking and vaping. The prevalence of use of edibles was 11% (CI, 9.4% to 12.6%) in states where recreational use is legal, 5.1% (CI, 4.1% to 6.0%) in states where medical use is legal, and 4.2% (CI, 3.4% to 4.9%) in states where no use is legal. Baked goods/pastries and candies were the most common forms of edibles used by U.S. adults.... A limitation of our study is that those who participated in an online survey cohort may differ from those who did not, limiting generalizability. Respondents also may have underreported rates of use.

August 28, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Price Elasticity of Illegal vs Legal Cannabis: A Behavioral Economic Substitutability Analysis"

I just came across this recent research available on-line in "preprint" with the same title as this post and authored by a collection of researchers.  Here is its abstract with its significant conclusion highlighted:

Background and Aims:

The evolving legal status of cannabis in the United States and other countries necessitates the development of evidence-based regulatory policies to minimize risks associated with cannabis misuse.  A prominent public health concern is whether legalization will lead to an expansion of the illegal cannabis market, with illegal cannabis acting as an economic substitute.  Empirical data on this data on this issue is virtually nonexistent.  This study used a behavioral economic approach to investigate substitutability of legal and illegal cannabis in legalized catchment areas in the U.S.

Methods:

Adult cannabis users (N=740; Mean age = 33.8; 52% female; 73% Caucasian) were recruited using an online crowdsourcing platform from U.S. states with legalized recreational cannabis.  A modified substitution-based marijuana purchase task assessed cannabis consumption from concurrently available legal (e.g., a dispensary) and illegal (e.g., a dealer) sources. Participants indicated the amount of cannabis they would consume from each source while prices of the two options were either held constant ($10/gram) or escalated ($0-$60/gram).  Consumption values were used in demand curve modeling to generate quantitative indices of price sensitivity and elasticity.

Results:

Both legal and illegal fixed-price cannabis options had significant positive cross-price elasticities (ps < .001).  However, the legal alternative had a substantially greater effect on consumption and elasticity of illegal cannabis (∆elasticity = 0.0018; F(1,37) = 148, p<.0001) than the opposite scenario (∆elasticity = 0.0002; F(1,37) = 47, p<.0001), indicating asymmetric substitution.  Demand for legal cannabis was significantly greater than illegal cannabis (p< .0001).

Conclusions:

Cannabis users treat legal cannabis as a superior commodity compared to illegal cannabis and exhibit asymmetric substitutability.  Cannabis price policies that include higher consumer costs for legal cannabis relative to contraband would not be expected to incentivize and expand the illegal cannabis market.

August 26, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)