Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"Keeping up with the times: how national public health and governmental organizations communicate about cannabis on Twitter"

The title of this post is the title of this new "Short Report" authored by Jenna van Draanen, Tanvi Krishna, Christie Tsang and Sam Liu for the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy.  Recognizing the partial M.C. Escher-like quality of blogging (and automatically tweeting) this piece, here is its abstract:

Background

Public health and governmental organizations are expected to provide guidance to the public on emerging health issues in accessible formats.  It is, therefore, important to examine how such organizations are discussing cannabis online and the information that is being provided to the public about this increasingly legal and available substance.

Methods

This paper presents a concise thematic analysis of both the volume and content of cannabis-related health information from selected (n = 13) national-level public health and governmental organizations in Canada and the U.S. on Twitter.

Results

There were eight themes identified in Tweets including 1) health-related topics; 2) legalization and legislation; 3) research on cannabis; 4) special populations; 5) driving and cannabis; 6) population issues; 7) medical cannabis, and 8) public health issues.  The majority of cannabis-related Tweets from the organizations studied came from relatively few organizations and there were substantial differences between the topics covered by U.S. and Canadian organizations.  The organizations studied provided limited information regarding how to use cannabis in ways that will minimize health-related harms.

Conclusions

Authoritative organizations that deal with public health may consider designing timely social media communications with emerging cannabis-related information, to benefit a general public otherwise exposed to primarily pro-cannabis content on Twitter.

September 18, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Highlighting why innovation can (and will?) be the face of the marijuana industry

This new C/Net article, headlined "​Innovation is the budding theme at marijuana summit: Everything from high-tech advancements in edible weed to big-data analysis can be seen at this year's New West Summit in San Francisco," highlights why so many interesting folks find the futue of the marijuana industry so interesting.  Here are excerpts: 

The New West Summit at the Hyatt hotel in downtown San Francisco looked similar to other business conferences held there throughout the year. Men and women in business suits hurried around, people huddled in corners talking shop, and unembellished booths showed off varied graphs and charts.

But every once in a while, conference goers got hit with a strong waft of marijuana. That's because this summit was all about weed. At their booths, companies displayed glass urns filled with buds, cannabis-laced chocolate bars and different kinds of vape pens and bongs. Yet among the firms touting this typical pot paraphernalia, there were other kinds of businesses dealing in marijuana: tech startups.

"This plant has been illegal and underground since the invention of technology," said Steve DeAngelo, founder and CEO of Harborside, one of the world's largest medical cannabis dispensaries. "This conference represents the intersection of Bay Area startup culture and cannabis."...

By 2020, New Frontier forecasts, the industry will be worth $20.5 billion (and some estimates put that figure a lot higher). That type of escalation makes the weed business one of the fasting-growing industries in the US. It's no wonder startups are getting into the game.

A meander around the New West Summit gives a sense of where the business side of the industry is heading. There's Grownetics, for instance, which uses a machine-learning algorithm to help farmers grow bigger buds more sustainably. There's Fleurish Farms, which has invented a contraption that it says captures 99.7 percent of the sun spectrum to let people grow pot plants indoors at a higher efficiency than they could in a greenhouse. "It captures the sunlight from all angles," said Fleurish Farms CEO Jonathan Cachat. "This reduces the environmental imprint of indoor cannabis production."

Even edible marijuana is seeing innovation. Besides gummies, lozenges and chocolates, some companies showed off marijuana-infused dissolvable breath strips, while others had topical sprays with exact dosing per pump. "We're coming to a point where we're starting to see edibles that are lower dosed," said Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva Confections. "It's that person that's looking for a glass of wine in the evening, that person that isn't looking to get blasted."

As the weed industry becomes more professionalized, it's caught the eye of more investors. In 2015, investors dropped $360 million into marijuana-focused startups, and so far this year they've invested $137 million, according to PitchBook, a research firm specializing in venture capital. That's a lot compared with just four years ago; in 2012 investors put only $7 million toward funding weed companies.

UPDATE:  This new Business Insider article also speaks to emerging realities in a growing legal marijuana industry, and it includes these interesting points:

The marijuana industry is growing up in front of our eyes. As drug transactions move from back alleys and clubs to legal dispensaries, the culture around pot changes. In an effort to be taken more seriously, industry insiders find more sophisticated language to describe their trade. Slang no longer has a place in the industry vernacular. Entrepreneurs tell me they much prefer the scientific name for the plant, cannabis.

In the exhibit hall, purveyors showed their wares: high-tech vaporizers from companies like Firefly and Pax Labs, a marijuana-infused health products line from Fleurish Farms, and reports from business intelligence platform Headset. I spotted few companies with names that reveal the industry they operate in, and plenty advertising health and wellbeing.

A recent investigation by the Marijuana Business Daily underlines this trend. In an analysis of over 3,000 state-licensed marijuana companies, the publication found that companies use wellness-oriented words, such as "organic" and "herbal," in their names far more often than slang. The Marijuana Business Daily did not include businesses in California and Michigan, which do not issue licenses at the state level. "Farm," "green," "leaf," "bud," "garden," and "organic" are among the most popular words used in company names.

As Marijuana Business Daily writer Eli McVey points out, this hasn't always been the case. In the mid-2000s, before Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational weed in 2012, words like "ganja" and "dank" popped up more frequently. But as the national conversation around marijuana turned to issues around public health, rather than criminalization, the industry adopted a new vernacular around wellness and healing people.

October 17, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Microsoft's engagement with marijuana industry hits the front page of the New York Times

Xmicrosoft_black_34.jpg.pagespeed.ic.7Q9sBQpEfjI am not sure when and how we will know for sure that the marijuana industry has gone entirely mainstream, but this new article appearing on the front-page of the New York Times seems like a tipping point moment. The lengthy article, as appearing on-line, is headlined "The First Big Company to Say It’s Serving the Legal Marijuana Trade? Microsoft." (Apparently in the printed paper the headline was "Microsoft Dips Toe Into Trade on Marijuana.") Here are excerpts from the lengthy piece:

As state after state has legalized marijuana in one way or another, big names in corporate America have stayed away entirely. Marijuana, after all, is still illegal, according to the federal government.

But Microsoft is breaking the corporate taboo on pot this week by announcing a partnership to begin offering software that tracks marijuana plants from “seed to sale,” as the pot industry puts it.

The software — a new product in Microsoft’s cloud computing business — is meant to help states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of marijuana keep tabs on sales and commerce, ensuring that they remain in the daylight of legality.

But until now, even that boring part of the pot world was too controversial for mainstream companies. It is apparent now, though, that the legalization train is not slowing down: This fall, at least five states, including the biggest of them all — California — will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

So far, only a handful of smaller banks are willing to offer accounts to companies that grow or sell marijuana, and Microsoft will not be touching that part of the business. But the company’s entry into the government compliance side of the business suggests the beginning of a legitimate infrastructure for an industry that has been growing fast and attracting lots of attention, both good and bad.

“We do think there will be significant growth,” said Kimberly Nelson, the executive director of state and local government solutions at Microsoft. “As the industry is regulated, there will be more transactions, and we believe there will be more sophisticated requirements and tools down the road.”

Microsoft’s baby step into the business came through an announcement on Thursday that it was teaming up with a Los Angeles start­up, Kind, that built the software the tech giant will begin marketing. Kind — one of many small companies trying to take the marijuana business mainstream — offers a range of products, including A.T.M.­style kiosks that facilitate marijuana sales, working through some of the state­-chartered banks that are comfortable with such customers.

Microsoft will not be getting anywhere near these kiosks or the actual plants. Rather, it will be working with Kind’s “government solutions” division, offering software only to state and local governments that are trying to build compliance systems.

But for the young and eager legalized weed industry, Microsoft’s willingness to attach its name to any part of the business is a big step forward. “Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will,” said Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of Green Wave Advisors, which provides data and analysis of the marijuana business. “It’s very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business.”...

It’s hard to know if other corporate giants have provided their services in more quiet ways to cannabis purveyors. New York State, for instance, has said it is working with Oracle to track medicinal marijuana patients. But there appears to be little precedent for a big company advertising its work in the space. It is still possible — though considered unlikely — that the federal government could decide to crack down on the legalization movement in the states.

The partnership with Kind is yet another bold step for Microsoft as its looks to replace the revenue from its fading desktop software business. On Monday, it announced that it was buying LinkedIn. Microsoft has put a lot of emphasis on its cloud business, Azure. The Kind software will be one of eight pieces of preferred software that Microsoft will offer to users of Azure Government — and the only one related to marijuana.

The conflict between state and federal laws on marijuana has given a somewhat improvisational nature to the cannabis industry. Stores that sell pot have been particularly hobbled by the unwillingness of banks to deal with the money flowing through the industry. Many dispensaries have been forced to rely on cash for all transactions, or looked to start­ups like Kind, with its kiosks that take payments inside dispensaries.

Governments, too, have generally been relying on smaller start­ups to help develop technology that can track marijuana plants and sales. A Florida software company, BioTrackTHC, is helping Washington State, New Mexico and Illinois monitor the marijuana trade inside their states....

The opening up of the market in California is already leading to a scramble for the big money that is likely to follow, and Microsoft will now be well placed to get in on the action. Ms. Nelson of Microsoft said that initially her company would be marketing the Kind software at conferences for government employees, but it could eventually also be attending the cannabis events where Kind is already a regular presence. “This is an entirely new field for us,” she said. “We would have to figure out which conference might be the premier conference in this space. That’s not outside the realm of possibility.”

June 17, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Should marijuana reformers be especially focused these days on Silicon Valley and "the cannabis tech start-up"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new New York Times article headlined "Silicon Valley Tries to Alter Your Perception of Cannabis."  Here is an excerpt:

HelloMD is at the forefront of a new trend in Silicon Valley: the cannabis tech start-up.  As marijuana laws are being loosened across the country, entrepreneurs and investors are creating new businesses to cash in on what they see as an emerging bonanza.  Like start-ups in other industries, these firms are trying to use technology to bring speed and efficiency to what has long been a face-to-face, pen-and-paper market.  In the process, they are also trying to alter mainstream perceptions of the marijuana industry, shedding the ganja and Rasta imagery to cultivate a wider audience.

“What we see is moms, dads, professionals, old people, everyone wanting access to cannabis,” said Mark Hadfield, the founder of HelloMD.  “The old type of experience — go to a crummy doctor’s office, wait in line — was not going to appeal to the market that we were after, which is everyday Americans, a market that, by the way, is much larger than the old market of — I don’t want to call them stoners, but let’s say, ‘recreationally minded young people.’”

People in the marijuana industry have lately taken to saying that legal marijuana is the next Internet, an untrammeled new market opportunity that is just waiting for its own big brands, the Google and Facebook of pot.  But many businesses are also finding that, in an environment of only partial legality, not everything in the marijuana business is smooth sailing.

Proponents for legalization expect a handful of states to vote on ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the 2016 election.  The biggest prize is California, where a wealthy coalition of advocates, including Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and the former president of Facebook, is pushing for recreational legalization.  “California is the biggest domino,” said Justin Hartfield, the founder and chief executive of Weedmaps, a kind of Yelp for marijuana dispensaries, who is also backing the California initiative.  “Once California goes legal, very shortly after we’ll have a majority of states where adult use is legal.”

The ArcView Group, a company that connects investors to cannabis businesses, estimates the American legal cannabis industry generated $2.4 billion in sales in 2014, up 74 percent from 2013.  Legalization will lead to continued growth of at least double-digit percentage points for the rest of the decade, according to Troy Dayton, the chief executive of the ArcView Group.  “This is already the fastest-growing industry in America, and when these new markets come online, the impact will be huge,” Mr. Dayton said.

And when millions of new customers flood into the marijuana business, tech companies will be lining up to offer them an easy way to find a hit.  They’ve already made it pretty simple: After getting my prescription, I didn’t have to do much more to get some drugs.

November 12, 2015 in Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 4, 2015

"Trademark Laundering, Useless Patents, and Other IP Challenges for the Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Sam Kamin and Viva Moffat now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Marijuana law is changing rapidly in the United States today – since 1996, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and five jurisdictions have made marijuana legal for all adults.  Because marijuana remains a prohibited substance under federal law, however, the states are significantly limited in their ability to control marijuana policy within their borders.  For example, because banking is regulated by the federal government, state-licensed marijuana businesses cannot gain full access to banking services; because bankruptcy is a federal benefit, it is unavailable to those involved in the business of violating federal law.

This article examines the implications for marijuana businesses of another area of federal regulation that has heretofore escaped academic commentary: federal intellectual property law.  The continuing federal marijuana prohibition means that the most relevant federal intellectual property protections – trademark and patent – are largely unavailable for most marijuana businesses.  While they are bound to comply with the dictates of trademark and patent law in their own affairs, marijuana businesses cannot acquire the rights and benefits of those laws or invoke those doctrines against others.

We discuss the ways in which these businesses attempt to circumvent the unavailability of patent and trademark rights, often through reliance on state law doctrines which generally prove insufficient to meet their needs.  We also discuss the unexpected natural experiment that the current conflict between state and federal law creates.  It is often asserted that intellectual property protections are necessary to foster creativity and investment.  Yet the marijuana industry has seen extraordinary innovation and capital formation, even as these ostensibly necessary protections have proven unavailable.  We conclude by discussing the implications of this observation for federal intellectual property law and policy more generally.

September 4, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

More on the "ag-tech revolution" being spurred by legalized cannabis crops

In this post from a few weeks ago, I was promped by an article about the Tesla battery and marijuana cultivation to ask this question is a post title: "Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?".  Continuing with the theme of innovations for ganja growing is this fascinating new article via the International Business Times headlined "Legal Marijuana Cultivation Is Driving A Technology 'Revolution' In Industrial Agriculture." Here are excerpts:

[A] growing number of companies in North America [are] designing new products and systems specifically for the cultivation of cannabis, a finicky crop that needs a precise balance of light, moisture and water to thrive. Although these cannabis ventures aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel -- greenhouse technologies have existed for decades -- they are injecting the kinds of capital and brainpower into the field of industrial agriculture that simply wasn’t there a decade ago.

They’re also adding a new level of urgency. As more countries and U.S. states soften their policies on both medical and recreational marijuana, companies are racing to become the industry leaders in data-mining software, ultraefficient lamps and water-sipping irrigation systems. These tools will benefit more than marijuana growers alone: Industrial food producers and tree growers could adapt the same technologies to cut energy costs and boost their crops. Operators of large buildings could use the systems to lower their electricity use.

“Cannabis is spurring on an ag-tech revolution,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Group, a cannabis-industry research firm in Oakland, California. “This is a boom born entirely out of ending repressive laws. The market is already there, it’s just moving from the shadows into the light. That’s why you’re seeing this incredible growth and why so many people see it as a once-in-a-lifetime [business] opportunity.”

That market is rapidly expanding in the U.S., where 23 states have already legalized medical marijuana, and three states -- Alaska, Colorado and Washington -- allow recreational-marijuana sales. Voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure last fall that allows for personal pot use and limited cultivation. The policy takes effect July 1. In Texas, Ohio, Nebraska and a number of other states, voters and policymakers are considering similar initiatives. (In Canada, medical-marijuana use was legalized in 2001, and recent policy changes are enabling a rise in industrial growing operations.)....

Companies such as Heliostat are moving into the cannabis space for three key reasons -- first and foremost, cash. Unlike tomato and pepper producers, cannabis growers boast wide profit margins, giving them a bigger budget for top-of-the-line technologies and a greater appetite for research and experimentation....

Second, young technology whizzes and expert plant biologists are both bringing their skills to the burgeoning sector. “For the newer generation that’s just getting out of college or new to the workplace, cannabis is a more interesting project than say a real-estate project, or a lettuce project,” said Michael Mayes, CEO of Quantum 9 Inc., a Chicago consulting firm for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. “The cool factor can drive innovation.”

Third, there is plenty of demand among growers. As they build new greenhouses and indoor facilities, they’re interested in shaving off as much electricity and water consumption as possible to reduce operating expenses and protect profit margins as more players enter the market.

Dayton of ArcView Group said the cannabis industry is still in the earliest stages of its technology “renaissance,” and that the only thing holding it back are prohibitive marijuana policies in certain states.

Even so, the gradual easing of cannabis laws is already drawing interest from mainstream businesses, including a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. The company’s Hawthorne Gardening Co. in April purchased General Hydroponics Inc. and Bio-Organic Solutions Inc., which make liquid nutrients for indoor marijuana cultivation. Terms were not disclosed, but the acquisition should make Scotts, with its $2.97 billion in annual revenue, a formidable player in the marijuana market.

Prior related post:

Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?

May 17, 2015 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?

1233543378925322670The question in the title of this post is prompted by this intriguing new article headlined "How The Tesla Battery Will Benefit Marijuana Growers."  Here is why this story has me thinking today about the nexus between marijuana reform and energy innovation:

A medium-sized commercial weed grow with around 50 lights stands to save about $13,500 in electricity costs a year with the use of two Tesla Batteries.  Those will also protect the plants in case of power outages while making the operation less visible to law enforcement. Elon Musk just made growing weed easier.

Unveiled [recently], the Tesla Battery gives home owners and businesses an easy, slick, affordable way to store electricity at home. The 10kWh battery costs just $3,500 and can be “stacked” in sets of up to nine units. Larger capacity batteries of infinitely-scaleable capacity will be available to large businesses and governments. There’s three general use cases for the battery: storing electricity purchased during cheaper, off-peak hours for use during high-demand periods; storing electricity generated by solar power or other renewable sources for use around the clock; and as a backup power source for when the grid goes down.

Know who uses an awful lot of electricity? Weed growers.... We’ve all heard stories about growers being outed by the energy intensive nature of their work. Roofs over grow rooms free of snow during winters or insanely high electricity bills have all, in those stories at least, tipped off the cops....

One of the other touted benefits of the Battery is its ability to facilitate off-grid living. By hooking it up to solar panels, the Battery can store energy during the day, then keep your house powered throughout the night. Or your off-grid grow, maybe?...

Our commercial energy consumption management expert sat down and ran the numbers assuming a medium-sized, 50-light commercial operation running its A/C during the day. These numbers are based on commercial electricity rates here in California, where the company is paying a premium during high-demand hours. With two 10kWh Tesla Batteries giving this commercial grow the ability to shift some of its load to off-peak hours, savings in demand charges alone would total $8,000 a year, while use charges would lower by $5,500, for a total savings of $13,500.

Of course, even just at 50 lights, we’re talking about a multi-million dollar operation, making this sound like relative chump change. Worthwhile — the batteries would be paid for in just over 6 months of savings — but hardly revolutionary. “Where these batteries might start to make sense for small growers is when LEDs are optimized for herb,” says our grower. He’s skeptical of the light quality produced by current LED grow lights, but sees that technology being optimized for marijuana in the near future. When it is, it could drastically lower the energy consumption of growing, reducing electricity used by the lights alone by 60 percent or more. Lower outright energy consumption will reduce the cost of growing, of course, but it also shifts the amount of consumption into a range that could be more easily handled by Tesla Batteries.

Given the current pace of marijuana legalization, the need for clandestine home grows may largely be eliminated by the time dipping energy consumption and increasing battery capacity meet in a home solar power sweet zone, but as a massive electricity consumer, it does look like the marjiuana industry is going to profit from the same Tesla Battery benefits everyone else will — reduced peak demand and increased stability during outages.

Though this article is focused on how the new Tesla Battery could be great for indoor marijuana growers, it also helps highlight that the growth and profitability of a significant legal marijuana industry could prompt and fund innovation in a number of significant new technological spaces. Famously, as this article highlights, a lot of visual/media technologies owe their origins or development to the porn industry. It is interesting to speculate about how another notable new vice industry might be a spur to valuable modern innovations in other arenas.

May 3, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform makes the ABA Journal's Blawg 100

I am pleased and intrigued to see that the ABA Journal's annnual Blawg 100 given some love to this blog.  All the details of the ABA's latest Blawg 100 can be found here, and MLP&R appears under the Profs category with this description:

With all due respect to the revered Sentencing Law and Policy blog, this year we wanted to showcase Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman's latest.  Now that marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C, new legal issues are sprouting up.  Berman points readers to news coverage and podcasts discussing the mainstreaming of marijuana and its legal ramifications.

It is, of course, an honor just to be nominated.  I am especially hopeful that the ABA Journal's recognition serves as yet another marker of the importance and legitimacy of serious discussion of the many law and policy issues surrounding modern marijuana reform movements.  Also, my occasional co-bloggers Professor Alex Kreit and Professor Rob Mikos deserve credit and thanks for helping to elevate the substance and style of MLP&R.

November 25, 2014 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Introduction to a new class and blogging venture

Welcome to the launch of a new (ad)venture: this blog titled Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform. This title is drawn from the name of a new seminar I am to be teaching in the Fall 2013 semester at OSU's Moritz College of Law.

I hope that both the contents and very construct of this blog will inspire a new type of engagement with marijuana law and policy issues for both my students and anyone else who comes by this blog. I hope not only to have interesting content on this this blog serve as a focal point for on-going activities for my seminar, but also as an enduring locale for discussion and debate about marijuana law reforms.

As I gear up for my first few seminar sessions, my tentative plan is to be the main instructor and main blogger for time being. But I hope and expect that I will thereafter assign groups of students to select topics of interest for future classes, and they will be expected to post readings and class discussion ideas on this blog.

I am making this blog "open to the public" in order to encourage persons other than my students to engage with the blog and to use the comments to provide views on whether this new blog adventure seems like a good idea. If there is encouraging feedback from my students and others, I'll probably invest (too) much energy in this new project.

Posted by Professor Douglas Berman

August 9, 2013 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)