Sunday, February 18, 2024

A pitch for how the Buckeye State should plan to use marijuana green

CannabisblogWhen Ohio voters approved full legalization of marijuana in November 2023 through passage of Issue 2, the initiative included a specific tax rate and a defined allocation for marijuana tax revenues.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, as members of the Ohio General Assembly have discussed further marijuana reforms, both the tax rates and allocation of revenues have been a subject of debate. Bailey Williams of Policy Matters Ohio has authored this helpful new blogpost on this topic titled "Cannabis tax revenue can help communities. Legislators have other ideas." I recommend the full piece, and here is an excerpt:

Over two million Ohioans voted to legalize marijuana sales and use tax revenue from those sales to benefit communities where dispensaries are located (called “host communities”), fund substance-abuse research, and create restorative justice programs to remediate some of the harm done by the war on drugs.  Changes by the legislature should focus on regulating the market to ensure product safety or improving the collection and use of tax revenue to redress racial disparities created by the discriminatory enforcement of recreational marijuana prohibition.  Any other changes to the statute risk subverting the will of the voters.

Ohio lawmakers have floated two such changes, both of which should be rejected: Tax revenues from legal marijuana sales should not be used to fund broad rate cuts to the state income tax, nor should they be earmarked for policing.  Either change would divert funding that should be used to help those harmed by the failed war on drugs, and clear the criminal records of Ohioans being punished for actions that are no longer crimes....

The Ohio Senate has already passed changes to state marijuana laws. These changes include raising the tax levied in addition to the state sales tax on legal sales from 10% to 15%; diverting hundreds of millions of dollars away from restorative justice programs and communities that host dispensaries and into policing and jails; tighter restrictions on home growth of marijuana; and piecemeal funding for expungement efforts for marijuana-related offenses that are no longer illegal.

The Ohio House has not yet proposed its version of the changes, but representatives have expressed some priorities.  At least one has proposed using a portion of the tax revenue raised from marijuana sales to finance broad income tax rate cuts.  This policy choice should be rejected now and in the future.  Broad cuts to income tax rates typically result in the wealthiest taxpayers receiving most of the value of the cut....

Similarly ill-conceived is the idea — recommended by members of both chambers and included in the Senate bill — of earmarking marijuana tax revenue specifically for policing.  The Senate would divert over $200 million a year in tax revenue from marijuana sales into investigative unit and drug task force operations, police officer training, and the construction of new jails.  This ignores the fact that Issue 2 already takes into consideration any increase in policing needs that may arise from the end of recreational marijuana prohibition.  Localities that host marijuana dispensaries will receive tax revenue from that business; this revenue can be spent on policing if need be. It also could be used on other public goods, such as parks and public transit.  Communities should be able to decide for themselves how that funding is used....

Clearing criminal records for what is now legal marijuana possession is an important step toward restorative justice.  Issue 2 required and funded research on expungement and record sealing but did nothing to simplify the often cumbersome process.  Ohioans seeking to expunge or seal their marijuana convictions face a waiting period and possible prosecutorial objections, and may be required to pay expensive legal fees and court costs.  They must also prove they are rehabilitated before they can have their records officially expunged.  These Ohioans are often subject to collateral sanctions, which limit an individual’s earning potential and increase the likelihood of recidivism....

When Ohioans overwhelmingly passed Issue 2, we sent a clear message to our representatives in Columbus: Legalize the sale of recreational cannabis, and use the revenue it generates to help the people and communities harmed by the failed war on drugs.  Some representatives appear poised to disregard those explicit instructions — as they have done with increasing frequency.  There are better options available; our representatives should listen to the voters.

February 18, 2024 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 1, 2024

"Mapping Cannabis Social Equity: Understanding How Ohio Compares to Other States' Post-Legalization Policies to Redress Past Harms"

AdobeStock_233601824The title of this post is the title of this terrific new report now available via SSRN and authored by Jana Hrdinova and Dexter Ridgway with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. This report was inspired by an on-going polict debate in Ohio after voters in the state approved in Fall 2023 a statutory ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. This report should be of interest to folks outside as well as inside of Ohio because it provides a national landscape on varying social equity issues in marijuana legalization states. Here is the report's abstract:

On November 7, 2023, Ohio became the 24th state in the nation to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. Following the lead of other states, the Ohio ballot initiative included social equity provisions designed to address past harm of marijuana criminalization by investing in disproportionately impacted communities and encouraging participation of such groups in the new legal cannabis industry. The purpose of this report is to highlight the varying strategies other states have deployed to fulfill social equity goals and to look at how Ohio’s new laws compare to others. In this report, we look at three social equity policy areas in greater detail, starting with criminal justice reform, followed by community reinvestment, and industry participation. Additionally, we also provide detailed information on the criteria states have used to determine individual and community eligibility for participating in their social equity programs. We conclude the report with recommendations for greater data collection and analyses concerning the impact of social equity efforts and a more robust assessment of best practices for social equity programs.

February 1, 2024 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 26, 2024

DEPC event: "Implementing Issue 2: Criminal Justice Reform After Marijuana Legalization"

A7f44381-b00d-4d72-96b5-890ae7490964The title of this post is provides the title of this online event being hosted by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC)  next week.  Here is how this panel discussion, which I am honored to moderate and takes place on January 31, 2024 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. ET, is described on this page (where you can register):

Criminal justice reform has been a component of marijuana reform in most states, and Ohio’s newly enacted Issue 2 includes a directive and resources for efforts to “study and fund judicial and criminal justice reform including bail, parole, sentencing reform, expungement and sealing of records, legal aid, and community policing related to marijuana.” In the wake of Issue 2’s passage, criminal justice reform advocates are renewing calls to address harms caused by the past criminalization of a substance that is no longer illegal. The nature and scope of past harms are not always clearly defined nor easily remedied, though efforts to eliminate direct or collateral consequences from past cannabis offenses are often a focal point for action.

Please join the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center and our panel of experts as they discuss how Ohio should approach criminal justice reform after marijuana legalization, what Ohio can learn from other states’ experiences, and the unique political and practical challenges Ohio may face.

Panelists:
Ohio Representative Juanita Brent, District 22
Adrian Rocha, Policy Manager, Last Prisoner Project 
Daniel Dew, Policy Director, The Adams Project
Louis Tobin, Executive Director, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association

January 26, 2024 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 22, 2024

Rounding up some recent reporting about Ohio cannabis realities (thanks in part to Ohio Gov DeWine)

As flagged in this prior post, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last week leaned heavily into advocacy for greater regulation of Delta 8 and other so-called "intoxicating help" products.  From various reporting, it has been unclear whether Gov DeWine wants a complete ban on these products or just regulations to reduce youth access.  More broadly, it has been challenging to sort through how Gov DeWine and other Ohio leaders want to regulate in the entire cannabis field ever since Ohio voters overwhelming passed Issue 2, a full legalization ballot initiaitive, in Nov 2023. 

In part because I am expecting students in my marijuana seminar to sort through some of these Ohio issues for their mid-term assignment, I thought it might be useful to round up here some recent reporting on these topics.  (I am inclined to joke that the Buckeye State is proving to be a tough nut to crack when t comes to cannabis laws.)

From Bloomberg Tax, "Ohio’s Adult-Use Cannabis Bill Still Needs to Work Out Kinks"

From Cleveland.com, "Ohio bill would move hemp products from gas stations and grocery stores to marijuana dispensaries"

From Dayton Daily News, "From ‘mom room’ to dispensary, here’s how pot is legally grown in Ohio"

From Ideastream Public Media, "Marijuna 101: Ohio medical dispensaries prepare for new customers, rules after Issue 2 passage"

From Marijuana Moment, "Ohio Marijuana Law Has Created A ‘Goofy Situation,’ Governor Says, With Legal Possession But No Place To Buy It"

From the Ohio Capital Journal, "Ohio House leaves marijuana users in limbo with weed policy"

From the Ohio Capital Journal, "What is delta-8 and why does Ohio Gov. DeWine want to ban it?"

From the Statehouse News Bureau, "Ohio retailer says delta-8 THC crackdown would 'tear' at business"

From WTOL11, "Interest in marijuana cultivation at home is growing, local business owner says"

January 22, 2024 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Now for some marijuana year-in-preview pieces

Thursday, November 9, 2023

A number of notable new marijuana reform milestones right after Election Day 2023

From Axios, "Marijuana legal for more than half of Americans after election win"

More than half of Americans reside in states where marijuana will be legal after Ohio voters approved a measure to allow recreational marijuana use....

By the numbers: The legalized marijuana market is worth $64 billion and has nearly tripled in three years as legalization efforts have swept the nation, a 2022 Coresight Research report found.

From Gallup, "Grassroots Support for Legalizing Marijuana Hits Record 70%":

Seven in 10 Americans think marijuana use should be legal, the highest level yet after holding steady at 68% for three years.

The latest results are based on a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 2-23. Aside from those in favor, 29% of U.S. adults think marijuana should not be legal, while 1% are unsure.

Twelve percent of Americans backed legalizing marijuana when Gallup first asked about it in 1969.  Support cracked the 50% threshold in 2013, jumping 10 percentage points to 58% after Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Support has since increased by another 12 points, paralleling the rise in Americans’ self-reported use of the drug. According to Gallup’s July Consumption Habits survey, the percentage saying they personally smoke marijuana has risen 10 points to 17% since 2013, and the percentage who have ever tried it has increased 12 points to 50%.

November 9, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Ohio votes for legalizing marijuana by a (surprisingly?) large margin for a red state

DownloadOhio was long considered a swing or bellwether state, though the state has started trending quite "red" with Donald Trump and state GOP candidates carrying the state by significant margins in recent years.  This recent "red" trend would seem to make the Buckeye State's vote today on marijuana legalization especially significant.  Specifically, as of this writing just before midnight, a marijuana legalization initiative, Issue 2, has secured a nearly 13% point victory with 93% of the votes reported.  As detailed in this NY Times accounting, Yes on Issue 2 has garnered 56.5% of the Ohio vote, even a higher percentage that the abortion rights initiative also on the Ohio 2023 ballot (which still is passing handily at 55.8%)

Marijuana legalization initiatives had recently been a losing proposition in deep red states like Arkansas and Oklahoma and North Dakota and South Dakota.  But light red Missouri legalized marijuana by initiative in 2022, and Ohio tonight follow the same path despite the fact that nearly all the state's GOP leaders advocated against the marijuana legalization initiative.

For many reasons, I will be quite interested to see how Ohio moves forward with implementation of its legalization initiative.

November 7, 2023 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reviewing the state of marijuana politics in the US on Election Day 2023

22068050-election-day-celebration-star-vectorLater tonight or early tomorrow I expect I will be blogging about the results of today's initiative vote on the full legalization of marijuana in Ohio.  And, as voters head to the polls in the Buckeye State and in some other states, I am tempted to make the case that cannabis reform politics may be at an inflection point.  But maybe not, especially when possible federal reforms may be looming.  I suspect I will opine a bit on marijuana politics after seeing some actual outcomes on this intriguing off-off-year election day, but for now I will lean on recent Marijuana Moment coverage of both state and federal politics in this arena:

"Ohio Voters Will Decide On A Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative On Tuesday As Polls Show Strong Support"

"Virginia Election Forecast Predicts Democratic Wins In House And Senate, Which Could Lead To Legal Marijuana Sales"

"Colorado Should Be At The ‘Center’ Of Global Marijuana Market, Governor Says As He Unveils New Cannabis Budget Proposals"

"Pennsylvania House Committee Holds Marijuana Legalization Hearing As Lawmakers Consider State-Run Stores"

"Congressional Committee Urges DOJ To Study ‘Adequacy’ Of State Marijuana Laws And Address Federal Research Barriers"

"Congress Considers Opposing Amendments To Protect Legal Marijuana States And Block Biden From Rescheduling Cannabis"

"RFK Jr. Releases Presidential Campaign Ad Calling For Marijuana Legalization ‘To End Addiction’"

Happy Election Day to all who celebrate!

November 7, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 14, 2023

"What Tax Revenues Should Ohioans Expect If Ohio Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis? (2023 Report)"

TAXThe title of this post is the title of this updated data analysis now available via SSRN and authored by Jana Hrdinova and Dexter Ridgway with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  This report builds off a prior effective effort to estimate likely state revenues if Ohio legalizes marijuana,  Here is this latest report's abstract:

Advocates for cannabis reform in Ohio and in other states often stress the tax revenue that can be raised through legalization.  If a citizen-initiated statute were to reach the November 2023 ballot, Ohio voters are likely to hear from reform advocates about the potential tax revenue a new cannabis industry could bring to the Buckeye State.  The purpose of this policy paper is to provide an updated estimate of potential cannabis tax revenue in Ohio that is informed by tax revenue data and trends from a select group of other adult-use states.

Based on our analysis, we are using Michigan FY 2021 data on cannabis tax revenue as our focal point for Ohio cannabis tax revenue estimates given the demographic and tax structure similarities; we are using three different scenarios for rate of diminishing retail sales growth through year five of an operational legal adult-use program; we are using state population figures as our basis for calculating per capita cannabis tax revenue rates; and we are modeling for three different Ohio pricing scenarios.  Given these assumptions, the updated potential annual tax revenue from adult-use cannabis in the state of Ohio ranges from $276 million in year five of an operational cannabis market to $403 million in year five of operations.

August 14, 2023 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ohio voters seemingly likely to have opportunity to vote on marijuana legalization in November 2023

Ohio-flag-marijuana-minAs reported in this AP piece, headlined "A campaign to ask Ohio voters to legalize recreational marijuana falls short -- for now," the effort to put marijuana legalization before Ohio voters has hit a small (and surmountable) bump.  Here are the details:

A proposal to legalize adult use of marijuana in Ohio narrowly fell short Tuesday of the signatures it needed to make the fall statewide ballot. Backers will have 10 days, or until Aug. 4, to gather more.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose determined the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was short by just 679 signatures of the 124,046 signatures required to put the question before voters on Nov. 7.

Tom Haren, a coalition spokesperson, said he was confident the group could find the signatures by the Aug. 4 deadline.  “It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition — this is going to be easy, because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult use marijuana,” Haren said in a statement.

If the initiative makes the November ballot, a simple majority vote is required for it to pass....  The ballot measure proposes allowing adults 21 and over to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to grow plants at home. A 10% tax would support administrative costs, addiction treatment, municipalities with dispensaries and social equity and jobs programs.

If the issue passes, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize cannabis for adult use.  The outcome of a special election Aug. 8 on whether to raise the bar for passing future constitutional amendments wouldn’t impact the marijuana question, since it was advanced through the citizen initiated statute process.

July 26, 2023 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 23, 2023

"Collisions and cannabis: Measuring the effect of recreational marijuana legalization on traffic crashes in Washington State"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research authored by Annie Voy and just published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.  Here is its abstract:

Objective

Washington State was among the first states in the US to legalize recreational consumption and retail sales of marijuana.  Recreational use of cannabis was legalized December 6, 2012, following the passage of Initiative 502 30 days prior.  Roughly 19 months later the first retail cannabis stores opened their doors for public sales (“commercialization”).  I measure the impact of cannabis legalization and commercialization on traffic collisions in Washington State.

Methods

With county-level vehicle crash data from the Washington State Department of Transportation collected monthly, I utilize an interrupted time-series framework with Poisson estimation to compare traffic collisions with recreational retail cannabis sales revenue from 2011 (three years pre-commercialization) through 2017 (three years post-commercialization).  First, I measure the shift in collisions brought about by Washington’s 2012 cannabis legalization.  Then, I compare retail cannabis sales — a measure of commercialization — to traffic collisions based on severity of injury (fatal, severe injury, minor injury, non-injury, and all).

Results

After controlling for confounding factors, evidence suggests that recreational cannabis legalization led to fewer fatal and serious injury collisions.  Retail cannabis sales generally correlate with more traffic collisions, particularly for less severe (minor injury) crashes.  These findings are robust to the inclusion of additional control variables pertaining to county-level cannabis usage and driving behavior while intoxicated.

Conclusions

Cannabis legalization led to fewer fatal, serious, and minor injury collisions.  Commercialization (cannabis sales) correlated with an increase in less severe crashes.  Although cannabis use generally increased in Washington State following legalization/commercialization, survey data suggest that driving behavior while under the influence of cannabis did not change significantly over the post-commercialization period.  Future research should focus on measuring the dose-dependent impact of cannabis consumption on traffic collisions.  This should include recognition of the importance of cannabis dosing, timing, and route of consumption.  Lastly, the dangers of poly-drug driving — particularly cannabis and alcohol — are well established and should be high priority for further research.

June 23, 2023 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 2, 2023

"Where does the revenue from Missouri marijuana sales and license fees go?"

Revenue-go-300x300The title of this post is the headline of this interesting new Missouri Independent article that shows everyone where marijuana revenue is going in the Show Me State. Here are excerpts:

Since Missouri’s marijuana sales began in 2019, the state has collected nearly $100 million in revenue from taxes and program fees, according to state authorities. Etched in the state’s constitution is a road map for where the revenue can go.

The first stop is operational costs. By law, any expense it takes to run both medical and recreational marijuana programs — like salaries or professional services — all must be paid for through marijuana revenues.  That means the salaries for cannabis inspectors will never compete with that of school teachers, which come out of the state’s main pot of money, the general revenue fund. The agency that regulates the program, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told the Independent last week that their expenses have been $38.4 million to date....

After expenses, the revenue can go towards supporting veterans, funding drug addiction treatment programs and adding to the Missouri Public Defenders System’s budget.... As of April 30, there was $22.7 million in the state’s medical marijuana fund and $10.9 million in the recreational marijuana fund, according to the state treasurer’s records and DHSS.

Medical marijuana first went on the market in 2019. Since then, the medical marijuana program has brought in $85.2 million in total — $57.7 million has come from fees, including for new license applications and annual license fees, according to DHSS. And $27.4 million has come from sales tax revenue.

The constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in 2018, which appeared on the ballot as Amendment 2, mandated that revenues after operational expenses go towards the Missouri Veterans Commission. So far, $27 million has gone to support veterans....

The revenue road map is a bit different for the adult-use recreational marijuana program, and it’s defined in Amendment 3 that was approved by voters in November. By law, direct revenues first go towards operational costs and then to expenses incurred by the court system for expunging certain marijuana offenses from people’s criminal records. After that, revenues will be split in three ways: Public defenders, drug addiction treatment and veterans.

Since recreational marijuana sales opened in February, the revenue collected is already at $13.8 million, and almost all is from sales taxes, according to DHSS. Marijuana monthly sales in Missouri have tripled since February, but so has the workload for DHSS. For the past two years, DHSS has had 50 full-time employees to regulate the medical marijuana program. The total employees will now be just over 170 employees — 23 for medical marijuana and 148 for recreational, Cox told The Independent.

Between the medical and recreational program, lawmakers appropriated about $32 million for operational expenses. That’s a little more than double what it’s appropriated in past years. However, DHSS has yet to ever use the full appropriated amount, though there was plenty in the fund to cover it, according to budget documents. In the fiscal year 2020, lawmakers appropriated $13.5 million for DHSS’ personal services, expenses and equipment. But the department only spent $6.3 million. In fiscal year 2021, DHSS was appropriated $13.5 million and spent $9.4 million. In fiscal year 2022, DHSS was appropriated $13.8 million and spent $8.4 million....

This year lawmakers signed off on $4.5 million for state courts to pay their employees overtime or to hire temp workers to complete the massive number of expungements required by law. They approved an additional $2.5 million in a supplemental budget on May 5. After that, $1.3 million was appropriated for each public defenders, treatment programs and veterans. And out of the medical revenues, $13 million will go towards the Veterans Commission again this year, as it did last year.

June 2, 2023 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Minnesota poised to become 23rd state to legalize marijuana for adult use

Minnesota-MN-Capitol-Marijuana-Cannabis-sqkAs reported in this Fox News piece, "The Minnesota Senate passed a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state for adults ages 21 and older.  The measure, approved early Saturday morning, will now head to Democrat Gov. Tim Walz's desk for signature.  He is expected to sign the bill into law."   Here are some of the particulars:

Starting August 1, the bill would allow people 21 and older to carry up to 2 ounces of marijuana in public and possess up to 2 pounds at home.   These adults could also grow home plants.  But possessing more than those limits or selling the product without a state license could result in criminal penalties and civil fines....

Minnesota would become the 23rd state, plus Washington, D.C., to legalize recreational marijuana. 

The legislation was approved by the state Senate in a party-line vote, with all Democrats voting in favor.  The state House passed the bill Thursday night with five Republicans joining all but one Democrat in approving the measure....  The House had approved the bill in recent years, but the effort was stalled by a Republican-led Senate. That changed this year when Democrats took control of the chamber.

The bill would also automatically expunge low-level cannabis convictions and set up a board to consider expungement or resentencing of felony crimes.  "Starting right away, we will begin the process of expunging tens of thousands of cannabis convictions," House bill sponsor Rep. Zack Stephenson said on Twitter.  "But it took 50 years to create all those convictions, and it will take months, even years, to complete this process."

Newly regulated dispensaries, once operational, will be permitted for cultivation, manufacturing and lawful sale of cannabis products, depending on the licenses they are approved for.  There will be a 10% gross receipts tax on the products, in addition to existing local and state general sales taxes.  Stephenson said in his tweet that he expects it to take up to 18 months before licensed dispensaries would be available to shop in as a new state agency works to set up the legal market.

May 21, 2023 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The First State becomes the 22nd state to fully legalize marijuana

Download (1)As reported in this local article, "Gov. John Carney on Friday said he would let the bills to legalize marijuana and create a recreational industry become law without his signature, standing down from his aversions to recreational weed that put him at odds with his party." Here is more:

Delaware is the 22nd state to legalize recreational marijuana, after a nearly decadeslong fight by advocates and Democrats to enact these policies.  Carney, in a statement, said he still believes legalizing weed is “not a step forward.”

“I want to be clear that my views on this issue have not changed,” the governor said in a statement.  “And I understand there are those who share my views who will be disappointed in my decision not to veto this legislation.  I came to this decision because I believe we’ve spent far too much time focused on this issue, when Delawareans face more serious and pressing concerns every day.  It’s time to move on.”

Carney said he could not sign these bills due to his concerns about the health consequences recreational marijuana will have on children, as well as roadway safety.  Along with House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the governor is the rare Democrat to not support weed legalization....

Marijuana, in the quantity of personal use, becomes legal starting Sunday. Delawareans will not be able to purchase recreational weed in the First State for at least 16 months.  It will still be illegal to consume marijuana in public, and employers are still allowed to have a zero-tolerance policy.  Like it has in neighboring states, a Delaware recreational marijuana industry could bring in tens of millions in tax revenue.

The General Assembly in March passed two marijuana-related bills: House Bill 1 legalizes the "personal use quantity" of marijuana, which varies by cannabis form, for people ages 21 and older.  This is defined as 1 ounce or less of leaf marijuana, 12 grams or less of concentrated cannabis, or cannabis products containing 750 milligrams or less of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

The second bill, House Bill 2, creates and regulates the recreational marijuana industry in Delaware.  Within 16 months of the legislation going into effect, the state will distribute 30 retail licenses through a competitive bidding process.  There would be a marijuana control enforcement fee of 15% and 7% of the marijuana tax revenue into a Justice Reinvestment Fund.  This money, lawmakers say, will create grants and services that focus on restorative justice and reducing the state’s prison population....

The governor was sent the bills last week, starting a 10-day clock for him to make a decision on the future of the bills. He had three options: sign, veto or do nothing, which would allow it to become law.  The governor vetoed a similar legalization bill, resulting in a rare and historic moment for lawmakers: They attempted to override.  A successful veto override hasn’t been done since 1977.  And it’s rarely attempted.

The Delaware General Assembly has been hesitant to take on the governor, especially when he is a member of their own party.  So, despite the attempt last year, many lawmakers who supported the bill acquiesced. Yet this year appeared to be different.  The bills sponsor Rep Ed. Osienski, a Newark Democrat, said last week that he had the votes for successful overrides on both bills.

April 22, 2023 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2023

Student presentation exploring the history and regulation of edibles

Images (1)The third student presentation scheduled for my class this week covers yet another important marijuana topic with lots of history, public health issues, and policy concerns all wrapped into package with seemingly significant market appeal.  And this description and list of readings from my student is sure to whet appetites for coverage of this signifcant topic:

Edibles, food or drink containing cannabis, have exploded in popularity over the past few decades.  Despite their recent boom, they are not a new developement.  Edibles have a long and interesting history, with evidence that cannabis has been used in food products for thousands of years.  In the modern context, their use is quite common, making edibles the third-largest sector of the cannabis market (after the flower itself and concentrates/cartridges). 

Edibles offer several benefits over other methods of cannabis use, but there are also downsides.  The amount of THC in a package of edibles is almost always higher than the recommended dose.  Additionally, many edibles look and taste like candy or other sweets, leading to increases in child and pet ingestion.  There are also many trademark concerns, since many edibles are named and packaged in ways resembling trademarked designs. Despite these issues, there is relatively little regulation of edibles in states that have legalized recreational cannabis.  This area is ripe for future legislative action, extending from packaging and labeling requirements to manufacturing and THC content restrictions.  There will likely be significant changes to how cannabis law regulates edibles in the future as legislatures move to mitigate certain issues specific to edibles.

Background Reading:

Christine Chung, "Consumption of Marijuana Edibles Surges Among Children, Study Finds"

Press release, "Sour Patch Kids Files Trademark Lawsuit Against THC-Infused 'Stoney Patch' Brand

Tom Schuba, "‘Medicated Skittles’? Candy giant sues weed sellers for trademark infringement

American Addiction Centers, "Marijuana Edibles: Risks, Side Effects & Dangers"

Bobby Hristova, "DAY 40: The ancient history of cannabis edibles"

Kelly Johnson-Arbor, "My Child Ate a Cannabis Edible"

April 17, 2023 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Marijuana legalization loses resoundingly in Oklahoma special election

Oklafeatured2-672x353Marijuana reform ballot initiatives were on quite the hot streak between 2012 and 2020.  Though a handful of initiatives lost in this period, a far larger number prevailed.  Medical marijuana reforms almost always won in both red and blue states, and full legalization initiatives were also almost always successful (in part because they were mostly brought in blue states).  But, in 2022, as full legalization efforts were brought to red states, the reform initiative winning streak came to an end.  As detailed here, though Maryland and Missouri voters approved legalization measures, ballot initiatives failed in Arkansas and North Dakota and South Dakota.

And, as detailed in these special election results from Oklahoma, the full legalization ballot initiative losing streak continued tonight in the Sooner State.  And, with still a few votes yet to be counted, it appears that the initiative is losing big, by 25% points.  This New York Times article, headlined "With a Marijuana Shop on ‘Every Corner,’ Oklahoma Rejects Full Legalization," provides some context:

In the past few years, Oklahoma, long a solid bastion of conservatism, has quietly undergone a street-level transformation when it comes to marijuana. Dispensaries dot the landscape, with more than 400 in Oklahoma City alone. And that’s just for medical marijuana.

On Tuesday, voters across Oklahoma opted against going further, according to The Associated Press, rejecting a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and over.

With the vote, Oklahoma joined a number of conservative states whose voters have recently decided against recreational marijuana legalization. Though Missouri approved a state constitutional amendment to allow for recreational marijuana in November, voters in other conservative states, including Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, rejected similar proposals.

The vote on Tuesday was a setback for marijuana legalization proponents in Oklahoma who had anticipated that laissez-faire economic attitudes and growing support among younger Republicans would provide a pathway for the state to join a diverse assortment of 21 states and the District of Columbia in adopting legal recreational marijuana, from Alaska and the Mountain West to the coasts and parts of the Midwest.

But voters in Oklahoma, where nearly 10 percent of the population already has a medical marijuana card, appeared to have decided that the current level of access to the drug was enough. In the end, the measure failed. Sixty-three percent voted no, while 38 percent voted yes, with about 90 percent of ballots counted as of Tuesday night....

The state legislature passed a two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana business licenses last year. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which opposes recreational marijuana legalization, has said the existing marijuana industry in the state is already straining rural infrastructure.

March 7, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, March 3, 2023

Student presentation exploring tax revenues raised and revenues spent after marijuana reform

Cannabis-taxes-1030x386As long-time readers know of this blog should know, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar "take over" the second half of my class through presentations on the research topics of their choice.  Before their presentations, students are expected to provide in this space some background on their topic and links to some readings or relevant materials.  The first of our presentations take place next week and will be looking at state tax issues.  Here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided for  classmates (and the rest of us):

Marijuana is business.  Marijuana is revenue.  Even though recreational marijuana has only been legal for a handful of years, the United States Bureau of Economic Activity has been tracking illegal market activity in relation to generally legal market activity.   This required the BEA to attempt to track how drugs such as marijuana was impacting the economic activity within the United States.  The outcome?  The National nominal gross domestic product was raised by 0.2 percentage points.

It is clear that marijuana has had an effect on the national economy even though it is illegal.  The question now turns to; how have states who have legalized recreational use made their money through marijuana?  How much tax revenue are these states bringing in?  And, how is that money being spent in those states?

Many Americans wonder how their tax money is being spent on a day-to-day basis.  Where does the sales tax go when I go to the grocery store?  Where does twenty percent of my income go every paycheck?  Where does the tax money go after I spend money at an adult use dispensary?  Questions one and two are hard to answer.  Question three, on the other hand, is actually very easy to find out.  Many states have set up stringent tax structures relating to their adult use industry.  This may be laid out initially in their statutory plan, or the states may wait and see how much they actual earn to see how they should dispense those funds.

Either way, almost every state has a very strict dispense program.  Each state uses their marijuana tax revenue differently. Many states add some of the revenue to their general state fund.  Many divide the revenue between counties and municipalities who have a dispensary in their jurisdiction.  Many use the tax revenue for social justice programs.  A few give the money to public schools.  A few more give the money to their Department of Health for drug misuse education and programs. One is using the money to offset the now decades long decrease in tobacco tax revenue.

Marijuana has been a very profitable industry for those states who have legalized adult recreational use.  The amount of data on how states have shifted on the national pre- and post-legalization is very small. It is quite hard to see how well states are doing compared to how they could have been.  Despite this, many states have found that the illegal drug trade is not going away, so they might as well profit on the activity.  Alaska Reported more than 3% of their state revenue for fiscal year 2021 was from cannabis sales.  Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington also reported at least 1% of their total state revenue was from cannabis sales.  What does this mean? Marijuana IS BUSINESS. The question that remains, and is quite hard to answer, states who have yet to legalize recreational use have obviously seen these profits . . . how have they not legalized?

Interesting websites and articles for background

The Motley Fool, "Marijuana Tax Revenue: A State-by-State Breakdown"

Urban Institute, "State and Local Backgrounders: Cannabis Taxes"

Bureau of Economic Analysis, "Tracking Marijuana in the National Accounts"

March 3, 2023 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Some background on the recent history of marijuana reform efforts in Ohio

Ballot Initiative Process Diagram_final_7.2022_webStudents in my marijuana reform seminar are quite fortunate to have a special guest speaker coming to class next week.  Tom Haren, who has been called "the Face of Marijuana Legalization in Ohio," serves as a leader with the Coalition to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol in Ohio.  This group collected over 200,000 signatures in 2021 in order to get this statutory initiative petition seeking to fully legalize marijuana for full use in front of the Ohio General Assembly.  A dispute over filing deadlines resulted in a delay in when the initiative could move forward to a ballot vote, as this local article explains, so Ohio voters will now see this issue on their ballots in 2023 if the General Assembly does not address the measure and the campaign collects a second round of signatures after the legislative period.

Though I expect Tom Haren to speak to my class about his work on this initiative and its prospects, I still recall the last major ballot campaign over full legalization in Ohio back in 2015.  Helpfully, the rich and often ugly stories surrounding Ohio marijuana reform efforts in that off-off-year election are chronicled in a 2018 law review article: "Responsible Ohio: Successes, Failures, and the Future of Adult Marijuana Use in Ohio."  That article, though already quite dated, provides an important reminder that "Had Responsible Ohio not brought legalization to the political fore in 2015, it is unlikely that Ohio would have [had] a viable medical program" enacted the following summer.

Of course, the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center is the place to go for a lot more information about Ohio's existing medical marijuana program and reform proposals (including the timelines for the ballot initiative).

February 9, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Notable accounting of "legal" Delta-8 THC products

LightRoom-154This interesting new Forbes article, "Delta-8 THC Generated $2 Billion In Revenue In Two Years, Report Finds," provides a summary of interesting economic data regarding the interesting "legal" THC products. Here are excerpts:

Delta-8 THC products have seen a surge in popularity in the past two years, resulting in over $2 billion in sales as an alternative to traditional marijuana.  According to a recent report by cannabis analytics firm Brightfield Group, the increasing popularity of delta-8 THC products is causing other cannabis industries to take notice and take action.

Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid derived from hemp that has been reported to produce similar but milder effects than traditional delta-9 THC contained in marijuana.  Delta-8 THC is found naturally in small amounts, but the products currently on the market are created by chemically converting CBD into the Delta-8 molecule.

Delta-8 THC products popped up following the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation with a THC level below 0.3% at the federal level.  However, the legalization brought companies to produce a wide array of products containing minor non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG, but also other cannabinoids that have milder psychoactive effects than THC, which are not categorized as illegal because they are derived from hemp.

However, there have been safety concerns raised about Delta-8 THC and similar products, as the conversion of CBD molecules into THC molecules requires a skilled chemist to ensure safety, and improper or imprecise techniques can lead to high levels of impurities in the final product.  In addition, the health effects of consuming these impurities are currently unknown.

Nevertheless, the report notes a considerable overlap among the users of CBD, cannabis, Delta-8, and other newly developed cannabinoid products.  The report indicates that 35% of CBD users have purchased psychoactive hemp-derived products within the last half-year.  Furthermore, in states where marijuana is legal, nearly a quarter of marijuana users express interest in purchasing delta-8 products in the future.  As consumers are inclined to experiment with new products, there may be a shift towards delta-8 over time, particularly if the cost difference remains favorable.

In states where marijuana is still illegal, delta-8 has emerged as a cost-effective and accessible way to experience psychoactive cannabis.  It can be obtained legally or through mail-order, providing consumers with a less risky (legally) alternative to getting marijuana illegally.  That was also confirmed by a study published last year, which showed that the public interest in delta-8-THC increased rapidly in 2020 and 2021 and was exceptionally high in those U.S. states that haven't decriminalized or legalized recreational cannabis.

However, the report notes that delta-8's increasing popularity in places where marijuana is still illegal could negatively impact support for legalization.  "If Delta-8 continues to gain popularity and build a foothold in areas where Delta-9 is restricted, legalization measures could see less popular support and grassroots fundraising, slowing progress toward full U.S. legalization," the report reads.

In addition, it seems that there is already a significant amount of confusion between delta-8 and delta-9, the main compound of marijuana, even in places where that is legal. The report observes that retailers selling delta-8 products present themselves as dispensaries and do not clarify that the compound is derived from hemp.

January 17, 2023 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Taking a particular look at the middle of US marijuana reform map as the calendar turns to 2023

Mj-map-nov-9-2022Stateline has this notable new article, headlined "Motley Marijuana Laws Drive Consumers — and Revenue — Across State Lines," that gives particular (but still incomplete) attention to the fact that marijuana reform storys have become somewhat consistent on the coasts while being quite varied in the middle of the USA.   I recommend the article in full, and here is a flavor of its coverage:

Less than half a mile south of the Wisconsin border in Illinois, the Sunnyside Cannabis Dispensary bustles with activity. Cars with license plates from Wisconsin, Minnesota and other pot-banning states slide in and out of the shop’s expansive parking lot.

The bright and airy retail store is an easy hop off Interstate 90, which spans the nation’s entire northern tier. For many westbound customers, Sunnyside is the last chance to legally buy recreational, or “adult-use,” marijuana products until Montana, more than 900 miles away. And heading south from this truck-stop town to the small Illinois city of Metropolis, dispensaries likewise hug the Prairie State’s boundaries with Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky, where pot sales are outlawed.

State lines delineate the vastly varying marijuana regulations across the Midwest. Illinois, Michigan and, since December, Missouri allow recreational marijuana, while neighboring states have some of the strictest laws in the nation.  The contrasting statutes create some law enforcement concerns in states where marijuana is outlawed — when residents legally use marijuana just across the border or bring it back home. 

But many elected officials in those states say the larger problem is the loss of potential revenue from an industry that could bring visitors, jobs and tax dollars.  Public support for the liberalization of marijuana laws in this region is growing, following national trends.  Much of the debate is economic, as restrictive states see their residents paying marijuana sales and excise taxes to neighboring states.

In Illinois, which legalized adult-use marijuana in 2019, out-of-state residents account for 30% of recreational marijuana sales, according to state filings. Sales in the state have risen from just more than $400 million in fiscal 2020 to more than $1.5 billion in fiscal 2022.  Tax disbursements to local Illinois governments in fiscal 2022 reached $146.2 million, a 77% increase over 2021.

Illinois law mandates that a fourth of marijuana tax revenue be used to support communities that are “economically distressed, experience high rates of violence, and have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.”  The significant revenue is a big pull for states that outlaw marijuana to consider changing their policies. But some opponents to legalized cannabis worry about what other effects marijuana sales could have on their communities....

Indiana, which has some of the nation’s toughest marijuana laws, borders two states (Illinois and Michigan) with recreational sales. “I try to enforce the laws as best I can based on what Indiana wants us to do,” said Ken Cotter, prosecutor for St. Joseph County, Indiana, along the Michigan border. The region is known as Michiana.

“I was worried that if Michigan legalizes marijuana, folks from Indiana might want to go to Michigan, get the marijuana and drive back — that's one thing. But if they then went to Michigan, legally smoked it there and then drove [under the influence], that's a whole different ball game,” Cotter said. Cotter, a Democrat, said there has not been an increase in marijuana possession cases in his jurisdiction since Michigan legalized recreational sales in 2018, but that marijuana-based DUI charges have “increased dramatically.”

But Cotter was cautious not to draw broader conclusions from his jurisdiction of 270,000 residents, stressing that more data and reporting is a pressing public safety need. That’s in line with an expansive 2021 report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C., suggesting it’s too soon to know all the effects of the changing laws.  The report noted that early studies, including those on public safety, have varied conclusions, and that data comparisons at this point can be problematic.

A recent survey by a national law firm finds some Midwestern states among those least favorable to the cannabis industry. Indiana’s laws rank 49th among states and the District of Columbia in receptiveness to cannabis, according to Thompson Coburn, a national law firm that has a cannabis practice. Wisconsin stands 47th, Kentucky 41st and Iowa 38th. In Wisconsin, for example, the first conviction for a small amount of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor, but any subsequent possession charge is a felony....

In Minnesota, where Democrats now control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, lawmakers introduced an adult-use bill on Jan. 5. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz quickly tweeted his support: “It's time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law.”

And in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told Wisconsin Public Radio in December that recreational marijuana will “be in the budget,” but that a hostile GOP-led legislature stands in the way. "Even though the people of Wisconsin by huge numbers in polling support recreational marijuana in the state of Wisconsin, I just don't know if the Republicans are there yet," Evers told WPR. "All I know is that there is talk on the Republican side, from what I've heard, around medicinal."...

Iowa appears unlikely to move toward liberalization of its marijuana laws, despite a Des Moines Register poll from 2021 showing 54% of Iowans supporting the legalization of adult-use products.

January 10, 2023 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)